Category Archives: classroom behavior management

Year End Thank Yous!

Year End Cards / Thank Yous

This year we (a.k.a. “I”) have decided that our class should make the most marvelous “Thank You” cards for all those who have done so much to ensure that we have had an amazing school year.

These individuals include: Specialty Teachers, Eco Team Leader, School Director, Principals, After Care Staff, Custodians/Cleaners, Hot Lunch Staff, Class Parents, etc.

The cards are simple cards … but they they are huge & handcrafted – big & bold … & best of all they are “from the heart” … so far the kids have done an awesome, amazing, outstanding job! I can’t wait to see what the final product looks like!

In order to ensure that they are “well done”, I have assigned certain students to be in charge of creating each card according to what I believe to be their favourite subject (teacher).  😉
The students are really into creating these cards and gathering as many signatures as possible!

What a wonderful addition to our year end activities … I am only embarrassed that it took me this long to schedule this time into our last few weeks.
Ugh … live & learn …



Three Things My Students Will Never Say

Goal: Three Things That My Students Will Never Say

“I can’t do this!”
This simple sentence that can block learning must immediately be replaced by:
“I can’t do this yet.”
I have found that the addition of this one simple word alleviates the pressure, anxiety and frustration that often blocks learning. This simple change helps to calm and refocus the leaner.

“I forget.”
This one simple sentence that can block learning must immediately be replaced by:
“Can you please come back to me?”
I explain to students that when they say that they “have forgotten” their brains stop working on the problem. If however, they stop actively searching and ask me to come back to them later their brains will keep working on “idea retrieval” unbeknownst to them. This is why they often remember what it is that they wanted to say 10 mins., or 2 hours later … or even in the middle of the night. (P.S. It works every time.)

“I’m bored.”
Okay, so I remind them that no one is going to be interested in everything that we do. They are expected however to plow through whatever it is that is asked of them, so that they can then move on successfully to the next activity.

… Just wanted to share.


Attention & Initiation in the Classroom

Attention & Initiation in Class
“Monica” is a fantastic teacher and I am lucky to not only know her professionally, but to be her good friend as well.
As teachers we work very closely together (even though we aren’t at the same school) and often bounce ideas off of one another.
Yesterday Monica called me to talk about a child in her class, “Jane”.
“Jane” is a fantastic, conscientious child. She’s social and popular. She’s responsible, dependable and polite. Jane is always eager to take on additional responsibilities in the classroom, and is always asking whether there is “anything else (she) can do to help in the classroom today”.
Once engaged she follows directions and stays with short tasks until they are completed.

Jane’s always thinking — the difficulty here is that she’s not always thinking about the tasks at hand, and she often becomes lost in her own thoughts. She wanders mentally, and seems to “zone out”.  She “distracts herself” and has difficulty attending to the speaker …. whoever that may be. Instructions and ideas need to be repeated and she has difficulty initiating tasks. This is a problem, and of course Monica really wants to do whatever she can help Jane get the most out of her school day and be the best that she can be on a daily basis.

So yesterday we came up with a plan.
We created a list of ideas outlining our approach.
I further suggested that Monica share this list openly and honestly with Jane.
We’ll see how it goes!


Ideas & Strategies to Share With Jane
Attention in the Classroom

  • Be open and honest. Jane needs to truly understand her strengths as well as her needs.
  • Be open and honest. What’s the behaviour that we are targeting? What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? Talk about this … and talk a lot! Have her draw it, act it out, read picture books about it, etc.
  • Establish a goal: e.g. “Sit up straight with a positive attitude and an open mind, and face the speaker.”
  • Keep a diary: Write, draw or doodle about the day’s experiences: Focus on the “goal”. Decorate the diary … have fun with it.
  • Establish a private, clear focussing signal which means: “You’re great! Please listen.” (Non-verbal cuing)
  • Move closer to the Jane if you feel that she is starting to lose focus.
  • Include visuals with oral instructions, presentations. Give her something else/interesting to look.
  • Break tasks in manageable chunks. Check in with Jane after each step/activity as been completed before moving on to the next.
  • Monitor Jane closely for understanding.
  • Whenever possible use cooperative learning techniques. Require that she be actively involved and engaged.
  • Make certain that we have created a supportive, encouraging, structured environment where the expectations are clear.
  • Allow Jane to take short breaks (e.g. have her take a note to the office, pass out some papers, give her some sort of special job – she loves this! etc.)
  • Finally, Jane should engage in some kind of daily self-assessments with regard to the behaviour that we have targeted.


Active Listening and Initiating Tasks – The Engaged Learner:

Active Listening and Initiating Tasks  – The Engaged Learner:

If you had been a fly on my classroom wall last week you would have been aware of a meeting that I had with one of my students. “Sherry” a sweet Grade 5 student, experiences tremendous difficulty attending in class (she often seems detached) and initiating tasks. We talked about this and about the impact that this was having on her learning in the classroom. We talked openly and honestly about my classroom expectations, and about her role as a leaner and mine as her teacher. We discussed what she needed to take responsibility for and what I could do to help. Here’s what we came up with:

Attention & Initiation

(A) Teacher Role:

  • Prior to any transition or lesson give Sherry a “heads up”. Share privately what’s coming up next.
  • Cue Sherry before giving instructions.
  • Stand next to Sherry prior to asking questions and giving instructions so that she knows to pay attention.
  • Ensure for understanding – e.g. Ask her to paraphrase instructions &/or rephrase concepts.
  • Whenever possible ensure that she is actively engaged in the learning process.
  • Every once in a while be silly / playful in order to gain her attention.
  • Allow for frequent breaks and movement in the classroom when appropriate.

(B) Student Role:
After discussing what “Active Listening” looks like, we decided that in order to listen effectively Sherry must exhibits the following behaviours. Sherry must:

  1. Sit up straight – Especially as she tends to want to lie on her desk
  2. (Make) Eye contact – Look at the speaker
  3. Ask relevant questions – Once the speaker has finished ask relevant questions
  4. Share – Share any related stories, opinions, etc.
  5. Positivism – Be positive. Listen with an open  mind; be engaged.

In order to remember these behaviours she and I came up with the following acronym: S.E.A.S.P. & silly sentence:
“Sneaky elephants ate stolen peanuts”

S(it up straight) – Sneaky
E(ye contact) – Elephants
A(ask) – Ate
S(hare / relate to) – Stolen
P(ositivism) – Peanuts

& then … so as to further ingrain these expected behaviours Sherry drew a magnificently silly picture of “sneaky elephants eating stolen peanuts”. The picture was so fantastic that it is now a laminated poster on our wall. Using the poster Sherry then taught the entire class “The ABCs of Active Listening”. We all benefited from this/her learning experience …
& now we’ll just have to wait and see how is all plays out!
At any rate: It was loads of fun.


A Quick Blog & List For Teachers: Organizational Ideas & Strategies in the Classroom

A Quick Blog & List For Teachers: Organizational Ideas & Strategies in the Classroom

If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see that I spend a significant amount of time focussed on teaching organizational skills and on creating an organized environment.  
I hope that you find the following list useful. Take from it what you will .. & I would love to hear ideas and strategies from other!


A Quick List: Organizational Ideas & Strategies in the Classroom

  1. Teach student how to organize their “world” (e.g. books, desks, lockers, homework, etc.) – don’t assume that they know how. Reinforce strategies daily.
  2. As the teacher show that you value organization.
  3. Model an organized “way” & classroom – model strategies.
  4. Set high/consistent standards for organization.
  5. Have firmly established rules, routines and schedules – post them in a highly visible place.
  6. Post a class calendar for all to see.
  7. Post all homework & due dates.
  8. First thing every morning have students hand in their homework & place a ruler, pencil, eraser and a highlighter on their desks before heading out for morning recess.
  9. Prepare for the next class (e.g. books, binders, pencils on desks) before heading out for recess, music, Library, etc.
  10. Have a place for everything & keep everything in its place.
  11. Colour code duotangs and binders.
  12. Pool resources (e.g. paper, binders, pencils, etc.) and hand out as needed.
  13. Use cutlery trays from the dollar store to organize writing utensils, glue sticks, scissors, etc. in desks.
  14. Conduct regular binder and desk checks.
  15. Use dividers and folders.
  16. Provide students with agendas (& teach them how to use them effectively) within which to record homework, assignment due dates, tests, any special days at school, etc.
  17. Ensure that students have homework buddy – someone to call in a pinch.
  18. Remind children not to rush – take the time to do things well the first time.
  19. Help students break assignments down into manageable units.
  20. Teach students to use highlighters & post-it notes effectively.
  21. Teach homework and study strategies.
  22. Schedule in a time to “organize” at the end of every day.
  23. Never “rush”.
  24. Be mindful.
  25. Make organization a habit.

The Lonely Child & The Action Plan

The Lonely Child & The Action Plan

A while back a friend of mine wanted to talk to me about her eldest son “Mark”: a smart, cute, artistic child in Grade 3. She wanted my advice “as a teacher”.

It all started one day when she went to pick him up on the playground. There from her car, she saw him standing alone. She watched for sometime (maybe 5 or 10 minutes). He approached no one … & no one approached him. He didn’t appear to be visibly unhappy — just alone … very alone & unnoticed. This broke her heart.

Later that week – still concerned about what she had seen – she went to speak to her son’s teacher (a good step in the right direction!). Sure enough he told her that Mark presents as “reserved” and often alone. The teacher explained that Mark often preferred to work, eat lunch and spend recess alone. He has tried to encourage him to participate more in the past, to take the initiative, but had very little success. Together they talked about what they might do as a team to address the situation.

For the second time in one week she left her son’s school broken hearted. Although this time she felt a little better in that she had an ally – Mark’s teacher was eager to help!

Now having identified the problem we needed to further develop the plan.

Putting our heads together we came with what we felt seemed like a reasonable approach – for both home & school. We also made a very important pact: We would keep in mind that we had to view the plan as organic, as something flexible and responsive to everyday situations.

& so now time will tell …fingers crossed.


Our Action Plan:

(A) At Home:

  • Keep a diary of sorts – observe the Mark’s behaviour in order to identify specify areas/situations to be addressed
  • Be patient – don’t overwhelm him.
  • Demonstrate empathy and understanding; talk but don’t push
  • Model/practice social skills. Mum should take advantage of the situation & schedule her own play dates!
  • Ask her school’s librarian for books on friendship***
  • Identify short-term weekly goals: e.g. answering the phone & taking messages
  • Identify long term/monthly goals (e.g. schedule a play date on his “home turf”)
  • Overall: Listen to Mark … and watch over him. Be empathetic & make note of anything of interest. 
  • Continue to be his greatest champion, his advocate.
(B) In Public:
  • Before heading out let Mark in on what’s in store. Set him up for success.
  • As a parent be friendly & confident in stores, doctor’s offices, etc.. Model social engagement.
  • Take advantage of daily routines, e.g. ask Mark to pay for things at the cash, to ask for directions, the time, etc.)
  • Since Mark is artistic, enroll him in an after school arts program where he can feel a little more comfortable and shine
(C) At School: We asked Mark’s teacher to:
  • Keep a diary of sorts – to observe Mark’s behaviour in order to identify specify areas/situations to be addressed        
  • Find a mentor for Mark at school
  • Based on what he sees at school, Mark’s teacher should let his mum know who he feels would be a great child for Mark to have a play date with
  • Find special jobs for Mark during the in order to keep him active & engaged
  • Monitor group work carefully so as to ensure that Mark is engaged – identify specific areas of strength & weakness (build on strengths & address needs)
  • Encourage Mark to join a school club (e.g. he’s a talented artist & so we will approach the art teacher about joining the lunchtime Art Club)
  • Teachers (all of Mark’s teachers) should continue to work in partnership with his parents in order to set short & long term goals, as well as monitor his progress

***I have included some books on friendship from a previous post:
Reading List: Books to read with your child:

  • Amelia and Eleanor Go For a Ride by Pam Muno
  • Best Friends by Kim Anderson
  • The Different Dragon, Jennifer Bryan
  • Duck at the Door, Jackie Urbanovic
  • A Friend, Anette Bley
  • The Hare With Many Friends, Aesop’s Fable
  • How to be a Friend: A Guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurie Krasny Brown [Little, Brown Young Readers, 2001]
  • Katie Loves the Kittens, by John Himmelman
  • The Lonely Little Monster by Andi Green
  • Making New Friends, by Jacqueline H. Blumenstock and David C. Pool
  • My Friend and I, by Lisa Jahn-Clough
  • Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley, Aaron Blabey
  • Penguin, Polly Dunbar
  • Rainstorm, Barbara Lehman
  • Regards To The Man In The Moon, Ezra Jack Keats
  • This is Our House, Michael Rosen
  • Wemberly Worried, Kevin Henkes
  • What are Friends For, Sally Grindley
  • When Giants Come to Play, Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

The "Know-It-All" in the Classroom – Meeting the Needs of Students

The “Know-It-All”  –  Meeting the Needs of Students

If you were a fly on my classroom wall you would see me (& all teachers, etc. …) dealing with a multitude of personalities and subject matters (school, family, group & individual matters) all day long — and seemingly all at once. It is a very active, organic, impulsive and exciting environment within which to operate.

A few years ago I found myself speaking with a friend of mine whose child was (in her words) a “know-it-all”. I know … it’s not a flattering term … and she wished she could find a kinder way of describing this one aspect of her personality … but it is what it is and she was who she was.

Accordingly, she was (or is) – 99% of the time – a charming, well-mannered student. She was is a motivated learner who loved to participate in class. She assumed responsibility for following all directions & initiating tasks. Her organizational skills were excellent. She made a conscious effort to remain engaged in the learning process, took pride in her accomplishments and eagerly reviewed concepts to ensure understanding. 

However … she could be impulsive and quick to presume … to make assumptions. She often assumed that she was right; that she knew better than others – and corrected teachers & peers- rightly or wrongly – several times a day. … For lack of a better term she came across as a “know-it-all” – an unflattering quality for such a lovely child.

So what to do? Clearly, being a “know-it-all” did not present her in a good light … and often annoyed the other children (& grown-ups) around her. The goal was clear: To discover the “roots” of the behavior and then to address the situation as best as possible. So to that end I suggested that they keep a diary of sorts and developed a plan. One must act as, like a detective, gathering clues, hot on the the trial of the “suspect”: The “Know-It-All”. One must investigate the roots of the behaviour & work toward developing strategies to address the situation – to meet her needs.

& So today I thought I’d share some of the observations with you … I hope that you find the following useful – maybe as a spring board for your own learning and teaching.


The “Know-it-All”:
(Please note that despite the label … she really was (& is) a lovely child!!!)

(I) The Roots:
– attention seeking
– insecurity – wanting to connect with others
– a sense of wanting to belong – of being socially acceptable/accepted
– the belief that being an expert will  make them “popular”/listened to
a string desire to be in control of some aspect of “life”

(II) What to do:
(A) Model/teach/review (e.g. using pictures books, drama, Learning Logs, individual meeting times, etc.):
… social skills – & keep a close eye on what’s going on
… active listening skills
… conversation skills

… reflective thinking skills

… the “wait time” necessary prior to responding (e.g. processing time)

… empathy 

(B) Provide her with:
… appropriate attention; recognize her efforts – ultimately this is what she is seeking
… special/desirable/appropriate jobs that make her feel good, smart, valued – giver her opportunities to shine
… an emotionally supportive environment
… time / activities for social skills development
… opportunities to process, reflect, reevaluate
… opportunities to see/evaluate/debate opposing points of view
… opportunities for “choice” – so that she can feel in control at times (but be sure to set limits)

(C) Partner with:
… her; let her know what I am seeing, what we are going to do & why. As the teacher I have to be empathetic, understanding, open, prepared & strong.
… other teachers & specialists who work with her at school 
… parents – we are a team after all

(III) Never(!!!):
… ignore, embarrass, appear to be frustrated or “annoyed”
… never allow her peers to tell her “come down on her”- that is an adult responsibility (e.g. to address and correct behaviour)