September 18, 2016

The World's Easiest Classroom Management Tool!!

After two weeks in my Grade 5/6 classroom, it feels like everything is coming together, and I'm starting to feel confident and even more excited about the year ahead.  These two weeks have brought many changes to my class list, as I am sure is true of many of you, and tomorrow I will welcome yet another new student to our room, bringing our total to 24 (10 Grade 5s, and 14 Grade 6s).  Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the thought of another student to familiarize with our room, I'm feeling calm.  I've got this!

My Behavior Management Toolbox

As I have for many years, I have used an old "small parts" toolbox to house my most powerful classroom management tool:  my token system.  This system takes about 5 minutes to set up each year, is a snap to use, and is easily understood (and loved by my students).  What's not to love?  I have used it at a variety of grade levels from Grade 1 to Grade 5/6, and it works for all students, but particularly for my most challenging pupils.

How It Works

  • Each August I assign every student on my class list with a number, usually by alphabetical order (first names), and display a large copy of the list somewhere easily found in our classroom.  
  • Each drawer in my "toolbox" is labeled clearly from 1-29 in clear Sharpie marker.  The last drawer is labeled "A" (for "all").   
  • Inside each drawer are about 20 "tokens".  I've been using old Poker chips that my mom was about to donate to the Salvation Army.  I rescued them, using a Sharpie to clearly print numbers on them, and then to organize them in my toolbox.  In Drawer 1, there are 20 poker chips with "1" on them, Drawer 2 has 20 chips with "2" on them, and so on.  The "A" drawer contains 20 chips with "A" on them.  Once you've done this, you've got your behaviour toolbox ready for the rest of your careeer!!!
  • Each student now has a drawer in the toolbox with his/her number on it, and the tokens inside the drawers are just sitting there waiting to be taken out when a student earns them.
  • Beside the toolbox I have a small "Tokens" container (you can see the small green bin witting to the right of the toolbox in the photo above.
  • Every time I catch a student getting right to work, following directions, kindly helping a classmate, etc., I take a "token" out of his/her drawer and drop it into the Token container.  This usually results in almost every student becoming intensely interested in their work, as they've heard the token being dropped into the container.  I rarely have to verbally remind students to get to work, as the token does that for me!!
  • If the entire class is on task, I put an "A" token in the container.
  • On Friday afternoons, my "Leader of the Day" closes his/her eyes, reaches into the Token container, and one by one pulls out 5 tokens.  The students to whom those tokens belong have now earned a reward of their own choosing, such as "Switch seats with another student" or "Have your name put on the school marquee". 
  • If an "A" token is drawn, that entitles the entire class to a group reward, such as extra outdoor time or a "toy & tech day".  Students LOVE it when an "A" token is drawn; I've even made one of the options for a personal reward to be "Put 5 A tokens in the container for next week's draw".
  • After the draw is complete, the Leader of the Day returns all tokens to their proper drawers, ready to be put into action the following week.  DONE!!
I have the various rewards on business card-sized cardstock, and keep them in a small business card holder.  Students choose a card from the holder, write their name on the back, and I also sign it.  A student can hold on to these cards (or have me hold on to them) until he/she is ready to redeem it.
Close up of Behavior Toolbox

I love this system as it is so easy to set up each year; all I have to do is create a new class list so that each student has his/her own number, and I'm good to go!  This past summer I had one of my old students helping me get ready for the school year (she was getting volunteer hours for this to count towards the 40 hour requirement for high school), and she spray-painted the toolbox to match the bins I was using, so that involved one extra (but easy) step.

 A friend suggested that I upload my plan to my TPT  store, including the actual cards that I've created to put in the "Rewards" holder, so I've taken on that challenge, and the whole set is now available for you, should you be interested.  I'd love to hear from others who have their own easy-to-implement classroom management systems!
My toolbox & token bin can be seen on the top shelf at the very left of this set of shelves.
Check out the full product, with tons of behavior reward cards, here:  Behavior Management Toolbox

July 30, 2016

Bell Work Freebie...and a Chance for a $10 TPT Gift Card!

August is quickly approaching, and with it the slow realization that I actually need to start thinking about September! I'll be teaching a Grade 5/6 split for the first time in my career, and it dawned on me that I had no suitable bell work for this particular grade.   It was time to get to work!

September Grade 5/6 Bell Work
For many years I've had my students do "bell work", in the form of answering one prompt each morning while I take care of attendance, reading notes from parents, etc.  Most of the tasks are directly curriculum related, while others are on the creative side.  I mix things up daily:  one day they might be working on a probability task, the next day on analogies, and the third day responding to a persuasive writing prompt.  I've found that this approach prevents boredom, both for me and my students!  It was time to gather my resources and get some bell work ready for my new students. 

I had already created bell work for Grades 2, 3/4, 5, and 6, so I decided to take out the Grade 5 and 6 bell work and see which prompts I felt would work well for both grades, both in terms of curriculum expectations AND interest level.  I always make September's work fairly easy, so that everyone is able to handle the tasks independently, and then increase the challenges as the year goes by.  I took the same approach as I put together a year's work of Grade 5/6 bell work.

Each month's bell work fits on one double-sided sheet of paper; I usually print on coloured paper just to make it stand out more inside a student's desk, should it come loose from his/her notebook.  I copy ALL 10 months the month before school starts, and file them by month.  I keep the original sheets in page protectors within the file folders as well.

When students enter the classroom on the very first morning of the school year, I have them find their desk and put their backpacks, lunches, etc under it.  I have already put a lined bell work notebook on their desks, along with the September bell work sheet, two sharpened pencils and an eraser.  I ask them to write the date at the top of the first blank page of their notebooks, and put a "1" to the left of the margin at the left hand side of the page.  (Sometimes I'm even organized enough to have this displayed on the Smartboard as well!)  I then have them read the first prompt and answer in their notebooks.  I want them to know from the very first minute of the year that work will be the priority in our class.  Only once I've taken up the work will I start dealing with the nuts and bolts of how we will run our classroom!  From then on students know that this is how every day will start, and I don't need to remind them what to do (well, maybe sometimes:)!  

A Freebie & A Draw!!

If you'd like to try this bell work in your own classroom, click the image to the left and download this freebie from my store!  I'd love to hear how it works for you.

Free to a Good Home:  A $10 TPT Gift Card!

While you're on the TPT website, you may find other great things you'd love for your classroom. Respond below, telling me your favourite wishlisted item from Coach's Corner, and you'll be entered in the draw for a $10 TPT gift card. I'll announce the winner the morning of Tuesday, August 2nd.  Good luck! ****UPDATE**** Marianne, you are the lucky winner (I've responded to you below)!  Please contact me at: so I can send along your gift card!

July 6, 2016

Planboard for Ontario Teachers

As I've been preparing for the coming school year, I began thinking about using a digital "daybook" to keep my lesson plans in order and easily accessible through the internet.  After a few inquiries among colleagues and friends, I was directed to Planboard, a FREE online daybook resource, courtesy of the Ontario Teachers Federation.  (Teachers from other parts of Canada will want to check with their school district or teachers' associations/unions to see if they have access to this site; I know that curriculums from some other provinces were among Planbook's options.)

WOW!  I don't think I've ever been so excited about a new education-related resource in my life!

With this online daybook, I can:

  1. Assign each subject a different colour.

  • Create a weekly schedule.

  • Input full lesson plans.

  • Attach files (ie. a Smart Notebook or Powerpoint file) within the lesson plan.

  • Embed videos directly into the lesson plan, so that I don't need to click a hyperlink to get where I want.

The video will play right within your day plan!  Or you could just insert a link and watch from there.

  • Move any lesson plan to a new spot, on those occasions when a surprise assembly or other unforeseen event prevents me from teaching it!
  • Attach Ontario curriculum expectations to the lesson plan.

  • Share my day plan with a supply teacher, colleague, or administrator.
  • Access lesson plans from other educators.  (I haven't tried this yet!)
Here's what the mornings look like for the first week in September:  

I was worried that it would be too confusing or complex for me to use, but it was very easy to set up.  First I assigned colours to subjects, then scheduled the subjects in a weekly master timetable, and then started planning.  OTF offers occasional webinars, such as Moving Forward with Online Planboard for teachers looking for extra support with this (and other) digital resources.

I'm looking forward to being able to do almost all of my planning from home now, instead of coming into the school during the weekend!  Saving time ALWAYS makes me happy, and I hope that it does the same for you.

What online education-related resources have YOU found that are saving you valuable time?  I'd love to hear them!

May 14, 2016

Fort McMurray Relief Fund Sale!

As most Canadians (and many people throughout the world) know, Fort McMurray, Alberta has experienced one of the worst fires ever in our wonderful country.  Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes, leaving everything behind them.

In order to help provide some relief for these displaced citizens, the Canadian Red Cross has been collecting money from across the country, and the Canadian government will be matching these funds.  I"m happy to report that a group of Canadian TPT Teacher-Authors will be donating all proceeds from their sales on Monday, May 16th, 2016.  

I hope that you will consider either donating to the Canadian Red Cross fund directly, or purchasing a resource from one or more of the Canadian TPT teacher-authors shown below.

Fort McMurray Freebie

Your students may be interested to learn more about the community of Fort McMurray, particularly if you are studying the Ontario Grade 6 social studies strand Communities in Canada, Past and Present. Click HERE to download this FREE two-page text about the background of this city!  Keep in mind that it was written before the fire began!

Please take a moment to check out these other Canadian sellers who are donating their proceeds from their sales on Monday to the Canadian Red Cross.  All resources from my own TPT store, Coach's Corner, will be at a 10% discount that day!

April 21, 2016

Historical Significance Criteria

In conversation with a friend last week, she mentioned that she was frustrated teaching Grade 7 history because there seemed to be so many "events" to cover, and so little time.  How could her students learn so many dates, names, and events?  She didn't have endless time to devote to helping her students learn about each item in the list of curriculum expectations.  Hmmm - my mind went immediately to the "Concepts of Disciplinary Thinking" highlighted in the 2013 Ontario Social Studies Curriculum, in particular to "Historical Significance".

I asked her whether she wanted her students to memorize a list of events, or to be able to determine the significance of a particular event.  Which is the bigger academic skill, that a student can carry forward into other grades?  That's an easy question for me:  I want them to be able to look at an event and think about the importance or significance of that event by itself, or in comparison to another event. For example, which was more significant:  the War of 1812, or the Rebellions of 1837-1838?  Students can use criteria to help them with this evaluation.

Historical Significance Criteria

Relevance:  Ask your students to think about who needs to know about a particular person, place, or event.  Is it relevant to just a few people or isolated community, or to a whole country or beyond?  An event that only a particular province or state needs to consider may be more significant than one that needs to be known by an entire country.  

Impact:  Can your students also think about how long an person, place, or event affected history?  A community event that affected people only for a year could be considered to be more significant that an event whose effect could still be felt 30 years later.

Consequences:  Can your students think about the seriousness of an event?  An event that caused a loss of local jobs (such as a factory closure) is likely less significant than one that caused serious physical harm to that same community (such as the water contamination of the public water system).  

This is what I want for my students - the ability to think like a historian and consider things like perspective, significance, cause & consequence...and all those other great things that help them become critical thinkers!

If you're interested in downloading a FREE version of the Historical Significance chart shown above, please click here:  Freebie Historical Significance Poster