Ready, Set, Goals - Positive Behavior Management in the Classroom, Part Two

As I began to organize my thoughts and photos for this post, "Positive" from Legally Blonde: The Musical started playing through my head on loop...that's exactly how I strive to keep my classroom: positive! Of course, it can be incredibly difficult to keep your cool and think happy thoughts when one of your students starts giving out unsolicited hair cuts or when a child removes an entire brick from your classroom wall (both of these happened within my first month of teaching - yikes!).

However, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that there's usually a reason for every behavior. I work in a low income district; many of my students have less than ideal home lives, and bring to school more stress than I ever dealt with as a six year old. Raising my voice and taking away recess proved unsuccessful time after time. This year, I made a vow to keep it positive when it comes to behavior management and have seen amazing results.

In addition to providing my students a safe space to release emotions and calm down (if you missed Part One of this series, check out my classroom Zen Zone here!), I also offer my students incentives for showing me stellar behavior. As a class, we discuss one of our behavioral struggles as a group. Are we forgetting to raise our hands to speak? Neglecting to be kind to our friends? Running in the hallways? We vote on our biggest "weakness" and then set a goal to work on it! The goal is posted in the room for students, staff, and administration to see. This helps keep us accountable.

Here's a close up. I typed up a simple goal sheet on Microsoft Word. The adorable pennant is from an Edible Banner Kit on TpT.

You'll notice that there's also a reward. The students choose this, too. My kiddos have picked some great rewards over the years: a GoNoodle party, a shoe free day, extra center time, cookie decorating. As long as it's within reason, I give it the green light. This year, I even have some awesome parents who have offered to "sponsor" a behavior goal party (more on that later)! 

We then get to work on our goal. Our first two goals of the year have been centered around talking (I have a chatty bunch). I stuck some magnets on the back of basic bulletin board letters and posted them at the top of the white board. When students get too rowdy, I remove a letter.

At the end of the day, if we still have letters left, we earn a "donut." We need eight donuts to earn our party! We keep our paper donut awards on the whiteboard or a bulletin board so we can see how close we are to reaching our goal. I use this method for all of our rewards. Here's an example from last students needed to earn six scoops for their ice cream party. With each new goal, we bump up the number of days we need to meet our goal in order to earn the party. 

It usually takes my class anywhere from three to six weeks to earn their reward, depending on the goal and their dedication to it. Our behavior reward parties are very short (about ten minutes) and are usually held during snack time. Of course, not all rewards cost money...but some do. As a teacher on a budget, I always go the cheap route. For example, a "brownie party" is a boxed mix and basic ingredients I already have at home. This year, I have been incredibly lucky to have a few parents ask to "sponsor" our behavior reward parties. Once we earn a party, I reach out to them and they either drop off the reward at school or send in a gift card for me to make the purchase. Last week, my students got to enjoy a donut party, sponsored by one of my amazing parents! 

To encourage my students to work as a team and have speedy transitions from one task to the next, I created a simple point system. Again, this is posted in a corner of my whiteboard. At any given time, I give points to the table that is serving as a great example to the class. At the end of the week, the team that earns the most points gets to select their centers first for "Friday Freedom" (play center time on Fridays). The winning team also gets to "wear a crown" for the entire next week.

Of course, the "winning" team is always changing, as points are awarded many times a day throughout the week. At the end of each day, the team with the most points is awarded the coveted "Quick and Quiet trophy." Who knew I'd ever have a practical use for all those rabbit trophies from my 4-H days!

Even with these system in place, I still do have the occasional repeat offender. If the Zen Zone is failing us, I ask the student to please stop, think, and reflect. They are given a reflection page to work on in an isolated area of the room, which then gets sent home for their parent to sign and return. I have various levels of reflection pages to accommodate for my wide range of abilities.

If the behavior is frequent or severe, I send home a Pink Slip. This is an edible template you can find on my TpT store that I use to communicate with parents and administration (if needed). Students can complete a reflection at home with their parents before returning the Pink Slip to school. 

If a behavior continues, I immediately set up a behavior contract with the student and their family. We set goals, visualize, and set a reward.    

To keep students accountable, I give my student a goal tracking sheet and behavior card. The behavior card is printed on card stock, laminated, and written on with a dry erase marker. Tracking sheets have different themes to appeal to student interests!

By using goal setting and positive reinforcement, I have seen incredible changes in my students' behavior. Even better, I have noticed that my students' have become more accountable for their actions and have a strong urge to work as a team to achieve. 

Looking for more? Check out my full editable Behavior Referral Set on TpT here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Freebie Alert!

Even though it's not quite Thanksgiving yet, I'm ready to deck the halls. What better way to start off the Season of Giving than with a flash freebie?!

My favorite products to make on TpT are integrated mini units. I started creating my new December mini unit series this week and just added a Nonfiction Reindeer Caribou mini unit to my store! Just for's free for today only! Hurry! This offer expires on Saturday, November 19 at 9:00 PM EST.

In this integrated, no prep set, you will find book suggestions, leveled mini readers, no prep printables, and a “Fun Friday” hands-on craft. Students will enjoy learning about reindeer all week, then create a beyond adorable piece of art (pictured below) to display in your classroom! 

The following no prep printables are included in this 21 page set:
• Leveled readers and comprehension guide
• KWL Chart
• Can, Have, Are Chart
• Caribou on the Move Interactive Fact Sheet
• Label the Reindeer
• Fact Sheet
• Compare and Contrast (reindeer vs. caribou)
• Report pages
• Story Problems
• Addition and Subtraction Math Riddle 

I'm no artist, so simple crafts (without pesky patterns) are my jam. This little reindeer couldn't be any easier - or cuter! The full instructions are included in this mini unit.

Stay tuned...I'll be using this mini unit in my classroom this December, and posting all the updates here! Enjoy!

Firsties Go Zen - Positive Behavior Management in the Classroom, Part One

Before reading, please note: I realize that many amazing teachers have found great success using behavior charts in their classroom. This post is simply to share my experiences and to offer an alternative form of behavior management. 

This year, I went rouge and ditched my traditional clip chart. I know...some of you are in shock and the other half are screaming, "It's about time!" As a student teacher, clip charts were the main form of behavior management I saw in classrooms. From inner city schools to rural districts and every type of school in between, I knew I could walk in any elementary classroom and see a clip chart hanging quietly in the corner. The colors may change, but the lesson is always the same: do good, and move up. Do bad, move down.

Of course, when I set up my own classroom, it seemed natural to utilize a clip chart. I created my very own using cute, printed scrapbook paper and my trusty laminator, proudly printing each student's name neatly on a clothespin. I clipped them all on "Ready to Learn!" and eagerly awaited for my students to funnel in for their first day of first grade.

And it worked...for the most part. So why change something that still fit so easily into my classroom? This past summer, though, I realized something. The clip chart wasn't failing my classroom, but it sure was making my students feel like failures.

Sure, the clip chart (or most of them, anyways) offers redemption. Students who clip down to a "bad color" early in the day can be clipped up if they show improvement. But those minutes spent shamed on a bad color can stretch into eternity for our little ones. I also realized that the clip chart wasn't changing behavior, it was only tracking it. It was offering absolutely no support to my students who desperately wanted to be good, but had trouble following the rules.

Upon realizing this, I felt disappointed in myself as an educator. Still, I was determined to find an alternative. I searched the internet, talked to fellow teachers, and read lengthy research papers. Finally, a visit to my dear friend's classroom in Texas offered the perfect solution: the Zen Zone.

The Zen Zone, as I informed my students and parents alike at the start of the school year, is not a place for "time out". It is not a punishment and it is not a place a child should enter and feel shame. It's simply a place to take a break. The Zen Zone is where my students go to decompose, to think about wiser choices, or to just breathe for a moment.

For students (and teachers!), school can be frustrating, angering, and even saddening at times. These feelings sometimes make us act out in ways that might break school rules. Students also bring their worries from home to the classroom, which can have a strong effect on their behavior during school hours. Studies even show that children today bear more stress than ever before! Enter the Zen Zone...

A student may be asked to visit the Zen Zone, or they may visit by their own choice. They can stay as long as they need - though my average student needs less than three to five minutes to regain their composure and return to their seat or place on the carpet.

My classroom Zen Zone is by no means fancy. It does not take up a large amount of space, and was supplied using mostly dollar store items. I stapled some butcher paper to the back of an ugly bookshelf, slapped up a border, and hung a beyond adorable pennant from Instruct and Inspire's Editable Banner on TpT. I added two spare foam floor tiles that had been hiding away in storage and a pillow from my old couch for some comfort (I plan to spruce up this part of my Zen Zone in time, but this girl's on a budget!).

The most important tools in the Zen Zone can be found in a simple blue bin resting in the corner. Again, all of these are DIY or dollar store items!

I have various different calm down jars in the Zen Zone, which I made myself using these directions. I also included a stress ball and an old pair of headphones that I snipped the cord from. I turned a small photo album into a "Feelings Book," to assist my students with expressing themselves. The album also features photos of each of my students and their families. I have found the family photos to be especially helpful this year, as I have many students who don't get to see their parents often or just get homesick. I also have a clipboard and supply box in the Zen Zone (not pictured) for students who simply wish to work in a more secluded area of the room.

Perhaps the most useful tool in the Zen Zone, however, is the check in journal. Students may choose to journal their feelings while in the Zen Zone. Though it is not a requirement, most students do doodle or journal. Their writing offers me a lot of insight, especially for my students who are hesitant to talk to me about their feelings.

I also include some great children's literature that centers on feelings. I rotate them out fairly regularly, depending on how often the Zen Zone is being used and what students may be using it for.

This is my first year utilizing the Zen Zone, and I can't imagine going back to a clip chart. Having this additional "extra safe space" in my classroom has completely changed my students' daily behavior. I have noticed that they are more self-aware of their own emotions. They also are able to self-assess, choosing to visit the Zen Zone before poor behavior even occurs. My firsties are always telling me things like, "I almost made a bad choice because I was angry, but the Zen Zone helped me calm down." Easily frustrated or upset students are learning cooping mechanisms from repeated visits. Parents are even reporting that their child has created a Zen Zone in their room, and that it benefits their behavior at home. Success! 

Of course, chronic or severe behavior issues are not always solved by using the Zen Zone. Stay tuned for "Positive Behavior Management in the Classroom, Part Two" to learn about how I manage these types of behaviors in my classroom! 

Meet Mrs. May

Hey there, and welcome to my new blog, from September to (Mrs.) May! My name is Jenna, and I am a first grade teacher living and working in Northeast Ohio. I am thrilled to finally start blogging about my classroom experiences and TpT creations!

I am a two-time graduate of Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. I spent my first four years at the Rock earning my Bachelor of Science in Education, with a dual major in Early Childhood and Special Education and a minor in Elementary Science. Thanks to the Miss America, Miss Ohio, and Miss Clayland Scholarship Organizations, I was able to return to SRU immediately after my graduation, serving as the grand marshal graduate as I received my Master of Education specializing in K - 8 Math and Science.

Those two expensive pieces of paper, along with incredible guidance from my professors, mentors, and co-operating teachers, prepared me to lead my own classroom. I am a first grade teacher in a relatively small district in Ohio, a state where you can regularly count on indoor recess no matter what the season (too hot, too cold, too rainy, too snowy...sometimes all in the same week!). I love my district, and - more than that - I love the people I work with. My hilarious students, supportive administration, and, most of all, my squad of fellow Fab Firstie teachers remind me daily that I’m exactly where I need to be.

When I’m not in my classroom, you can find me baking, creating classroom resources, or taking long walks with my rescue pup, Kelso.

I’ve also been spending a lot of time planning a wedding! Next June, I’ll be saying, “I do” to my best friend, high school crush, and number one supporter. We are excited to be starting our lives together officially as husband and wife. Many adventures await us!

It is my hope that this blog gives my readers a window into my classroom. Ideas, activities, units, and more will all be documented here! I believe it is my duty as an educator to provide my students with engaging, cross-curricular, fun opportunities for learning. Like all teachers, I teach the standards...but I also teach my students to lead fearlessly, to speak with compassion, to treat others with respect, and to better themselves. In my classroom, we learn with our hands, our eyes, and our ears. We realize that “fair” does not always mean “equal,” and some friends need different tools to succeed. It is my hope to create resources that support these ideas, and benefit elementary teachers around the globe!

If you’re looking for affordable cross-curricular mini units, need a song to fit your lesson, or just want to giggle reading some of the “darndest things” my firsties say, you’ve come to the right place. For all the latest updates, be sure to click away to follow and subscribe.

Thanks for stopping by. I’m so happy to have you here!

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