classroom rules

A Classroom Library

Our class library, originally uploaded by riaskiff.

Creating a classroom library may not seem relevant to classroom displays but I think we need to consider all aspects of the learning environment and the way they work together when we plan displays.

I want to highlight some of the more interesting classroom libraries that I’ve seen recently. This one is a simple, yet soothing space. The colours are muted and not too stimulating but with just a touch of red for warmth. The books are tidy but accessible. They can be quickly popped back into the trays with very little fuss. There are cuddlies to hand which can be surprisingly important even for older children. The mat, rug and cushions combine together to make a cosy welcoming space. (Just a note about cushions. These are much better than beanbags as children with asthma can find the filling problematic.)The bookcases have been used to create a discreet, yet visible area. I think this is a lovely, well thought out space and it makes me want to curl up there with a good book so hopefully it will have the same effect on children!
Here’s a very different approach:
Book Center/Listening Center
This time there’s a child sized sofa rather than rugs and cushions. It’s a nice idea but I wonder if it’s less practical. It’s definitely more expensive! It limits the number of children able to use the area and makes it harder for an adult to join them at the right level. The children will be side by side rather than clustered and whilst this might be useful for maintaining a quiet area, speaking and listening aren’t really well served by this arrangement.
On the plus side the area looks welcoming and cosy. Displays have been used discreetly to remind the children what this area is about. The area is clearly visible but it’s not quite as defensible a space.
A place to learn
This space is more enclosed than the others. It’s got child sized furniture and it’s quite small. It looks like an interesting and engaging space that will appeal to children. It’s going to provide a good speaking and listening environment but it worries me slightly on a few counts. Firstly, it is almost too private. If children do feel unobserved there is always a potential for bullying behaviours to go unnoticed. Secondly, it’s not an easy space for an adult to enter, get involved and facilitate discussions.
One other advantage of the first area is that there’s less attempt to control how the children sit. Child sized furniture is often most appealing to adults and to those children who like to sit quietly anyway. For those who are more kinaesthetic or squirmy as I prefer to call it 🙂 even the most delightful furniture can, literally, be a pain!

Behaviour incentives – pizza party points 2

pizza party points, originally uploaded by quemarropa.

Classroom displays can be a vital part of a behaviour management strategy. Lots of teachers are trying out visual incentives to improve behaviour but it can be hard to keep them positive. This is a fun idea which can easily be adapted to suit your classroom.

each table group is assigned a color, which corresponds to a colored pizza topping. the table group that gets the most points each day (for behavior, responsibility, cooperation, respect, etc) puts their topping on the pizza. once we have 30 toppings total -with each table contributing at least 4- we have a pizza party!

The toppings etc. are stored in the pizza box. I think it’s a lot more fun than traffic lights!

I think you would need to have the criteria for points clearly set out so that pupils knew what to aim for. Sometimes we assume they know what we want and really they don’t. Concepts like respect and responsibility need to be explained. The pupils need to know what that concept looks like, what it sounds like. The ones who really need to won’t catch this stuff by osmosis.

Update: Quemarropa adds:

NOTE: the first week of school, i modeled some of the ways students can get points. sometimes, i’ll do an end-of-day “what did we learn?” quiz and award points to tables. sometimes, the first table that has followed instructions completely gets a point. sometimes, if a table member helps another student with a difficult concept, i’ll give the whole table a point. but i’m quick to point out that i’m looking for a variety of things and not every good act gets a point… because i EXPECT good acts from every table. at this point, they know i’m looking for exceptional behavior and classwork. if i notice one table is slacking, i’ll subtly add tallies to the other tables that are on task and usually the kids pick up on this and get back to work. today i had a meeting and another teacher administered a quiz. my kids were absolutely WONDERFUL… respectful and 100% on-task, so every table added a topping to the pizza for showing exemplary behavior with a guest teacher. it’s working beautifully so far!

Great description of the system in action 🙂

Golden Rules 1

golden rules, originally uploaded by LindaH.

Year 3 started off this year with a large number of rules they’d chosen themselves. Each of the 4 house groups had contributed their own set. This meant the class ended up with far to many rules to follow and things that were too complex for some members of the class to remember. Generating your own classroom rules is a lovely idea and when we’ve done it before it has worked quite well. This year was different.
We need to intervene and simplify the rules and the language they used. This was designed to help some members of the class who are able to cope better with a reduced volcabulary.
The myriad of rules were quickly put into themes and narrowed down to 4 essential areas. Importantly this process was done as a whole class activity with the assistance of our visiting specialist behavioural management TA. The class still feels ownership of the rules and it was one of the children who suggested calling them the “Golden Rules”. If these simple rules are followed then no one will be in trouble.
We posted the rules in a prominent position in the classroom and also put laminated versions on the tables. We also made a point over the next few days of catching children following the rules and took photos of them. These were added to the display to remind them what good behaviour looks like and that they can all do it.