# 19 How Does a School Run Smoothly?

FullSizeRenderIf you are lucky enough to work in a school with a fabulous secretary , the school will run like a well oiled machine. The secretary has a certain amount of magic that tells her where everything is, where it should be, and where it will be. Your mail gets magically delivered every day, just like Lucky Charms. You get phone messages, (Of course you tell your doctor to text as not to tie up the phone.) This marvelous secretary single-handedly improves moral by having Chocolate, you heard that right, Chocolate, on her counter. (contributions accepted). She invents contests and makes games out of mandatory tasks to make them enjoyable and fun. For instance, you’ll get a prize if you’re the first one to hand in certain paperwork. You have to be there to appreciate how hysterical this is.

Obviously, I am talking about our dear Mrs. Mullen. She keeps secrets. I don’t know what these secrets are because I’ve never heard her tell any. She keeps track of who hands in what, which in and of itself, falls into the miracle category. Having the neatest and best organized desk in the school puts us all to shame. Mrs. Mullen, the one and only. She is a single-handed stress reducer which benefits everyone.

It is with great pleasure we celebrate Mrs. Mullen with accolades for being the world’s best secretary. We hope you have a brilliant year with much happiness always!


#18 Every Teacher’s Dream!

FullSizeRenderIt is said there are no perfect parents. And this is true to the extent that no person is perfect. However, it is very possible for a family to run smoothly and happily. If you are a very lucky teacher you may get this remarkable family. There are student’s who make your heart light up just by walking into the room. I was fortunate enough to have such a family. In fact I had all three children.

I was once teaching how to add in base 5 to my 2nd grade class. Stephanie looked up at me with her angelic face and smiled. Since I was not done with my example yet, I asked her if she was having trouble. Stephanie looked at me with those big doe eyes and said, I am done and just waiting. I had taught the concept and  wasn’t done with the answer, but she was the first one done in the class, and she was all correct. When I taught editing, Stephanie would immediately understand and from that point on, every paper she turned was perfectly edited. She was kind and worked well with others. She was respectful and had many best friends. BFF was made especially for her.

Both of Stephanie’s younger siblings were exactly like her. Their mom, Mrs. Smith, would bring the both of them into the library when she was volunteering. Both would sit like angels and draw quietly while their mom worked. Their self control was magic. Compare that with another mother who came to Parent Conferences with a notebook listing all her daughter’s complaints since school started, and wanted to know what I was going to do about it. Nothing. Great communication and kindness were some of the reasons The Smith Family ran so beautifully. May you also be blessed with a family such as this.

# 17 Teaching Student’s to read!

FullSizeRenderAny student can be taught to read. The following is geared to Kindergartener’s, but will work with any grade, including Special Education.

Using a white board easel and marker, write the number 1 on the far left, and make 10 lower case a’s in a straight line. Tell the class to watch carefully. Tell them a is a vowel and makes two sounds, (We are not going to talk about schwa sounds now). Using your marker, make a straight line on the top of 5 random a’s. Tell the class when they see this little straight lines the a says it’s name. That is called a long vowel sound.  Point to all of the a’s that have a line above them and tell the class a says a. You go first and say a, and have the class copy. Give them praise. Next, put a curved smile on top of the remaining a’s. Tell the class this smile sign makes the letter a have a short vowel sound, as in cat, rat, bat, and hat. Have the class copy you as you point to a short vowel sound and say the correct sound. Be cautious. Short vowel sounds do not end with an a sound. Model the line of a’s saying the long or short vowel sounds. Have a few children come up and, using a pointer, say the vowel in a correct way.

Pass out a white half inch binder with a clear plastic on the face, and a copy paper. Also write on the board, My Poetry Notebook. Students are to copy the words along with their name, and decorate the copy paper. After about 20 minutes, pass out a paper with long and short vowels. There should be at least 8 lines and the papers should have long and short vowel sounds. been three hole-punched. Practice saying the long and short vowel sounds with the class. Have a few lines on your easel, and call a few students up to read the vowel sounds.

The next day go over the a list again. Pass out a tag board square with a long and short vowel sound. Then introduce the vowel e, the long and short e. Basically you will repeat these lessons until you have gone through all the long and short vowels. You are going to use the vowels a, e ,i, o, and u.

W is a vowel when it follows another vowel. Y is a vowel when it is not the first letter of a word. When I was in college we were taught U is a consonant when it follows a Q. I can back up the W and the Y rule, but I can’t even google the U rule. Best to leave it out of your instruction.

Ask your librarian for a book on Poetry, or ask a co-worker. Once or twice a week, add a new poem to your student’s  binders. Always begin with the first poem. Have students point to a room as you say the words. You will be surprised at how quickly student’s catch onto the words. Happy Reading!




#15 Behavior Modification Lower Grades

FullSizeRenderIt is asking too much to expect young children to sit still quietly all day. Instead of waiting for students to misbehave why not correct the misbehavior before it begins? The following are suggestions to try. If a choice does not work that day for that child, make another selection. If you have an idea that works for you, please share it with us under comments.

1. One action I do not do is put students in the hall, for safety reasons. I have to keep my eyes on my students at all times.

2. Why not allow students to stand at their desks while they work?

3. Some school systems allow students to bring in exercise balls to sit on. Teachers that use this love it! Some have actually gotten rid of their chairs. You can google this to read the rave reviews. I have not used this because I was always concerned about safety.

4. At lease every five minutes give positive reinforcement, i.e. I like how straight you are sitting, You are doing a great job of working so quietly.

5. Put your head on their level and say something fabulous about a student. Have a big smile on your face. Ask the class to notice the awesome way this student was working.

6. Get the class’s attention and skip count. Have them clap to every number  or have them stand and sit every time they say a number. The goal is to get the class to move in a controlled atmosphere.

7. Bring in an American Sign Language book. Give a 5 minute break every 30 minutes and review letters and a couple of signs. This would be used twice a day.

8. Executives Please! Before your active student gets carried away, ask the class for Executives, Please! Give the active student, and a well-behaved student an unsharpened pencil to put behind their ear. Then give them a clipboard, paper and pencil. The directions are to walk down each hallway and count the doorknobs on each side of the hall. When they get to the end they come back to the classroom and make up three math problems using those numbers. They choose  students to solve the problems.

9. Have a short game of Simon Says. Because the student who needs the activity the most is the least likely to listen to the directions and the most likely to be out first the rule is this, No on is ever out. If someone makes a mistake, say “That’s OK, Let’s keep going!”

10. Have a short game of Side by Side. Partner the students two girls and two boys. Tell them they are going to follow the directions you give. Tell them if you say head to head, they are gong to not really touch heads. (Due to head lice.) Teacher says, side to side, thumb to thumb, shoulder to shoulder, etc. The teacher continues but increases the speed. The students laugh hysterically because they can’t keep up. No one is ever out.

11. Remember that Sharpee on the Post-It on Open House? A few could say 5 containers of Play-Dough. Students can keep their container in their desk and take it out of they are given 10 minutes of free choice time. The clay stays on the desk and the colors don’t mix. If anyone throws clay, they lose their container for a week. This works well in developing fine motor control. Of course, students love this activity.

12. When you walk by a student, allow your hand to very lightly drop on the back of a student’s shoulder. I am not suggesting hugs as this is frowned upon in most school systems. Allowing your hand to lightly touch a shoulder makes a connection between that student. Smile and make a warm comment as you walk by.

#14 Individualized Instruction? Oh No!

FullSizeRenderI had dismissed my second grade class for the day and had sat down to grade papers, when a third grade teacher poked her head in the room and asked if she could speak to me. She did not have her happy face on. She said earlier in the day she had had a parent teacher conference along with the principal. She said the parents were upset because last year their child had left my class on a fourth grade level, and this year he had begun on a third grade level. This teacher had tried to explain her curriculum was third grade. Mistake. That did not go over well.

I asked what she would like me to do. I also noticed that it is possible for an adult’s eyes to glow if they are angry enough. I wonder if you can guess what came next? This teacher stated she was hired to teach third grade, not fourth. She said students should leave my class at the end of a second grade level, no higher. She never wanted another student from my room to have a standardized test score above the end of second grade. She said I wasn’t getting paid to do more, so do less. I told her I would consider what she said.

The next day I had a surprise visit from the principal, complete with clicking heels and yellow scribing notebook. She stayed for an hour, hand ferociously writing the whole time. When she left she asked if she could meet with me in my classroom after school. I acquiesced since it was obviously a rhetorical question.

She was at my door with notebook in hand. She sat down and told me what she noticed. I am going to tell you what was going on in my classroom because I may need to include background information. Four students were at a computer at the back of my room doing a 15 minute math program and a 15 minute reading program. I had applied for a Mini-Grant entitled, “A Spelunking We Will Go”. There was a round tent in the back of the room set up to look like a cave. Inside the cave, there were 4 science experiments to do as well as reading the book Caves by Gail Gibbons, and two girls were in the tent. There was a group of six students in a Literacy Circle. Six students were reading independently, and three groups of two were partner reading.

She said she was going to give me a suggestion because of the four ADHD students I had in my room. She said every child should be doing the same thing at all times. She said there was  movement in my room, (Guilty), and that was too distracting to the ADHD kids. I suggested that perhaps those students could have been separated when class groupings were made. Why do you think the principal made this suggestion to me? Was she really concerned with the ADHD students?

The math program on the computer gives a detailed grade level. Teachers have a reading program used to tell an exact reading grade. Although it tests to level 8.0, we are required to stop at level 3.4, Most of my class met the 3.4 goal. We had a writing program called Empowering Writers. Writing papers were graded by the reading and second grade teachers. Grading was from 0-12. Most of my class got a 9-12. Soon after, the reading level was dropped to a maximum of 2.8 and the schools stopped using the math program. Why do you think the end of year math program was dropped and the reading level was dropped from level 3.4 to level 2.8?

I told the principal I would consider what she said, and I did for all of 5 seconds. These wonderful students deserve an individualized program just for them, not clumped together like a corporation. Parents should have the expectation their child will achieve one year’s growth. If their child is not on grade level, parents should expect their child to achieve grade level, and then succeed to the end of  the current grade. It is the school’s responsibility to do this.