Classroom organization, management, and discipline are central components of any effective classroom. In elementary classrooms
Exchanging Money with Students as part of the Classroom Store
especially, it is important for the teacher to set the tone of the learning environment from the first day of school, to demonstrate good behaviors, to explain procedures, and to be consistently thorough. Throughout my practicum experience I have had the privilege of observing a master in effective classroom management and I have learned a lot about the advantages of a well-managed learning environment. As a first year teacher, my goal is to develop a classroom management plan that aligns with school-wide goals, rules, and procedures. I understand that there is no such thing as a perfect classroom management plan; however, I believe that the most effective management strategies are ones that are consistent over time and are reinforced everywhere on school grounds.

Competency 19: Builds positive rapport with and among students fostering an environment that values and encourages respect for diversity.
My relationship with my students means everything to me. I have made it a priority to get to know each of my students as both learners and as people. In the fall of 2010, I worked individually with a struggling reader named Brittany. Over the course of our six one-on-one sessions, she progressed from a low level reader to one of the highest readers in the class. I was able to tailor my instructional choices to her specific interests, needs, and wants which helped me realize how important differentiated instruction is to learning of any kind. Some of the activities that we did were later modified and applied to the whole class.

Similarly, this spring I had the pleasure of working one-on-one with another student on a two-for-ten exercise. This student and I had informal yet personal conversations for at least two minutes for ten days in a row. This process helped me establish a strong relationship with this student as a person and helped the student feel more comfortable in school because they knew that they had an adult that would be there for them no matter what.

My cooperating classroom this semester is also the grade level ELL classroom and approximately 45% of my class is made up of English Language Learners. The majority of the ELL students are Spanish speakers and one student is native to the Marshall Islands. An ELL specialist joins my classroom for an hour three days a week and also meets with all of the ELL students in small groups throughout the day. She and I often collaborate on assignments and letters home to parents of these students so that everyone can be equally informed and involved. I also coordinated the ordering of additional bilingual and Spanish texts for our classroom library and for students’ personal use.

R.E.A.D Procedure and Classroom Library

Competency 20: Organize a classroom for effective instruction through appropriate physical arrangement and grouping of students for optimal learning and safety in the classroom.
I believe that physical organization has the power to change the tone of any environment, especially a classroom. As a visual person, mymood is often impacted by my surroundings and I believe that all people, especially young students, are affected by their environment. The optimal learning environment is one in which students feel safe, calm, and able to access the materials needed for learning. In lower elementary grades, it is especially important for the classroom to be easy to navigate with designated areas for certain tasks and activities.

As part of my classroom management course, I analyzed the arrangement of my cooperating teacher’s classroom for effectiveness and ease of access (click here to see my classroom floor plan). After mapping out the classroom layout, I noticed a few major discrepancies during my observations. The first was that my cooperating teacher had a difficult time finding materials in her storage closet and cabinets, the second was that some students’ seats faced the back of the classroom, and the third was that the classroom library was uninviting and not readily used.

I discussed my observations with my cooperating teacher and developed a plan to address our mutual concerns. We quickly turned
the student tables so that all students could more easily see the front of the room and the homework board. To address the first concern, I spent some extra time after and before school cleaning out the main supply closet in the classroom. In doing so, I was able to discover a surplus of materials and resources that my cooperating teacher and I were previously unaware of. Now, the closet is easily accessible and all materials have their place. In cleaning out the supply closet, we were also able to free up some extra storage space for materials previously stored on a low bookshelf in an underused portion of the classroom. My goal was to free up this bookshelf so that I could move it into the classroom library to take the place of a taller bookshelf (see photos above for the final set up). With a few more after-school visits I was able to remove the tall bookshelves from the classroom library, organize the books into genre-boxes, and make the entire room feel more spacious and inviting. Along with the new classroom library set up, I also introduced a new classroom library procedure. Prior to this, there was no clear approach to the classroom library and it went underused.

Competencies 21 & 22: Use effective routines and procedures to maintain effective and efficient use of time.
Systems of routines and procedures help both students and teachers participate in an effective classroom environment. In the first 4-6 weeks of any school year, it is important for the teacher and students to agree upon and practice the rules and routines of the
Clips and Faces Behavior Monitoring System
classroom. It is
equally important for the teacher to clearly communicate his or her goals and wants to students so that all are aware of baseline expectations. My personal stance on rules and discipline on rules is that they should be streamlined and simple.

While classroom rules establish guidelines for classroom behaviors, classroom procedures clearly outline what behaviors will take place throughout the school year. I had the privilege of attending the first day of school during my student teaching observations in the fall of 2010, which allowed me to act as a second-party observer during the introduction of key classroom procedures in a first grade classroom. In early 2011, I had the opportunity to reflect upon those observations and outline my procedural plan of action for the first three days of my own first grade class. I chose to introduce three important procedures per day while continuing to reinforce the procedures introduced at earlier times. . Each time I introduce a new procedure, I will try to use the basic model of direct instruction by clarifying my goals, presenting the plan of attack, and explaining through modeling and questioning the desired student behavior. It is very important to have a clear plan for the first few days of school because they set the tone for the rest of the year and establish the procedures of the classroom.

Competencies 23 & 24: Develop and use a classroom management plan that provides clear expectations of student behavior, including appropriate and equitable responses to student behavior.
At the beginning of the school year, my cooperating teacher and I developed a classroom management plan that aligns with the school disciplinary model. This system involves individual student clips and five different colored “faces” that indicate each student’s daily behavior. All students start every morning on green and move through yellow, orange, blue, and red based on their behavioral infractions. If I student is on yellow, they get a ten minute time out. If a student is on orange a note is sent home to the parent or guardian explaining the student’s behavior for the day. When a student is on blue, the teacher will call home to speak with the parent. If a student is on red, meaning they had more than four serious behavioral infractions, they will be sent to the vice principals office.

Recently, we started a math unit on money and a corresponding social studies unit on economics. In order to focus on these two subject areas and connect the skills to real life applications, I created a monetary behavior system for the entire class. Every student has their own personal bank velcroed to their desk so that they can collect and keep track of their earnings. There are multiple opportunities for students to earn money throughout the day; however, students can also loose money for poor behavior. This new system works well with the pre-existing color-clip system because it allows for different incremental consequences within each color. Students also lose a coin at the end of the day for being on yellow and the monetary consequences continue to escalate as the severity of the color increases. This banking system involves mostly pennies; however, all students started off with a nickel and have the opportunity to trade in their coins for either larger coins or a check on Fridays. The classroom store is only open on Fridays and has a variety of pre-priced items for students to choose from. Most of the items cannot be purchased after only a week of saving, so students are encouraged to save for the bigger prizes and track their behavior in the long run.