I have to say that reading blogs and becoming part of the TPT community really helped me to find some great new classroom management and curriculum ideas. (Okay, they were new to ME.) Classroom management has never my best or easiest skill, and this last year was probably the smoothest I have ever had.
What Worked This Year
Classroom JobsI really wish I could find the blogpost that I used as the basis for my classroom system, but I have no idea which blog it was. I know it was someone who had a free download of her Classroom Rules book. I did not follow everything she did, but I did use many of her ideas, I can tell that the other teacher is far more organized than I am and is great about following rules/systems. Clearly much better than ME.
Basically she tells kids the rules, but she also gives the kids a lot of the classroom responsibility. I found that having set structures was a definite plus. I mean, clearly I always had some, but last year truly everything had a system. A few routines just didn't really work for me and I will change them next year, but overall I found that my kids thrived on structure. When they didn't have that structure, we tended to have issues. (I had a number of kids with issues such as ADD/Autism/ODD, etc. Structure helped.)
I recently read Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz and found myself saying, "Hey - I sorta did that last year!" quite a lot. (I was really quite proud of myself.) He talked about giving kids the autonomy and responsibility to run the classroom. In my room kids applied for class jobs at the beginning of every month, and everyone was assigned a job. It did take a few weeks to get kids trained on jobs like president, but oafter that the kids really ran the class systems. Presidents even trained the next president! And the best part was that the kids LOVED it! You have to trust that the kids can do it, and they will. If someone doesn't do his/her job, the other kids remind them pretty quickly.
Homeworkopoly & Homework ChecklistsOk, do you hate taking the time to check homework as much as I do? Homeworkopoly is a great incentive for kids to bring in their work. At the very least the kids who DO bring it in get rewarded. You set the rewards, too, so you can do things like switch seats or a homework pass instead of things you have to buy. (Things I bought were mainly erasers and fancy pencils that I bought in packs for $1.) The treat for passing GO? A lifesaver. It really does not have to cost much. There are many available but I used this one by Joey Udovich. I did buy it, but I really felt it was worth the $3.50.
My teammate also gave me the BEST homework checklist ever! (And I didn't check homework - my president and vice president did.) Once I got a checklist like this one from my friend, the checking became so much easier - and I had an easy visual record of who had completed homework.
I assign numbers to all of my students (by alphabetical order.) Instead of using Post-Its or notebooks to keep track of homework, use these checkoff sheets and file them in your binder or class folder. You can download the checkoff sheet here or by clicking on the image.
Spiral Math HomeworkI have to say that I absolutely loved using Spiral Math Homework. There are Spiral Language Arts Homework sets out there as well, but my group really needed more support in math last year (and I was using reading logs for reading homework.) There are so many reasons I liked using it.
- The set I used was editable, so I could change problems as needed.
- Parents and students liked it, because they had the week's homework on Monday and could plan ahead if they had busy schedules.
- Ease of use. Parents knew that students had math homework every week and they knew what to
look for in their backpacks (if needed.)
If you are interested in Spiral Homework, I used the one made by One Stop Teacher Shop, and I highly recommend it. She now has both math and language arts homework available for many grade levels.
Interactive NotebooksHonestly, if I could only keep one new thing from last year this would be it. The kids LOVED it. Seriously. During the last few weeks of the year, different students said positive things about using the interactive notebooks.
- "Oh, we won't get to use interactive notebooks next year."
- "My brother and I weighed my notebook, it and was 6 ounces!"
- "Do we get to keep our notebooks? I really like how it shows everything we learned."
How many things have you used to teach curriculum that got that type of engagement? I used the notebooks in pretty much all subjects, but I was very good at using them in the core subjects. I think the notebooks really helped kids to be more organized and independent. Also, I have written my social studies INB units with reading skills and support for my low readers.
Next year, I plan to get better at making time for student output. Once I add that, I feel like the interactive notebooks will take my class to the next level.
If you are interested in interactive notebooks, I have many for social studies, as well as some for math and language arts in my store.
What was the best new thing you tried last year?