Now that I have a full year of fifth grade under my belt, it is safe to say that I have a better understanding of the elementary world. Many of the strategies, rewards, etc. that I used in middle school were very effective at the elementary level, while others...eh, not so much. This summer I'm taking time to reflect on what I can do differently next year as well as what I need to keep doing! Here are some things that worked and didn't work during my first year:
DIDN'T WORK: Homework Clothespins
Why It Didn't Work: I think it was too hard for my students to remember to move their clothespin each Friday. They were already so focused on making their lunch choice, turning in their morning work and homework for the week, getting started, etc. It became a game each Friday of me reading of the numbers on the clothespins to see who forgot rather than looking at the clothespins quickly to assess who did not turn in their work.
DID WORK: Numbered Turn in Trays
Why it Worked: These turn in trays were fantastic. I could easily look and see who had not turned something in, and for many of my kids this was a fast reminder to get their work in. Sure, it takes up some space, but it is totally worth it. Plus, it makes it super easy to collect work in ABC order!
DID WORK: Crystal Light Popsicle Stick Container
Why It Worked: This handy little contraption saved my life. It was so easy to move the popsicle sticks over once I called on a kiddo, and the lid on the top helped random spills. I'm glad I used numbers instead of names so I can reuse this for years to come!
DID WORK: "Caught Ya" Positive Reinforcement Jar
Why It Worked: I think this was my students' favorite reward system of the year. If I "caught them" doing something great, they would choose a random ping pong ball form the jar (in the picture I have eggs because this picture was taken before I bought the ping pong balls). The rewards ranged from "Treat" to "Teacher's Chair" to "iPad Dibs." They loved the surprise, and I loved how quick it reinforced their behavior!
DIDN'T WORK: Class Compliment Jar
Why It Didn't Work: I think this got to be too confusing for my students. They were already earning a puzzle piece at the end of the day if the did not lose more than three letters from our "NOISE" sign, so this reward system kind of fell apart quickly. 5th graders aren't as excited as younger kids to receive class compliments anyway, and we abandoned this around October.
DID WORK: Kiss Your Brain Treats for Great Thinkers
Why It Worked: This worked in a similar way to the "Caught Ya" jar, where I would reward a smart thinker with a "Kiss You Brain" Hershey Kiss. My kids loved this quick treat for thinking on their feet or applying their learning in a new way! My parents loved this so much too that they supplied the kisses all year!
DID WORK: Hand Signals
Why It Worked: I had a pretty good feeling that this would work as well as it did in the middle school setting, and I was right. I loved that asking to go to the bathroom or get a drink wasn't distracting, and this really came in handy when I was working in small groups. I could see a hand raised with the number "1" and could nod yes or no to the kiddo. This is a LIFESAVER! Seriously, if you are not using hand signals in your classroom, at ANY age, you should try it out!
DID WORK: Class Mascot
Why It Worked: Our class mascot, Rex, really was a hit from the beginning of the school year. I would choose a student who exhibited one of the seven habits to keep Rex at their seat for a day. Then, that student would choose another student the following day. It was a great way to build classroom community and I used Rex for pictures around our classroom, announcements, our class website, etc.
DID WORK: Woot Wall
Why It Worked: This was another idea from the middle school, and I'm planning on expanding on this idea next year even more. When my students earn an "A" on a test/quiz/lab, I write, "WOOT" on their paper. Then, they get to sign the Woot Wall with a sharpie. It's a fun, easy way to recognize academic achievement, and kids love seeing their name on the wall.
DIDN'T WORK: Group Supplies
Why It Didn't Work: UGH, I will never do this again! It became such a hassle and source of argument for my students to share supplies. Plus, it took FOREVER to replenish the supplies, find missing markers/glue/scissors, etc. It was much easier for my older students to keep their own supplies in their desks so that they could be retrieved quickly. I did use the caddies to keep certain supplies that we used almost everyday however, like dry erase markers and erasers.
What ideas are you ditching next year? What ideas are you keeping?
Teacher of leaders. Life-long learner. Space geek. Lover of all things color-coordinated, organized, and cutesy.