The second post in this series will include some of my future plans for classroom procedures, record keeping, and family interactions. There is entirely so much to think about, even a year away from having my own classroom, that it’s nice to get some of my thoughts written down for future reference.
Again, even within this one category there are so many different things to consider. Some of these include: transitions, bathroom use, homework, work time, handing in work, materials and supplies, tattling, & disputes. In order to have a well-functioning classroom environment, I will need to have a plan in place to make the days run smoothly.
For transitions, I plan on playing a song that will let students know what we will be doing next. Certain songs will mean transitions to certain activities or things. At the beginning of the year this will be practiced extensively in the first few weeks. An example I found is:
I would definitely want to choose grade appropriate songs for 5th grade and songs that they would want to hear in order to get moving. I love how with this example songs such as “Jump in Line” fit so nicely with lining up. Expected behavior would be taught in those first few weeks for what students should do when they hear the song begin and what they should look like.
For bathroom use, I like the policy of having one girl and one boy out at a time. Something I have seen that I’ve really liked is having a bathroom fee system in the classroom. As stated in my previous post, I am planning on having a cash system in the classroom. In order to use the bathroom (barring an emergency), students would need to pay with one of their earned dollars. This will help them to think more carefully about their bathroom use and the amount of times they go. I will also not allow bathroom use during instruction time. As 5th graders (hopefully!!), my students should know appropriate times to use the bathroom and that they can go during work time or a break.
In order to ask to use the bathrooms, students will be taught the bathroom symbol at the beginning of the year so that they do not need to verbally ask.
As for homework, I plan on having my students complete a reading log each week of the school year. They will turn them in on Fridays and receive a new one on Mondays. I do not want my students working on homework over the weekend. This is a time for family and taking a break from school work. Play is just as important a learning tool as completing a math worksheet.
Besides the reading log, students will have math worksheets and written math explanations that go along with the current unit. It is important to have practice in learning new concepts and also in understanding what the concepts actually mean. It is one thing to be able to complete an algorithm but an entirely different thing to be able to explain why we use it.
While these two homework practices will be the core for the year, there will also be projects throughout that go along with the units taught. During these times of projects, the other homework assigned will be reduced. It is important to have balance and consider the needs of the students and their families. They are only in elementary school after all, not a college class.
If a student does not turn in an assignment they will be given a day of grace and then will stay in on recess to finish up the assignment. It is important at this age to learn they will be held accountable for work that is assigned, especially with going in to middle school the following year.
During independent work time, students will be expected to stay at a level 0 or level 1 voice and be on task throughout the entire time. If they are at a level 1, it will be because they are asking a neighbor for help with something they are working on. I am planning on having an “ask 3” policy before asking me with a question. I am also planning on having flexible seating options in my classroom (more on that later!) and these would all be options during instruction as well as work time. If students are not working or are distracting others, they will be moved to a spot near me for closer supervision. Once they have proved to me that they can stay on task they will gain back their choice of work spot.
Handing in Work:
When it comes to turning in class work or homework, there will be a bin set up in my classroom that all students will know to use. We will practice at the beginning of the year so that all students will know how that works. When it is class work being turned in, students will wait for my direction at the end of the work period. When it is homework being turned in, students will turn it in during the morning work time as they arrive to school. There will be a period before announcements where students get their things put away and settled. This would be the proper time to get the homework turned in.
Next to the turn in bin, I will also have a “returned” bin where students can collect their graded work. I also plan on having a spot in this vicinity where students who were absent can find the work they missed. This will be separated by days of the week to keep it as straight forward as possible.
Materials & Supplies:
At the beginning of the school year with a letter home I will send, I will also send a list of materials needed. Students will be expected to bring these materials to be successful for the school year. At the same time, I know that not all student’s families may be able to afford school supplies so I will also have some available for use in my classroom. There will be a “check out” system so again, students can learn to be held accountable. For table groups, I plan on having a general set of supplies for use during different activities.
Ideally, these supplies would be available right at each table group for easy access and less need for big transitions throughout the day. I really like the idea of having an entire storage tower at each table group in order to make this happen.
When it comes to distracting activities like pencil sharpening, I will require this to happen only during the beginning of the day or transitions. If a student needs a new pencil during instruction or work time, I will have sharpened pencils readily available for use.
As a teacher buying materials for my classroom, I know I will be contributing what can add up to a substantial amount of money. If students are not respectful with items borrowed they will be asked to write an apology the first time to me or another student (if it’s another student’s material). The second time they will be banned from using that material for a certain amount of time.
Tattling & Disputes:
First and foremost, students will need to try to work out disputes that come up in the classroom. They will be taught the difference between tattling and telling at the beginning of the school year. Especially at a 5th grade age, they should be learning to solve their own disputes if they can.
If they are unable to solve the problem, I will start with talking about how our classroom is a team and that we need to work together to be successful. I will ask the students to step into each other’s shoes and think about how the other one feels. If necessary, I will escalate the problem to the necessary administration, but for the most part, I want to try to keep these within the classroom.
I plan on creating an excel spreadsheet to help me keep track of homework and assignments turned in as well as grades. I have had a lot of training on statistics and love working with the numbers in this way. I would create formulas to have the excel spreadsheet show me the information I need (like grades or missing assignments). This system would allow me to easily view grades and assignments as well as edit the information as necessary.
Not only does this system allow me to add and keep track of grades but it will also allow me to add comments as needed. This could be comments about the assignments or notes to me to remember to call a family or talk to a student about something.
I plan on sending out progress reports using this information quarterly. I hope to use more descriptive progress reports than firm grades for each student. I feel as though this would better help parents to understand where their students are really at in terms of what they are learning. It also brings a more personal aspect to the grading.
Throughout the school year I would LOVE to have a class website where parents can get constant updates about what is going on in our classroom. I already love blogging and feel like this would be a natural step in creating that family involvement. Through the website I could post a weekly newsletter as well as day to day updates about what is going on. I would also love to have my students write about what is going on through the website. This could also be a place for parents to potentially connect with each other.
While much of the information will be on the website, I will also print out and send home the weekly newsletters and I know not all families will have access to the internet.
I would love to have parent volunteers for different activities we will do and will definitely write about this on the newsletters and website as needed. Some examples of different newsletters to be sent out include:
I know that families are often busy and I want the newsletters to be something that are easy to look at and not an overwhelming amount of information.
Throughout the school year I also would like to hold several family events such as reading nights or movie nights or even nights at a baseball game where students can bring their families to connect. I always loved these sorts of events growing up and seeing my teacher outside of the school day. It really made me feel special and even more excited to learn from him or her.