Hi all! I am enjoying my last weekend of summer vacation before the madness of returning to school begins once again. I’ve been getting things organized at home this summer and I’m excited to tell you about some of the new stuff I have for my classroom this year.
The first thing I’m excited about is a template for a weekly packet. One of the most valuable things I’ve done this year is watch the presentations Jon Cowart gave about classroom management and engagement for Comprehensible Online. I had some difficulties controlling both behavior and engagement last year and I found Jon’s advice to be quite valuable.
One of the biggest issues I had was that many students treated my class like it wasn’t a legitimate subject. Let’s face it – providing comprehensible input (CI) often means that kids are supposed to just sit there, answer questions, and absorb language. My more mature students were able to handle this, but my immature ones could not. They have been inadvertently trained over the years to think that if a teacher isn’t making them write stuff down, study for a high-stake test, take notes, memorize lots of facts, and do worksheets, then they don’t have to pay attention and participate. Undesirable behaviors start to manifest themselves. Moreover, if students are not engaged, they are not interacting with the input and making any language proficiency gains. Enter the idea of a weekly packet.
Every week, Jon gives his students a worksheet that they must fill out daily in class. Part of it is a “Do Now,” which students have to complete as soon as they arrive. The worksheet also has things that students have to do at other times during class, culminating in an quick quiz or Exit Ticket that students have to answer before they can leave class. The worksheet keeps students accountable for things happening in class and, with any luck, will improve class behaviors and engagement once they realize that they’re going to get some kind of assessment at the end of every class and a grade based on how well they fill out their daily worksheets. To read more about Jon’s weekly packet, visit this post.
Some teachers may be reluctant to implement a weekly packet because they think it might add a lot of extra grading to their workload. I plan to limit my time spent correcting by doing so at random. While I will walk around the class while students are completing their Do Now, I don’t feel the need to check everyone’s worksheet every day. I’ll just pull a few out at random and make sure to correct every student’s paper at least once every five days or so.
This leads me to the second thing I’m super excited about having for class this year, which is a personalized stamp for classroom use. Etsy has some really nice products, which is where I’m able to find personalized items to use in my classroom. A few years ago I bought a stamp that I can use for books I’ve purchased with personal funds in my classroom library similar to this one. Then this year I bought a stamp similar to this one with my name on it that says “Bien” to mark those papers I am grading just on completion (By the way, I do NOT get compensated if you should order something after clicking on one of the Etsy links in this post).
Along with Jon’s weekly packet, I have a Daily Behavior Log that I will also use for classroom management purposes. This is a binder I will keep in the class. If a student doesn’t follow one of my rules, they will have to fill out a line on a form in my Daily Behavior Log so I have a record of their behavior and subsequent consequence based on their transgression. The idea for the Daily Behavior Log is something I learned from Craig Sheehy. You can read more about his take on managing a classroom here.
Another thing I decided to purchase this summer was personalized pencils. I teach at a middle school, and many students come to class without a writing utensil. I do have extra pencils that I keep for those who come without materials, but I don’t always get them back. One trick I used in the past to get them back was asking students to give me a shoe as collateral in exchange for a pencil, but middle school student feet can be pretty smelly (I’m sorry to say that I know that from experience), which can be quite the distraction. Moreover, it can become a safety issue if students need to exit the building quickly and they don’t have both shoes on. In addition,,middle school kids don’t usually have other things that high school kids might have like car keys or a cell phone that can serve as collateral, so I purchased personalized pencils similar to these from yes, you guessed it, Etsy. With any luck, most students will remember to return these because they have my name on it.
I also ordered some custom-made posters for my classroom. At a conference this summer, Scott Benedict recommended using a company called Short Run Posters that prints decent-quality posters pretty cheaply. I used their services to order posters of my classroom rules, classroom expectations, and consequences for undesirable behavior. I designed my posters on Microsoft Publisher, uploaded a PDF to the printing company, and had my posters about two weeks later. It was super easy. I had five posters made for under $30, which I thought was very reasonable.
And even though I tell myself every time I go to Target that I am not going to purchase more materials for my classroom, I almost always succumb to the temptation. I inevitably find something that will either brighten my classroom, make my teaching more efficient, or aid in classroom storage and setup. Nothing I’ve bought there has cost more that $5, which is good for my budget. This summer I’ve found name tags in Spanish, storage bins for notebooks and folders, and cardboard display shelving to display books.
Before I end this post, I do want to talk about using personal funds for professional use. I know that some teachers make a point not to purchase anything for their class with personal funds for philosophical reasons. I totally respect and understand their viewpoints. I expect my school district to supply the basic necessities I need to make my classroom function, such as paper, writing utensils, technology, novels, accompanying teacher resources, and texts needed for district-sponsored professional development. I’m sure many of you have seen news stories and angry posts on social media about teachers who have to use their own money to purchase materials to keep their classroom afloat. I get so angry when I read about that, because no teacher should have to use their own money so they have paper. Luckily, many of these teachers are starting to mobilize to demand change.
In contrast, the things I’ve purchased this summer are extras that are fun to have but, in all honesty, I could do without them if I needed to. In addition, sometimes it is just easier for me to fork over $3 at Target or $20 on Etsy than go through the whole purchase order process. Metaphorically speaking, my school provides the meal, but I am willing and able to provide the spices that make that meal tastier. But I also know that I am lucky to work in a district that is able to take care of my major classroom supply needs. If that’s not your situation, maybe you can put items like this on your Christmas or birthday list. Also, you can at least think about the weekly packet and behavior log ideas, which don’t cost anything.
Please reach out if you would like any more information about anything I’ve written about here, and have a great start to the school year.