The year flew by and I’m back here to catch up anyone who is interested in the so many fabulous things that have happened! One of the first things I couldn’t wait to do was set up a GoFundMe page for my classroom. I raised about $600 in two weeks in the fall and spruced up the room with a brand new library, including a stylish bookshelf and the complete set of YA and Middle Grades recommendations from Project Lit’s 2019 collection! My students were so excited about the books, they took them all home and within two weeks the library was back to the same dusty old books that were there before. I realized I should have not trusted them to bring the books back, and had a check-out system in place for accountability. Still, part of me feels good to have given these kids the gift of books they will love, treasure, and use to start a collection perhaps.
I also spent an inordinate amount of time decorating my classroom. It ended up being a very colorful, cheerful room that made people happy. It was full of systems and routines for everything, like finding a half-sheet of paper for the Do Now and Exit Tickets to sharpening a pencil, etc. I turned out to be a very organized teacher!
I also set up a multi-modal positive reward system: 1) We had a marble jar which worked across periods. It was a round, plastic fishbowl which I added marbles to as a reward for various positive behaviors in all of my classes. I promised the students that when the bowl was full, all classes would get a mega-reward. Of all the reward systems, the students were MOST excited about the marble jar. They were dreaming about their reward all year — then coronavirus hit, school ended, and they never got their reward! But not to fear: I send out a Google form this week asking for suggestions on how we should celebrate the filled marble jar virtually! So far I have one response: “I really don’t know.” 🙂
2) I passed out yellow raffle tickets quietly to students who were on-task, working hard, or came up with an especially great question or answer to a question. Students could collect tickets for as long as they wanted. Every Friday, they could trade their tickets for prizes. It got a little crazy on Fridays and I was working to manage the controlled chaos the prized created, but it was worth it to see how excited the students got about what they had earned, or how motivating it was for students who had not earned tickets that week. Again, there were students who had saved up something like 20 tickets and never got a prize! I am still thinking about how to address this.
3) The students got really excited about the “Secret Agent.” I meant to do the secret agent every day, but on many days I would forget. Still, it worked well. At the beginning of the period, I would whisper to a student that they were the secret agent privately. They were responsible for noticing the classes behavior for the whole period. Right before the bell rung at the end, I would ask the secret agent to reveal themselves. Everyone was excited to see who it was. Then I would ask them three questions: 1) Were you able to hear the whole lesson? 2) Where you able to speak without interruption? 3) Were you socially distracted or bullied? If they gave positive responses to all three questions, the whole class got candy or a ticket. It was fun to see how PROUD the class was of themselves when they passed the secret agent test!
The most wonderful thing was I felt I got to know every single student in all my classes, and that was truly a gift. I only wish I got to have more time with them, my first classes!