Tag Archives: Discipline

Creative Ideas for Peaceful School Mornings

Happy School Kidsby Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This article originally appeared in Little Black Dress|Little Red Wagon Magazine. 

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It’s 8 a.m. and my household has already witnessed three meltdowns, two resulting in tears, and one of them mine. Seriously, it should not be this difficult to get the kids ready for school and out the door.

When I was pregnant, I envisioned school-day mornings with homemade breakfasts, freshly poured (maybe even squeezed) OJ, neatly parted hair and happy smiles. While this may have been pie-in-the-sky, I am a put-together enough person to at least achieve toaster waffles and canned juice without weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So, this year, dangit, I am vowing to pull off more peaceful school mornings. And I’ve called in three pros to advise and counsel: Cheryl Bahneman, Francie Towey, and Beverly Boney. As the champions for working moms everywhere, these three run the Primrose Schools at Brookstone and Oregon Park (Cheryl), Primrose Schools at Macland Pointe and Sprayberry (Francie), and Primrose at Bentwater (Beverly).

I love, love, LOVE the fresh, creative tips they shared for making mornings more peaceful on the home front.

Make a Morning Map

Create a checklist or picture map to help kids stay on track with the morning routine: make bed, go potty, brush teeth, get bookbag, etc. Laminate the list and provide a dry-erase marker so that children can check off the steps as they go. “Setting concrete expectations about the sequence of tasks is important for little ones,” affirms Francie.

“Allowing your child to chime in when creating the list will ensure their ownership over this idea, too,” Cheryl adds. Let them help type and add clip art to make their Morning Map. Feeling crafty? Take a pic of your child doing each action, and use those for a customized checklist.

Create a Family Command Center Binder

Fill a three-ring binder with page protectors and dividers. Label the dividers: Family Basics, Contacts, Pending, and then label one divider with each child’s name.

In the page protectors under Family Basics, slide in emergency info and babysitter instructions. The Contacts section is for important numbers and business cards: school, doctor, vet, painter, plumber. Pending page protectors hold Netflix mailers, receipts for online purchases, upcoming birthday invitations. In each child’s section, keep their extracurricular schedules, school information and the like. “Creating organizational systems that work is key for peaceful routines,” affirms Beverly.

Have Homemade Breakfast in a Hurry!

Okay, so making a huge hot breakfast every morning isn’t always (ever?) realistic. Instead, opt for grab-and-go homemade: Make batches of homemade pancakes and waffles once a month. Freeze them on cookie sheets and then rebag into freezer baggies to reheat in the toaster. Voila—homemade in a hurry!

Take the Pressure Off

Finally, set a positive tone for your child’s school day by letting them know you’re behind them, regardless of performance. “Children thrive more when they don’t feel pressure from their mom or dad to perform,” shares Francie. “The most important attribute a parent can teach their child is to try. If a child learns that, they will do amazing things—without stress.”


Primrose School at Brookstone, www.primrosebrookstone.com

Primrose School at Macland Pointe, www.primrosemaclandpointe.com

Primrose School at Oregon Park, www.primroseoregonpark.com

Primrose School of Sprayberry, www.primrosesprayberry.com

Primrose School at Bentwater, www.primrosebentwater.com


Filed under Academic Success, Organization, Parenting

DIY Scratch-Off Card {love this!}

Looking for a unique Mother’s Day gift idea? Or a fun post-testing diversion? Or a creative way to review for the next big test? Check out this cool idea from Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

{And let us know what you think. A comment below could land you a $20 School Box gift card. We like to reward loud mouths.}

If you’ve ever received a scratch-off card in the mail, you know the anticipation of selecting a spot and rubbing the coating off the paper…all in hopes of winning a special prize or discount. If you think those scratch-offs are only for the retail-minded or lottery-blinded among us, think again. Scratch-off solution is something you can make at home or school to create a fun craft activity (or greeting card) with your children.



Drawing materials


Contact paper (clear)

Dishwashing liquid

Metallic acrylic paint (from the craft store)

Small, flat paintbrush

Here’s how to make a greeting card:
Other options below, too. 

  • Create a card out of cardstock by folding the cardstock in half.
  • Decorate the card with a design, and then think of a message that could have three possible answers. For example, the outside of the card might say, “Guess how much I love you?” Then, inside, draw three circles. Inside one, write “To the Moon.” In another, write “To the Moon and Back.” And in the final circle, write “To Infinity and Beyond.” You will cover these three circles with scratch-off solution.
  • To make the solution, mix together one part dishwashing liquid with two parts metallic-colored acrylic paint in a disposable cup.
  • Apply a thin coat of paint to the contact paper with a small, flat paintbrush.
  • Allow the paint to dry for at least one hour, and then reapply one to two coats until paint is not streaky, allowing to dry between coats.
  • Cut the painted contact paper to the appropriate size and shape (so, circles in this case). Then peel the backing off the contact paper and apply the painted “stickers” to the correct spots on the card.
  • Make sure to put a penny down in the envelope with the card, so the recipient can scratch off their choice and see the message underneath.

Other Fun Options:

  • Reward Cards! Make scratch-off reward cards for your class. Using notecards, write various rewards on each (extra computer time, skip one problem on Math homework, serve in a class leadership role, bring a stuffed animal to school, etc.) Distribute the cards to deserving students, and let them scratch off to discover their reward. Students LOVE this!
  • Review Game. You can make up your own version of scratch-off bingo using cards you make, customized to your lessons.
  • Coupon Book. Instead of a traditional coupon book for Mother’s, Father’s or Grandparent’s Days, help students create a scratch-off card with chores the child can do or sweet messages the child writes.
  • Teacher Cards. Parents: create a card for your child’s teacher that lets the recipient choose a scratch-off square (or two) listing helpful things your student could do for the teacher. Include age-appropriate tasks, such as empty the pencil sharpener, erase the board, pick up trash from the floor, or collect trash after snack.
  • Principal Thanks. Or create a similar card for the principal, sharing the child’s favorite things about the school: What do I love most about P.S. 212 Elementary School? The teachers are nice (one scratch-off square), the playground is really fun (another), the principal is the best ever!! (the final option).

So cool, right? We’ve even seen scratch-offs used in wedding save-the-date cards, bridal and baby shower invitations, and shower games. So, now that you know how to make your own, go get crafty!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Behavior Management, Holidays, Study Skills, Test Prep

First Day of School

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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It’s that time of the year again…the time when you begin to think about how you’re going to start off the school year with your new set of students. Possibly you’ve been doing this for several years and have everything pretty much decided, but you’d like a fresh idea or two. Perhaps you’re starting your first year as a brand new teacher and don’t have much of a clue as to where to start. Whatever your experiences and reasoning for needing some worry-free tips, there is no need in worrying any longer. Here are some suggestions that are sure to be the perfect prescription to relieve those first-day-of-school worries.

1. Be sure to greet each and every one of your students at the door when they come in.

2. Have a fun activity on their desks for them to do.

3. Make nametags for students to wear for first week or so, until you feel that you’ve got their names down pat (and to help them learn each others’ names, too).

4. Have a meeting on the reading rug to hold some “get to know me” discussions, so that the students know who their teacher is. Be sure to include pictures of you, your family, pets, etc.

5. Read The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn

This charming book is about a young raccoon who is reluctant to go to school…until he gets some wisdom from his mother.

6. Take students on a school tour and hunt for “Chester.” You can use any name for any stuffed animal of some type. Have clues along the way so that students get acquainted with their school while having fun searching for the little critter you hid ahead of time!

7. Discuss expectations, behavior, and create class rules/norms together as a class family. Allow students to work together with you to create the rules, allowing them a say-so in how their classroom will run.

8. Allow students to make something for their parents. “What did you think/learn on your first day of ___ grade?”

9. Send students home with labels that indicate their transportation, bus #, etc.

10. Send home a letter to parents…welcoming them, and letting them know what a wonderful first day you had meeting their student. Be sure to share with them what you did on their first day and their agreement to the classroom rules/norms, as well as your expectations of their student and of them.

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!


Filed under Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Discipline

Classroom Makeover Part III: Behavior Management Procedures

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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Summer is the perfect time (read: only time) for teachers to think about giving their classrooms and procedures a spiffy little makeover. This three-part series shares a few ideas for polishing up your reading corner (Part I), procedures (Part II), and discipline (Part III). It’s makeover time!

Tackling Tattling: Refreshing Discipline Tactics

Complaint Box

Do you want a new way to handle complaining issues in your classroom? This idea will help students get over their complaints, clear their minds, and move on!

Students tattling or nagging about little things can use this as a way to vent, without bogging you down with non-essentials.

Create a Safe Spot: First, designate a special box (or trash can, so students know they are literally “throwing away” their complaint). Then, put strips of paper next to it, where students can write down their complaint before depositing it into the box/can.

The Power of Writing: By writing it down and giving it up, students learn an effective strategy to get rid of a complaint and move on with their day.

To Read or Not to Read: These can either be private (no one–not even you–will read them), or if you would like to read them, just tell your students they’ll remain between them and you. Some situations may warrant further action on your part, but mostly, you’ll find that the complaints in this box resolve themselves.

“Help Me Find a Resolution” Box

Sometimes student issues are a little bigger and do need an intervention on your part. Here’s where students can go when it’s not an appropriate time to vent to you, but they do need your help.

Create a Safe Spot: Designate a box or mailbox where students can write down issues they’re having with someone (even another student). They drop their paper in the box and “put it on hold” for now. They need not let it bother them for the rest of the day because they know it will be discussed later.

Resolve Every Morning: This box is opened every morning, during Morning Meeting, and the teacher reads them one by one. (Obviously, you need to read through them beforehand, to make sure they’re appropriate to read aloud. Some may best be dealt with privately, and some may need to be tossed–or given back to the student to transfer to the “Complaint Box,” above.)

The student who wrote the issue then states whether they still need to discuss it or if it has been resolved since they wrote it. If it has been resolved, it is tossed. If it is still an issue, students work together to determine ways to deal with it. Maybe there needs to be an apology. Maybe the people involved need to discuss their reasoning for doing what they did, as well as how they were feeling.

Peer Feedback: If need be, the other students can give suggestions to their peers on how they could have handled the issue differently.

Students need to be aware that this isn’t a place to put little bitty tattlings that they can resolve on their own (that’s the “Complaint Box”). This is where they come when they’ve tried to resolve it, but still need help.

If done correctly and with sensitivity, this Resolutions Box builds a sense of a classroom “family” where the students care about each other…and are held accountable for how they treat each other.

Talk to the Ear

This idea reminds me of that good ‘ol saying from a few years back: “Talk to the hand.”

This idea works best with younger elementary students–and is a good option for pre-writers who can’t use the two ideas above.

Post an Ear: Post a laminated picture of an ear in a corner of the room. Or–if you have access to one–put a plastic ear on an inconspicuous student-accessible shelf or table.

Redirect to the Ear: When a student comes to you with a trivial issue, tell them to “go tell the ear.” They can then go over to the ear and whisper their complaint or issue.

Of course, this only works with younger students–and should only be used when the issue really is trivial. But, surprisingly, it makes young students feel like they have been “heard” and helps them get on with their day…now that they’ve voiced their concern to a “listening ear.”

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!


Filed under Behavior Management, Bullying, Classroom Community, Discipline

I’m Bored! {How to Never Hear that Phrase Again}

by Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed.

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We’ve all heard it–as parents, as teachers, as passerby in the aisles at Wal-Mart. Anyplace a child might be stranded without a digital device, “I’m bored” is destined to be uttered. At least 17 times.

Here’s an idea adapted from The Simple Mom that is definitely worth sharing–and implementing. It could easily be used both at home and in the classroom.

The “Boredom Busters” Jar

1. First, have your children sit down and make a list of everything they could do completely on their own.

2. Then, gather input from other moms and teachers, to add ideas to the list.

3. Transfer your now-long list of activities onto individual strips of paper. You can type them…or have children hand-write and decorate them (in and of itself a boredom busting activity!).

4. Then, whenever you hear the dreaded phrase, pass the jar. Children pull out two or three strips and decide which one they want to do. Voila! Boredom=busted!

200+ Boredom Busting Activities

Here’s The Simple Mom’s ingenious list of over 200+ activites, to give you (and your kids) some ideas. (She says that the chores on the list were suggested by her kids themselves, by the way. Can I please trade children with her?)

  • ride bikes
  • roller blade
  • basketball
  • play board games
  • make a tent out of blankets
  • squirt with hoses
  • run through the sprinkler
  • jump rope
  • read books
  • blow bubbles
  • make homemade play dough
  • play with play dough
  • press flowers
  • do crafts with pressed flowers
  • write a letter to a relative, friend or pen pal
  • clean bedroom
  • vacuum living room
  • clean bathroom
  • make a craft
  • draw
  • color
  • paint
  • pull weeds
  • watch a movie
  • write stories
  • use binoculars
  • use magnifying glass
  • use microscope
  • bird watching
  • write a play
  • act out a play
  • invent circus acts
  • perform a circus
  • play card games
  • make art on the front walkway with sidewalk chalk
  • play catch
  • play baseball
  • collect rocks
  • collect leaves
  • collect feathers
  • play Frisbee
  • make Frisbee’s out of old plastic lids, decorate with markers
  • dust the house
  • brush the pet
  • write letters
  • read a magazine
  • play dress-up
  • play Cowboys
  • pick vegetables
  • play outside with the pet
  • build a fort in your rooms
  • build a fort in the backyard
  • do a jigsaw puzzle
  • play on the Geosafari
  • play on the computer
  • listen to a story or book on tape
  • do extra schoolwork to get ahead
  • do brain teasers (ie: crosswords, word searches, hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
  • cook
  • prepare lunch
  • surprise a neighbor with a good deed
  • play store
  • prepare a “restaurant” lunch with menus
  • hold a tea party
  • have a Teddy bear picnic
  • play with toy cars
  • play dolls
  • play house
  • chase butterflies
  • collect caterpillars and bugs
  • plant a garden or a pot
  • collect seeds
  • hunt for four-leaf clovers
  • learn magic tricks
  • put on a magic show
  • plant a container garden
  • sprout seeds or beans
  • make sock puppets
  • put on a puppet show
  • make Christmas presents
  • make homemade wrapping paper
  • make homemade gift cards
  • make picture frames from twigs glued onto sturdy cardboard
  • crochet or knit
  • make doll clothes
  • sew buttons in designs on old shirts
  • run relay races
  • make bookmarks
  • take a quiet rest time
  • take a shower or bath
  • bathe a pet
  • feed the birds or squirrels
  • watch the clouds
  • organize a dresser drawer
  • clean under the bed
  • empty dishwasher
  • vacuum under the couch cushions and keep any change found
  • write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick out one or two to do
  • whittle
  • whittle bars of soap
  • practice musical instruments
  • perform a family concert
  • teach yourself to play musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
  • fold laundry
  • sweep kitchen or bathroom floors
  • sweep front walkway
  • sweep or spray back patio
  • sweep or spray driveway
  • wash car
  • vacuum car
  • vacuum or dust window blinds
  • clean bathroom mirrors
  • clean sliding glass doors
  • clean inside of car windows
  • wash bicycles
  • clean garage
  • play in the sandbox
  • build a sandcastle
  • work with clay
  • copy your favorite book illustration
  • design your own game
  • build with blocks or Legos
  • create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
  • plan a neighborhood or family Olympics
  • have a marble tournament
  • paint a picture with lemon juice on white paper and hang it in a sunny window and see what happens in a few days
  • finger paint with pudding
  • make dessert
  • make dinner
  • give your pet a party
  • paint the sidewalk with water
  • start a journal of summer fun
  • start a nature diary
  • have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
  • have a neighborhood bike wash
  • play flashlight tag
  • play Kick the Can
  • check out a science book and try some experiments
  • make up a story
  • arrange photo albums
  • find bugs and start a collection
  • do some stargazing
  • decorate bikes or wagons and have a neighborhood parade
  • catch butterflies and then let them go
  • play hide-and-seek
  • create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubber bands
  • listen to the birds sing
  • try to imitate bird calls
  • read a story to a younger child
  • find shapes in the clouds
  • string dry noodles or O-shaped cereals into a necklace
  • glue noodles into a design on paper
  • play hopscotch
  • play jacks
  • make up a song
  • make a teepee out of blankets
  • write in your journal
  • find an ant colony and spill some food and watch what happens
  • play charades
  • make up a story by drawing pictures
  • draw a cartoon strip
  • make a map of your bedroom, house or neighborhood
  • call a friend
  • cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
  • make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
  • do a secret service for a neighbor
  • plan a treasure hunt
  • make a treasure map
  • make up a “Bored List” of things to do
  • plan a special activity for your family
  • search your house for items made in other countries and then learn about those countries from the encyclopedia or online
  • plan an imaginary trip to the moon
  • plan an imaginary trip around the world, where would you want to go
  • write a science-fiction story
  • find a new pen pal
  • make up a play using old clothes as costumes
  • make up a game for practicing math facts
  • have a Spelling Bee
  • make up a game for practicing spelling
  • surprise an elderly neighbor or relative by weeding his/her garden
  • fingerpaint with shaving cream
  • collect sticks and mud and build a bird’s nest
  • write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
  • put together a family newsletter
  • write reviews of movies or plays or TV shows or concerts you see during the summer
  • bake a cake
  • bake a batch of cookies
  • decorate a shoe box to hold your summer treasures
  • make a hideout or clubhouse
  • make paper airplanes
  • have paper airplane races
  • learn origami
  • make an obstacle course in your backyard
  • make friendship bracelets for your friends
  • make a wind chime out of things headed for the garbage
  • paint your face
  • braid hair
  • play tag
  • make a sundial
  • make food sculptures (from pretzels, gumdrops, string licorice, raisins, cream cheese, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.) and then eat it
  • make a terrarium
  • start a club
  • take a nap outside on your lawn
  • produce a talent show
  • memorize a poem
  • recite a memorized poem for your family

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.


Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Summer Learning

Attention Grabbers (Keep students’ attention…even in May!)

by Bobbie Brownell

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Almost every teacher, whether they went to Yale or got their teaching degree online, thinks about using a big attention grabber to start class…especially in these final weeks of the school year when spring fever is rampant. Attention grabbers can range from a simple question to an elaborate demonstration. Either way, the message is clear: Wake up! Time to learn!

When to use an attention grabber:

  • Quiet a noisy room
  • Introduce a new topic
  • Motivate students
  • Demonstrate a theory or natural occurrence
  • Ward off summeritis

Have fun getting their attention, just be careful that the attention grabber does not take away from the overall meaning of the lesson. Try to keep their focus on the learning objectives. This benefits everyone in class and helps by taking away unnecessary distractions. We all know how easy it is to get the students’ minds off of the material. Daniel Willingham’s explanation on why students remember or forget material learned in class is linked to what the students are thinking about while new material is being introduced.

Questions to consider before using an attention grabber:

• Is the attention grabber relevant to the lesson?

• Could this be done in the middle of the lesson if students start to zone out?

• Will students be engaged and motivated to learn afterward?

• Will this continue to distract the students after the demonstration is over?

Tips to motivate:

• Timing is key – Try using relevant attention grabbers in the middle of the lesson. Students tend to mentally check out around the half-way point of class. This is a great time to reel them back in with something stimulating like a thought-provoking or a controversial question for them to discuss or write about.

• Give choices – If motivation is lacking, give the students a chance to have some input in what they are learning. Giving choices on what to read or research can be a huge motivator because it allows students to learn about something they are interested in. Have students come up with their own writing prompts; you’ll be surprised by all the brilliant ideas!

• Ask questions – Ask the students thought provoking questions to start a class discussion. Discussion is an invaluable tool since it invites the entire class to become involved with the lesson and with each other. Try something like, “Is murder ever justified?” or “What do you think would be different if this classroom was in Paris?” Use anything to get them thinking and talking.

• Relate concepts to the real world – Teachers sometimes forget that the best way to learn something is the simplest way. Ask yourself, “How did I learn this?” and “How does what we’re learning relate to the outside world?” Real-world examples work because students can relate to them. At any age, we learn by making connections from things we know to new ideas and experiences. Using examples that can be found or repeated at home can help deepen the understanding between the concept and the individual student.

Transitioning into new subjects is difficult for both teachers and students. Make it fun and be creative! Paying attention to transitions will make the change easier for everyone involved. Tricky Transitions…Made Easier! is a great example of thinking about transitions and how they can be used in a younger classroom environment.

Bobbie Brownell holds a bachelors degree in English and is currently in the NC Teach program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Filed under Activities, Behavior Management, Critical Thinking, Discipline, Motivation

The Beat Down on Bullying

by Rachel Stepp

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In schools across the nation, bullying has become a serious issue for many teachers, parents and students. It’s all over the media, as well: there has been a concerning rise in bullying incidents, as well as a rise in the intensity and severity of bullying. As teachers, we must work hard to create classrooms that reduce and eliminate bullying behaviors. Here are a few tips to make your classroom and school a peaceful place.

1. Teach your students about bullying.

This idea sounds simple and obvious. But, as teachers, sometimes we get caught up in the academic curriculum and neglect social curriculum. It’s important for children to be able to identify bullies and bullying behaviors. For younger grades, you can help them do this by reading pictures books such as The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan and Jan Berenstain and then having discussions with your students about what bullies do, who victims can be, and how bullying makes others feel.

Older grades especially benefit from such pointed conversations: honest discussions provide a safe forum for conversations and accountability. This will give your students an idea about how to identify bullies, and it may even let some students know that they are being bullies.

2. Eliminate stress that might cause bullying behaviors.

Many students tend to bully because they are negatively affected by something else in their lives. For example, it has been shown that students sometimes feel overwhelmed and pressured by constant testing and examinations; when students subconsciously feel like failures, they can lash out at others.

As teachers, we can reduce these feelings by lessening the stress of testing. Implement creative ways to assess in your classroom like individual creative projects, observation assessments and personal goals. When students feel ownership over their learning, they are more likely to enjoy it and retain information learned…and less likely to exhibit hostility.

3. Give students tools and information on how to deal with bullying.

One of the main problems with bullying is that students don’t know what to do when they are the victim. They are scared to speak out against the bully because they don’t know what will happen next. We can give our students ideas about the safe and smartest options, such as letting an adult know about the problem and protecting yourself from situations involving the bully. Here are a few concrete ideas:

  • Play a “role playing” game like Bullies, Victims & Bystanders (available at The School Box). This game presents bullying in a concrete way for students, raising their awareness of bullying and its seriousness.
  • Read Stop Picking On Me (A First Look At Series), which helps students discuss how they feel when they are bullied and what they can do about it.
  • Invite your school counselor into your classroom to host a discussion.
  • For more activities and ideas for younger students, check out The Anti Bullying and Teasing Book (also at The School Box).

Overall, it’s important to remember that both bullies and victims need support. For more information, talk to your school’s counselor about programs and age-appropriate books you can use in your classroom. Let’s work together to help protect our students and create peaceful atmospheres!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience.

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Filed under Bullying, Classroom Community

January = A Fresh Start

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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The candles have all been extinguished, random evergreen needles have been vacuumed up, and the presents have all been opened and enjoyed (or returned and re-gifted). But the end of the holidays is actually the beginning of something really special in your classroom: the start of a brand new year. And unlike the newness of the year in August, this “new year” is even better because your students will return to a class of friends and a teacher they know (and love, of course).

All of this old-newness is the perfect opportunity to revisit your classroom management plan and strengthen the bonds of community (not to mention obedience) with your students. Here’s a simple first-day-back plan to get your group on the right track for 2011:

  • Brainstorm “The Ideal Classroom”

Start the day by asking students what the “perfect” classroom would be like. Tell them that you’re not talking about having recess all day or never having homework (dream on!), but rather you want to know how the students and teacher would treat each other. Ask: How would you like to be treated by your classmates? By me? How should we act toward each other? Lead students in a discussion on mutual respect, kindness…and (my personal favorite) self control. Rather than lecturing or preaching, let the students share their thoughts on what makes them feel respected when they’re talking (eye contact, no interruptions, etc) and how they can show extra kindness to each other. How can we become even more like a family?

  • Revisit and Revise “The Rules”

Then, look over the classroom rules together. If they’re posted on your wall, have a student volunteer read the rules out loud, pausing after each one to ask, “Why is this a good standard for our classroom?” Then, ask the students to thoughtfully consider if the rules need to be amended. Do we need any additional standards? Do any need to be reworded? A thoughtful conversation on classroom behavior will impart ownership to the students and be a better motivator than any lecture.

  • Play a Team-Building Game

Next, solidify the unity of your class with a team-building activity. Try a connecting web (see this post for the how-to), where students are encouraged to compliment each other.

However you choose to greet your students come January, here’s to a happy, productive, positive New Year!

Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed., holds a Bachelors in Education from The University of Georgia and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. She is the editor of A Learning Experience.


Filed under Activities, Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Discipline

Some (Cheap and Easy) Discipline Ideas

by Kelli Lewis

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! A new winner is selected each week…and just in time for holiday shopping, woohoo!

As the winter break grows closer, attention spans grow shorter. Looking for some fresh discipline ideas to get you through “the most wonderful time of the year”? Try these easy ideas to keep your little elves out of mischief.

Think About It

First of all, think of the times of day that seem to be trickiest when it comes to self-control (your students’, not yours :-). Do they need a little incentive to get quiet after transitions? Do they need to remember to do their homework more often? Do they need to use that handwriting you know they are capable of but usually choose to not use? Do they need to be better at staying quiet in the hallways?

Second, decide on a way to encourage your students. One motivating (and easily replicated) discipline strategy involves students collecting things (see ideas below) and then trading said “things” for small rewards or privileges. Here are a few easy ideas:

Show Me the Money

Plastic money coins (I found them at The School Box) are always a big hit, and using/counting money also incorporates the standards for several elementary grade levels. You could also use play money bills, or even print your own money bills with your face on them!

Paper Trail

If you’d rather not purchase money, you can simply cut small colored circles or squares out of construction paper. If you choose this option, just be sure that students can’t reproduce or make them themselves. Add your signature or stamp to each one to make them uniquely yours.

Chart It, Baby!

If small coins or bits of paper prove to be a distraction for little hands, create charts for each student instead. The charts can follow behavior daily, weekly or monthly–whatever works for your group. Stamp students’ charts each time they do something deserving and then cross them out as they trade them in for a reward.

Speaking of Rewards…

Finally, decide on the privileges you want students to choose and allocate different “values” to each reward. (A homework pass may “cost” more than wearing a hat to school, for example.) Here are some ideas of things your students could “purchase” with their coins/paper/chart rewards:

  • free ice cream pass
  • eat lunch with a friend
  • draw on the board/smartboard
  • play games in the afternoon
  • wear slippers for the day (remember to bring tennis shoes for P.E.)
  • wear a hat for the day
  • bring a small stuffed animal to sit at your desk while you work
  • extra computer time
  • wear sunglasses to school
  • write with a colored pen all day
  • sit at the teacher’s desk, special table in the room…or the floor!

Hopefully these ideas will help keep your classroom (and you!) merry and bright during the next few busy weeks. Happy Holidays!

Kelli Lewis is a grad student at The University of Georgia who volunteers her great ideas for the benefit of all of us here at A Learning Experience.


Filed under Behavior Management, Discipline

What to do with your substitute…new ideas!

by Rachel Stepp

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There always comes that time of year when you either need a little vacation or your body demands that you take one! It can be difficult to give your classroom over to someone else for the day, but if you leave the right information, you won’t need to worry! Here are a few things that you’ll want to do so that you have a successful substitute:

1. Seating Chart

There is nothing more important than leaving your class roster! Your substitute teacher will need to know your students’ names in order to have a peaceful day. If your students have assigned seats, leave a seating chart. Students might try to be sneaky and sit next to their friends, but a seating chart will prevent this from happening!

2. Class Schedule

Keeping your students in their usual routine while you are gone is the best thing for them. In order to do this, your substitute teacher will need the class’s schedule. Be sure to list the subjects, times, and locations where everything should take place. This will also help the substitute pace his or her time during the day instead of completing everything fast.

3. Class Rules

You will want your students to be on their best behavior while you’re gone, and the only way to keep track of this is if your substitute teacher knows the rules. We all know that sometimes our little darlins’ will try to get away with troublesome behavior and claim that the teacher allows them to do it, but with a list of class rules, the substitute will know this is not true!

4. Lesson Plans

Your students need to learn while you’re out for the day, so leave detailed lesson plans for your substitute teacher to follow. Make sure you leave all of the books and pages numbers that the teacher will need. (If the absence is planned, I like to leave all the teacher books opened, turned to the exact page, on my desk). If your students will be working on printed worksheets, make sure that you already have all of your prints made. Leave specific directions on tricky lessons. Also, leave extra worksheets, such as crossword puzzles, if your substitute finishes an activity early.

5. Map of the school

Where is the lunchroom? Where is the computer lab? These are simple questions that your substitute teacher might have if he/she has never been to your school before. Leave a school map with important rooms highlighted so that the teacher will be able to navigate around the school. If a school map is not available, leave the name of a nearby teacher that is will to assist your substitute. If you have a trustworthy student, he or she may also be able to help.

6. Emergency Plans

It would be awful for there to be an emergency while you were away from your classroom, but it is always a possibility! Make sure that your substitute teacher knows escape routes and emergency routines in case something happens. Post this by a doorway and outline it in a bright color. Emergency plans are good to have, even if you’re not going to be out!

These ideas are just some of the ways to help your day off be successful. Make sure your substitute feels comfortable in your classroom by leaving all of  the important information that he or she will need during the day.

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia who often shares her stellar ideas on A Learning Experience.


Filed under Behavior Management, Discipline