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PrimaryTeach8 PrimaryTeach8 is online now
 
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First Year Teacher...OVERWHELMED is an understatement!!!
Old 06-11-2019, 12:40 PM
 
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Hey everyone! This will be my first year teacher. I LOVE the primary grades, especially 1st grade. But it's June and I had nothing lined up and didn't want to sub anymore so I took a 4th grade position I was offered. Accepting this job pays for me to afford to get my Master's (and they pay for some of it) It also gets me teaching experience. None of the good schools in my area will hire me because I have no experience. Thinking of those cute little first graders is gonna hopefully get me through this. I did my student teaching in 4th grade and it was horrible! I can't relate to 4th graders at all. I'm very overwhelmed and stressed! I need some tips. First off, can you have a theme in your classroom in 4th grade? Should you have a theme or will they laugh at it?

I saw some really cute camping themes, but I'm scared they'll laugh at it. I don't know, I literally can't relate to 4th graders. For my management system, I tried ClassDojo in my student teaching. Works well with the younger ones. Did not work well for 4th grade. I now use an economy management system that I saw worked well in a 3rd grade classroom. Students can earn dollars or tickets (Which one would you use for 4th? So many decisions!!) I don't want to use Monopoly money so if I use money I want to use this hoot loot owl theme dollars I saw on teachers pay teachers. But I'd have to cut all those out so maybe tickets would be easier Idk. But it's 4th grade so it might be more appropriate to use money. What prizes do they like???!! And where can I get them cheap? Bubbles in 4th grade before did not work. I think they might like an etch and sketch (just popped into my head as I was typing this), gel pens, slinkies,jump rope maybe? I don't know what else. What do they like? I was thinking a couple homework passes. It's a very poor school district so I was also thinking candy (checking for allergies first of course) and then also gift cards (Papa John's, Barnes and Noble). Are these good prizes? Is there anything you would change? Any other prize suggestion ideas would be welcome!

Any tips for management other than the reward system I'm using would be great! I have a REALLY difficult time getting the older kids in line. One kid was really acting out in my student teaching and begging to go to the principal's office and I had enough and just sent him. I realize now that was a mistake, but it's HARD to manage the older kids. The younger ones want to please you. The older ones do not.

Okay so also for the room, I'm assuming you're just provided with desks/tables and chairs and a teacher desk right? They don't provide you with mailboxes correct or do they? Where can you buy mailboxes? I went out looking and only found some made from cardboard and that's not what I want.

How does Open House work? I got placed late during my student teaching so I missed Open House and didn't get to see it. I'm stressed about that. What all do you need to give to the parents? I'm guessing an All About Me sheet and a sheet for them to fill out about their child? Anything else? It's a couple weeks after school starts so I'm guessing I need to send a letter home before that? So stressful!!!!!

Also, how does the first day of school work? I started late so I missed this as well. I'm guessing get to know you activities, I explain my reward system, and I'll even take some suggestions on some prizes they want to see, I have them practice my "attention getting signal" What else? Do you start teaching anything? Do you explain the schedule like how MY reading block works. I know they've had it many times before but I do things differently. And then maybe have some independent reading time in there? Anything else I'm missing? What activity is good to keep 4th graders quiet and occupied at the beginning of the day?

And class jobs have to get done too. I need to decide what jobs I'm having. This is so overwhelming!! I am stressed out!!!! And lesson plans! I assume I don't spend all summer making lesson plans for every day of school? I don't know.

And how does writing and reading time work? Can you make it however you want or does the principal say "Your reading and writing block is going to look like this" I've always been asked "What would your 90 minute reading block look like?" in interviews so I assume I decide how I want it? If I think of anything else I'll definitely ask but please help a stressed girl out in the meantime!!


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Just a Suggestion
Old 06-11-2019, 02:52 PM
 
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If you havenít already, please post of the 4th grade. Iím sure they will be able to give you lots of great advice.

Wishing you much luck! Iím sure you will do fine.
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Old 06-11-2019, 03:09 PM
 
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I pm'd you.
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Old 06-11-2019, 03:20 PM
 
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First of all, congratulations on the new job! I can kind of relate to you as I will be teaching third grade at the start of the new year after mostly teaching pre-k and kindergarten before. I did teach second grade this past year though so hopefully I can give you some pointers.

My first bit of advice is to not waste a ton of money buying prizes for your management system. If you want to buy some, go to the Dollar Tree or another store where everything costs a dollar. Your ideas were good, maybe you can also add little notebooks, puzzle books, balls, etc. But an even better idea would be to use prizes that don't cost you anything, like the homework passes you mentioned. Extra computer time, extra recess, Fun Friday, eat lunch with the teacher, sit in the teacher's chair for a day, sit by whoever you want for a day, etc. are all prizes fourth graders would enjoy and they don't cost you a penny! You can also look into other classroom management methods like responsive classroom or Love and Logic. Also, if you haven't already, find out if your school has a classroom management style they want everyone to follow. My school is starting PBIS in the fall so we will all be expected to use that.

As for desks/tables, you will want to check your classroom to see what's there. I was moving to a new room and the teacher who had that room was taking her tables and chairs with her. Luckily, two other teachers were getting rid of some desks and chairs and I was able to complete a classroom set with the ones they were getting rid of. If you find out you are missing things, ask a custodian how you would go about getting them. I took the mailbox from the room I was in last year because the teacher moving in there didn't want it but they won't necessarily provide you with one. If there isn't one in your classroom, I would either make do without one this year and then requisition one next year or buy a cheap cardboard one. Classroom mailboxes are not cheap but if you're dead set on getting one, try an office supply store or a teacher supply website. If you know anyone good with woodworking, you can see if they'll do you a favor and build you one. I've know one or two teachers who have done that.

My open house has always been before school started so I provided a Powerpoint to explain what the year would be like and answered any questions the parents had. Since yours is after school starts, make sure you have student work displayed and that every student is represented in some way. You can have the students make some kind of personal project and put it on their desks for their parents to see. A Powerpoint is still a good idea and make sure you are prepared to talk about yourself, your goals for the year, and answer any questions. You can also talk to the veteran teachers in your school to get some ideas of how they have done things.

For the first day of school, make sure you teach procedures! This can even be the first week too. Students need to know what to do when they need to go to the bathroom, how to hand homework in, how you want them to line up, etc. Model what you want them to do and have them practice. If they don't get it, model again and have them practice some more. Also be sure to go over your rules during this time. You can also do some fun icebreakers with the kids but I am a firm believer that if you don't teach rules and procedures from the get go, you will have a rough year.

You won't spend all summer writing lesson plans but you will want to think about what you want to do in the first few weeks. Ask the school if you can have the teacher's manuals and a copy of the curriculum and pacing guides and spend some time making an outline about what you're going to teach. You'll probably also spend some time preparing your classroom so once again I suggest talking to veteran teachers about the curriculum while you are there.

As for reading and writing blocks, find out what your school's policy is on this. They may have a strict schedule they want you to follow for your teaching blocks or they may give you more freedom as long as you are teaching the curriculum. In my school, we were given the freedom to choose what materials we wanted to use as long as we were teaching the topics we were supposed to be teaching. Sure we all shared materials on the Google drive, but we picked what we wanted to use. Some schools want every teacher in the grade level teaching exactly the same at the same time. You will have to find out what kind of school you have.

This turned out to be really long but I hope I was able to help you out a little!
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Old 06-11-2019, 03:40 PM
 
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Just a few things...I taught 3rd the last few. Start reading some fourth grade blogs. Google or join some fourth grade Facebook groups. All good resources.

I donít do mailboxes. I have an accordion file that I use. I number my kids, my files and anything else. Makes things easier at the beginning of the year. Lots less work. Kids put their number on everything and that is how I file. I put work to go home in the accordion file and pass it back once a week or once every two weeks. Other things I have kids pass out- things like flyers that everyone gets. No need for mailboxes.

I would rethink prizes, too. By this time they often arenít interested in the stuff we can afford. The list previously mentioned is a great one. Ones they can redeem that cost you very little. One of our 4th grade has punch cards. They get punch card. She punches them once a day if they are green at the end of day. They might have to pull a card for not turning in homework or not listening/following rules. She doesnít use it except for big things. Y this time, they should be doing what they need to do.

I wouldnít do a theme either. Pick a color you like and use a color. Then if you want to add something ďtheme-yĒ you just match your color. But most of what you will use in class will be posters or signs made by kids and vocabulary type stuff. No theme necessary. Decorate with kid art if you need.

Because we often have our specials at the beginning of the day, in my morning I usually do read to self. In the past I have used morning review work for math or reading, but I like to go over it as they finish, so if we leave it just doesnít work as well. But they are good exercises to do. Things like practicing cursive as that is taught in 4th here works. Short Writing responses are good. Sometimes for read to self, I call a couple students to tell me a short summary of what they have read to keep them honest. They could Give a character trait, or share the setting, or any review type question. Have them write an exit slip on something from the previous week or day, or mark up a sentence to Iíd adjectives, etc....

Try to enjoy some of your summer. I love working with 3 and 4th graders.


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Give 4th graders a chance
Old 06-11-2019, 03:54 PM
 
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4th grade is a great age to work with. I teach K-8 library media, and it is my favorite grade, and the one I can do the most with. 4th graders LOVE to learn and get very excited about new ideas and doing projects. They are also still happy to please the teacher. They really enjoy having jobs, so build plenty of responsibility into your management system.

That said, new-teacher stress is real. Try not to get too overwhelmed. Keep asking questions, especially of your co-workers. Hopefully you will have a designated mentor, and if you don't, seek one out. It is so much better to ask lots of questions early than to struggle.

Also, if you decide your economy system is too hard, try ClassDojo again. I've been in grades 1, 3, 6, 7, and 8 with Dojo, and the only grade that didn't take to it was 8th, so I think you can do it in 4th if you find the right incentives and only target a few behaviors at a time. I agree with the previous poster who suggested prizes that cost no money. They love things you wouldn't expect, like wearing no shoes in the classroom, being able to sit on top of their desks, choosing transition music, etc.

Good luck!
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This was used for 4th grade.,
Old 06-11-2019, 04:53 PM
 
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I had my class sit at table groupings and the group that won the most checks sat in the camp chairs I had for the day. If there were 2 groups that won we used 1/2 day seating. Of course you could buy a few chairs for individuals to sit in instead of groups. I have also used lunch with the teacher on certain days and the students got to use the chalk board, PC, coloring, etc. This lunch with me was based on staying inside for recess and not bothering me.
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My advice...
Old 06-11-2019, 05:23 PM
 
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First, welcome aboard! You will do great. Please know that at the beginning, especially before you start, there are a TON of questions and unknowns, which makes it all nerve-wracking. Remember you don't need to figure everything out right now. Also remember that different schools work differently, so honestly, your best advice, in my opinion will come from your colleagues, especially those at your grade and the grade level below.

Here is some advice from what you posted.

Quote:
First off, can you have a theme in your classroom in 4th grade? Should you have a theme or will they laugh at it?
I've taught both 4th and 5th and have done a theme. However, I never went overboard. Basically, whatever my theme was, I had a welcome board, name tags, labels, bulletin board boarders, and maybe a few other decorations or "sangs" related to the theme. However, it was never over the top. The students didn't seem to care one way or the other, to be honest. I would suggest picking something that would appeal to both boys and girls. Camping would be cool, and I do think kids would like it, even at 4th grade. If you like decorating and would like to have a "cool, decked out room", feel free too. However, let me tell you, it's not necessary. Yes, a homey room helps make kids feel comfortable, but honestly, the most important things are your relationships with the kids, classroom management, and instruction. Don't stress over decorating. While I do think a room should be inviting, I don't think it NEEDS to be fully decked out and feel it's better to spend your time on more important things, especially if you are stressing already and are a first year teacher.

Quote:
tried ClassDojo in my student teaching. Works well with the younger ones. Did not work well for 4th grade. I now use an economy management system that I saw worked well in a 3rd grade classroom. Students can earn dollars or tickets (Which one would you use for 4th? So many decisions!!) I don't want to use Monopoly money so if I use money I want to use this hoot loot owl theme dollars I saw on teachers pay teachers. But I'd have to cut all those out so maybe tickets would be easier Idk. But it's 4th grade so it might be more appropriate to use money. What prizes do they like???!! And where can I get them cheap? Bubbles in 4th grade before did not work. I think they might like an etch and sketch (just popped into my head as I was typing this), gel pens, slinkies,jump rope maybe? I don't know what else. What do they like? I was thinking a couple homework passes. It's a very poor school district so I was also thinking candy (checking for allergies first of course) and then also gift cards (Papa John's, Barnes and Noble). Are these good prizes? Is there anything you would change? Any other prize suggestion ideas would be welcome!
I've used both Class Dojo and a classroom economy system. Both have worked well in 4th-5th grade for me. I found the economy easier to manage because I didn't like brining my phone, iPad, or computer everywhere. I felt like I was glued to a device. I've used money and tickets for a classroom economy. In my opinion, money works best. You can fine and reward with the money. With the tickets, I found it harder to "fine", unless you gave X amount of tickets to start with. I've made money and gotten money online. Totally up to you. Any type of money works. I've also not used cash and had the kids have a register where they recorded their money. Th best way I have found to use with money is with a clip chart. I know some people would disagree, but it has made money very simple for me. I have a clip chart associated with different money values. As students clip up, they gain more, as they clip down, they lose. At the end of the day, wherever they land is how much they get. I've paid daily and weekly. I prefer weekly. When I paid daily, as I did attendance/lunch/count/homework check, I paid each person. With weekly pay, myself or a student (who has the job of banker), records money for each day on a spreadsheet or chart. At the end of the week or beginning of the next, their total is added and that's how much they get (or pay, depending on their behavior). https://www.myclassroomeconomy.org is an awesome site for having a classroom economy with real-world economics tied in. My students LOVE this.

As far as prizes, it really does depend on the group. I stopped doing an economy for two years when kids seemed to be unappreciative for the prizes, saying "well I can just get that at the Dollar store", etc. I got prizes at the dollar store. In both 4th and 5th grade, bubbles were a hit for my kids usually. This my students loved all the prizes I got, all from Dollar tree...bubbles, beach balls, glow sticks, candy, party poppers (they love these!), slinkies, silly putty, rubix cubes, soduko books, crazy straws, pencils, pens, decks of cards, checkers, chess, puzzles, balloons, etc. They loved them, but yes, I have had groups that didn't. This year, I found my kids LOVED LOVED LOVED prizes that cost me no money...lunch in the classroom with teacher, 1 day homework extension, 2 extra credit points, 5 extra credit points, pick your seat for the day, out of dress code for the day (we are a Catholic School), wear a hat in the room for the day, teacher's chair, teacher for a day (which really was just them doing silly teacher tasks like hitting submit on my attendance, reading the answers to the math assignment, calling rows to line up, calling on people, etc.). Other prizes that I gave in coupon form that did cost some money was "donut and hot chocolate"...they told me what kind of donut they wanted and I kept a hot chocolate mix with cups in my classroom and they got that for the beginning of the day. A candy bar of their choosing was another one they liked. If you want to the gift cards you were talking about, I think they would enjoy that, and I think that is very generous of you. However, don't think you have to! I try to find the most affordable things.
Quote:
Any tips for management other than the reward system I'm using would be great! I have a REALLY difficult time getting the older kids in line. One kid was really acting out in my student teaching and begging to go to the principal's office and I had enough and just sent him. I realize now that was a mistake, but it's HARD to manage the older kids. The younger ones want to please you. The older ones do not.
If you feel you will struggle with classroom management, reading books like "The First Days of School", "Dream Class", "and Teaching with Love and Logic" are all great titles. Michael Linsin (author of Dream Class), has a Smart Classroom Management website with articles that could help. I think he also has other books out that might help.

Quote:
Okay so also for the room, I'm assuming you're just provided with desks/tables and chairs and a teacher desk right? They don't provide you with mailboxes correct or do they? Where can you buy mailboxes? I went out looking and only found some made from cardboard and that's not what I want.
This will TOTALLY depend on your school. It really all does depend. You will definitely (or at least I'd hope) have a teacher's desk and student desk. Every room I got also had bookshelves with a classroom library started, at least 1 additional table for guided reading, small group, additional group space, etc. Only 1 of my room had mailboxes. I think it truly just depends. The only reason I got mailboxes in that one room is that the school was adding an additional section and I was the additional section, so because of that, the district had start up funds for things for a new classroom. I got a new kidney table, a new rug, book cases, an easel, an additional table, extra chairs for the tables, and then the principal asked if I wanted mailboxes and she ordered me some from their supplier. In all of my classrooms but one, I had to ask for book bins, but once I asked, they were ordered and I received them. If there is something you feel you need, you can always ask your principal. It can't hurt to ask. He/she will tell yes or no. Sometimes they won't have to buy it because they will have it in storage. Sometimes, too, there might be teachers wanting to get rid of furniture for more space. Whatever you have, you will make it work! I promise!

Quote:
How does Open House work? I got placed late during my student teaching so I missed Open House and didn't get to see it. I'm stressed about that. What all do you need to give to the parents? I'm guessing an All About Me sheet and a sheet for them to fill out about their child? Anything else? It's a couple weeks after school starts so I'm guessing I need to send a letter home before that? So stressful!!!!!
This is also going to depend TOTALLY on your school. Talk to other teachers at your school. You can put your own twist on it, but at least you'll know what other teachers do. A sheet about you a sheet about their child are all good ideas. Curriculum information (if there isn't another curriculum night), information on your policies, etc. would also be nice, but again, talk to other teachers. Depending on time, a scavenger hunt around the room might be cool (if kids come). If kids come, some sort of treat or goody bag on their desk might be nice. Pinterest has LOTS of good ideas! I wouldn't stress about this quite yet. Gather some ideas and then see what other teachers at your school do. You can definitely put your own take on it, but by knowing what other teachers do, you will know what is typically expected and what works.

Quote:
Also, how does the first day of school work? I started late so I missed this as well. I'm guessing get to know you activities, I explain my reward system, and I'll even take some suggestions on some prizes they want to see, I have them practice my "attention getting signal" What else? Do you start teaching anything? Do you explain the schedule like how MY reading block works. I know they've had it many times before but I do things differently. And then maybe have some independent reading time in there? Anything else I'm missing? What activity is good to keep 4th graders quiet and occupied at the beginning of the day?
All of this...but don't worry, you don't need to get to EVERYTHING the first day. I do a combination of get-to-know you/community building/teamwork activities, classroom management/routines/etc., "academic" things (maybe not day 1 in math as an example, but a math activity), etc. the key is to get them to WANT to come back the next day! Again, there are a TON of ideas online for the first day!


Quote:
And class jobs have to get done too. I need to decide what jobs I'm having.
I usually wait on this until I know how many kids I have, then I can have enough jobs, or enough for a two-week rotation (half the number of the students). Jobs will really depend again on your school and how it runs. Again, asking other teachers at your school jobs will help. As an example, at some schools I've been at, we do lunch count, at other schools not. Depending on the school, I needed a lunch count person or not. Some examples of classroom specific jobs that you could do regardless could be "messenger" (bringing things to the office or other teachers), library (organizing your classroom library/keeping it organized), absent work (recording/gathering work for an absent student, paper passer (passing out papers-not graded ones, but class work), and phone (answering the class phone).

Quote:
And lesson plans! I assume I don't spend all summer making lesson plans for every day of school? I don't know.
You COULD look for ideas during the summer, but generally, you will make plans during the school year. You will want to get to know your students and know what their abilities are, what their needs are, etc. Sometimes the other teachers at your grade level may plan together. When you are first starting out, it can be stressful, but TPT has honestly been a life saver. I spend way too much money on there! BUT, it has saved me SO Much time and has helped me find great lesson ideas! Also, don't be afraid to just use the lesson in the teacher edition! I'm not saying doing that everyday, all day, but doing it every now and then is totally fine and can save time!

Quote:
And how does writing and reading time work? Can you make it however you want or does the principal say "Your reading and writing block is going to look like this" I've always been asked "What would your 90 minute reading block look like?" in interviews so I assume I decide how I want it?
This will totally depend on your school! I've mainly had freedom, but I know some schools have done school wide Daily 5. It really just depends. For this, I would DEFINITELY talk to other teachers at your school. Not only your grade level, but prior grade levels. The closer you can be to what other teachers do with this, the easier it will be for you. I'm not saying doing something you totally don't feel comfortable with, but if you can do something identical or close to what the students have already experienced, it will be an easier transition for the kids and lesson management issues for you. Just my opinion.

I hope this helps! You still have plenty of time! Relax and enjoy your summer, too!
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Old 06-11-2019, 05:38 PM
 
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Breathe and drink a glass of water.

Yes, you can have a theme. You can relate to a 9 year old, it is a cute age, and actually easier than first graders

Your Prince expects you to figure out your instruction. They will probably have a reading program. You can choose a novel and do guided reading whole group.

I would avoid token reward systems and tell them they can behave for their own sake.

Some free and healthy rewards are:

Sit at teachers desk 1/2 of the day
First out the door
Student excusers, chosing groups to leave room.
Clean white board
Water plants
Chosing PE activity
Flower arranger
Art project chooser

I wouldnt worry about mailboxes, they can place papers to go home in their desks, then collect them up just before dismissal.

It is a good idea to require each student to keep a novel they are reading on their desks. To read when all work is done. Those reading get a ticket, those tickets for privileges.

If you expect trouble that is probably what you will get. Expect good kids. Tell them they are good and kind. They will rise to your expectations.

Congrats and have FUN
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Make a list...
Old 06-11-2019, 06:18 PM
 
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1. Take a step back. Make a to-do list on paper and attempt to cross off one thing a week between now and the end of summer. You don't have to have everything done NOW. And enjoy your summer. I know you're feeling stressed, but the first year of teaching is HARD. Take time for yourself. Cultivate your friendships/relationships. Take time to read for pleasure. Go to the pool. All of these things are just as important as the things you mentioned. Mental health is no joke.

2. Start another list with questions that you have for your team/mentor. This could include a lot of the questions you've included. I would wait to email this until a few weeks before you have to report, but this way you don't bombard your mentor/team with tons of emails during summer, but you also have the chance to get some of your questions answered before you show up for your first day.
  • How does reading/writing/math/science/social studies instruction look like at _____ elementary? Do we have a curriculum/series that I am required to use?
  • What does the admin require as far as lesson planning?
  • What should I have prepared for open house? What about the first day?
  • Is there a building wide classroom/behavior management program that I need to use? If not, what has worked for you in the past?

3. Focus less on making a "cute" classroom and more on your organization. How are you going to have kids turn papers in. Where are you going to hang anchor charts? How are you communicating with parents? Where/how are papers getting returned to students? How are you organizing your classroom library?

4. If a theme makes YOU happy, then do it. If it feels like one more thing right now, you don't have to have a theme. Or your theme can be colors. (Just as an FYI, changing themes each year can get very expensive...so if you're planning to move buildings or grades, you may not want to invest a ton of money into a theme this year)

5. Fourth graders are very different from first graders. I know you said you had a bad experience, but you also mentioned that you didn't start at the beginning of the year. That can have a huge difference. Focus on how you want your classroom community to feel. Set those expectations beginning on day 1. (Write them down during the summer so you can refer back to it)

6. If you're on Facebook, join some groups for 4th grade teachers (I know that there is one specific to fourth by Not So Wimpy Teacher). I follow a lot of teachers on Instagram as well. BUT - remember that anything that is being posted is a highlight reel and not day to day life. So take the decorating/pictures/student work with a grain of salt.

7. Email the principal and see if you can pick up teachers guides. I think if you have something to look over you'll feel a little more comfortable about what you'll be teaching. When you go pick them up, ask if you can pop into your room....this will give you the answer to a few of your questions.

8. Know that if something isn't working for you, you can change it! If you set your room up and create procedures that aren't working for you or your kids...step back and make changes. Communicate the "why" to both students and parents, but that's all part of teaching. It's not a failure to have to change things...it's good teaching.


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Old 06-11-2019, 07:15 PM
 
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Everyone has given you really great advice.

Iím just going to add that if you go in with the defeatist attitude youíre going to have a terrible year. I ended up in 4th, thought I was going to hate it and loved it. They really are a great age group; independent, but the hormones and attitudes havenít kicked in yet.

At that age they love coupons for rewards (sit by a friend, extra computer time, etc) and itís so much cheaper.

I do Dojo with 3rd and they love it. I found it much easier to use than the economy system (which I also used with 4th).

As PP said, donít be afraid to change things if theyíre not working, but donít change too quickly. Give things time.

I use mailboxes, but Iíve also used a milk crate with hanging file folders. Pick your poison.

Love and Logic changed my teaching. Itís amazing. I highly recommend it. Also, ďThe First Days of SchoolĒ by Harry Wong was fantastic for me as a first year teacher.

Most importantly, enjoy your first year and the kids.
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:31 PM
 
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I felt nervous when I moved up to 3rd after years and year in pre-k and kindergarten. Now I love it! Some things you are used to from 1st wont work, but actually most still will actually.

Quote:
First off, can you have a theme in your classroom in 4th grade? Should you have a theme or will they laugh at it?
I have a theme in 3rd and no one laughs at it and the fourth grade classes have them as well. I did have to upgrade my theme from what I used in Kindergarten (Pete the Cat and his White Shoes theme). I now do a cactus theme, and our motto is "On point at all times". I would stay away from anyting too girly or cartoonish but there are plenty of themes that I think the kids could enjoy and not be "too cool" for.

Quote:
I tried ClassDojo in my student teaching. Works well with the younger ones. Did not work well for 4th grade. I now use an economy management system that I saw worked well in a 3rd grade classroom. Students can earn dollars or tickets (Which one would you use for 4th? So many decisions!!) I don't want to use Monopoly money so if I use money I want to use this hoot loot owl theme dollars I saw on teachers pay teachers. But I'd have to cut all those out so maybe tickets would be easier Idk. But it's 4th grade so it might be more appropriate to use money.
I also tried dojo and my 3rd grades a few years back thought that they were too cool for it. I use tickets, partly becuase I dont want to have to mess with printing and cutting money like you said and its been fine-but one thing with big kids: they can be little con artists. I always have kids trying to bring in tickets from home to use or trying to take tickets from my desk. Now I stamp all of my tickets with very distinctive stamp.

Quote:
What prizes do they like???!! And where can I get them cheap? Bubbles in 4th grade before did not work. I think they might like an etch and sketch (just popped into my head as I was typing this), gel pens, slinkies,jump rope maybe? I don't know what else. What do they like? I was thinking a couple homework passes. It's a very poor school district so I was also thinking candy (checking for allergies first of course) and then also gift cards (Papa John's, Barnes and Noble). Are these good prizes? Is there anything you would change? Any other prize suggestion ideas would be welcome!
I think that you are going to go broke getting gift cards-I would stear clear of that. I went on Amazon and got a mega pack of squishies, gel pens, bendy pencils, cool erasers and from the dolar tree I several packs of ring pops and some jars of slime and even a a multipack of play dough that I wasnt sure if they'd want but they went for it right away. I also put in no nightly reading passes, wear your hat in class passes, free bathroom passes (I charge them tickets to go to the bathroom) and some eat in class coupons, but my room got ants so no more eatting in the classroom coupons. This has all worked well.

here are some links to stuff I bought:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077XH7MSF...detail_1?psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/Flexible-Bend...s%2C209&sr=1-4

https://www.amazon.com/Huastyle-Rand...%2C227&sr=1-18


Quote:
Any tips for management other than the reward system I'm using would be great! I have a REALLY difficult time getting the older kids in line. One kid was really acting out in my student teaching and begging to go to the principal's office and I had enough and just sent him. I realize now that was a mistake, but it's HARD to manage the older kids. The younger ones want to please you. The older ones do not.
Sometimes they still want to please you, not always though .
I would really hone in on my procedures and expectations and then be very consistent. 3 tricks for classes who have a hard time lining up: #1 WE chant the line up expectation before we go anywhere. I say "How do we walk in line" and the response "Hand to self, quiet mouth, body facing forward"-then if they do a good job at following this they get a marble in the party jar. #2 give everyone a number and have them line up by number (not by their friends). #3 if 1 student just cant manage to line up and walk quietly I make him my "shadow"-he doesnt line up he has to go where I go and walk next to me. They do NOT want to walk with the teacher so if they just keep talking, getting out of line, or not following procedures I make them "shaddow for the day" so they can watch the line and see everyone else model the correct behavior for a while. If they still cant get it I make them shadow for a week.

Quote:
Okay so also for the room, I'm assuming you're just provided with desks/tables and chairs and a teacher desk right? They don't provide you with mailboxes correct or do they? Where can you buy mailboxes? I went out looking and only found some made from cardboard and that's not what I want.
This is different from place to place, but with third grade I would use a file box rather than a mail box like this
https://www.amazon.com/Modern-Foldab...oducts&sr=1-26

For open house its not really them tell me about their child-its me tellingthem about how third grade works and how to be successful, what our policies are and what is expected of the kids and families. I give them a "Third Grade" broshure with things like homework policy and other important information that they would otherwise keep emailing me about and asking the same questions over and over and getting indignant. I also do a power point that cover the same info and I speak in more detail.

I would reach out to my grade level team about things like the first days of school and back to school night-they will be able to give yoiu a lot of information and share with you copies of what they will be doing.

Dont stress too much about jobs-mine have changed a bit each year based on what made things run smoothly in the classroom. Kids like to help and if there is one thing you can always use as a teacher its someone to help with the endless minutia like putting flyers in the kids take home file and someone who answers the door and the phone so you dont have to keep stopping teaching to do it.

Quote:
And how does writing and reading time work? Can you make it however you want or does the principal say "Your reading and writing block is going to look like this" I've always been asked "What would your 90 minute reading block look like?" in interviews so I assume I decide how I want it?
I am gonna guess that you cant do whatever you want. I would be shocked if the school didnt have a curriculum the kinda decides the flow of your ELA block to soem extent. I have a lot more freedom to change it up than many people but I still cant just do whatever I want. This is also important info to get from your new team.

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Old 06-11-2019, 07:31 PM
 
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I read Wongsís The First Days of School my first five years or so. Always beneficial.
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:38 PM
 
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THANK YOU SO MUCH everyone!! You have no idea how helpful your advice has been. I can't thank you enough!!

I'm hesistant to use ClassDojo with fourth again just because it worked for like 2 weeks and then totally stopped working and it was chaotic. I feel like if I pass out dollars and they actually get to see their friends getting to participate in the reward day and if they got dollars taken away and didn't get to buy anything or buy what they wanted, I feel like that should work better. As long as the prizes are good. I love the donut and hot chocolate idea!

I do want to do a camping theme, but I'm not going to go overboard with a tent or anything like that. One thing that I like to ensure is that it's completely quiet during independent reading time. Most likely since it's 4th grade, I'll be leading LDG groups during the reading block. So during independent reading time, I need it QUIET. They always struggle with this so I want them spread out around the room. I'm going to have a reading area with 4 camping chairs and a rug, but I really don't want more than 5 students over in that area. So is it bad to also put another reading area? Or maybe an area with a couple bean bags? I find that the kids will gather in pairs and groups or talk and that's not acceptable. Not during independent reading time. So how would you handle this? Would you have more than one reading area or what would you do?

Also, what do you guys do when the class gets too loud? That frequently happened during student teaching. One time I kept taking away Dojo points as a class and they kept talking and didn't care. I'm scared.
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:45 PM
 
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I hope I at least am able to do an independent reading time and a partner reading time during my 90 minute reading block
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Money for supplies?
Old 06-11-2019, 08:08 PM
 
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I forgot to ask, does the school provide you with any money for classroom supplies and decorating (chairs for examples) or is it all out of pocket?
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:15 PM
 
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For silent reading, you might want to start them off in their seats first, then transition to areas once they can handle it. Maybe that is something they earn?

-keep it simple. It will get overwhelming fast and if you have to keep track of too much, it will be hard to continue.

-Remember to them, you are their leader. As much as possible, be confident in your decisions, stay calm, and consistent!!! They pick up on uncertainty or unfairness fast. Don't let them talk you out of things. Once you give in, it only gets worse.

-Build relationships and set procedures. Don't feel like you can practice a few times and be done. Keep going, hitting it hard for a few weeks. The more you focus on that, the less chaotic the rest of the year will be.

-figure out your ringleaders, note their positive qualities and play those up.

-have a list of file of a few activities you can pull out when YOU need to collect yourself or figure something out. GoNoodle has great brain breaks videos, and find some simple quiet, easily independent worksheets or activities that give you a few minutes.

Your school should have teacher meetings before school starts to go over school wide expectations. See if you can go in this summer, see your space, and maybe get some questions answered.

You can do this!!! 4th graders might be bigger but they are still kids. Care about them, tell them why they are great, and talk to them. Once they know you really care, most will be on board.
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Old 06-11-2019, 08:51 PM
 
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Tons of great advice so far. I wanted to add that when I was a classroom teacher, I hung up these in place of mailboxes:

https://www.amazon.com/Hanging-File-.../dp/B01A6FH8B2

I really wanted mailboxes but was not willing to spend tons of money on them- those nice wooden ones were often $200 or more! These honestly worked just as well.

As far as classroom management, I recommend reading Teach Like a Champion. It's specifically geared toward working in high poverty/urban settings, which I'm guessing you're in since you mentioned it being a poorer school, and I think the advice in it is really good for a first year teacher- it would help you avoid a lot of first year mistakes. We did a book study on it a couple of years ago and it was really eye opening as to why kids seem to "just listen to" some teachers while really disrespecting others.

I know you're eager to get started, but I would also caution against trying to plan out every little thing. Most schools will have a lot of school wide policies and expectations that they expect you to adhere to. These may involve management strategies/rules, curriculum, scheduling/pacing, etc. I wouldn't do too much until you meet with your teammates. In the schools I've worked in, really anything I would do over the summer without knowing the school would be a complete waste of time and would have to be redone later anyway.

I would also not spend money until you see what's in the room. The classrooms I have "inherited" did have things from the previous teacher left in them, and I've always received a small supply budget. My current school also has a supply closet with office supply type things and basic student supplies. My first year, I ran out and bought a bunch of stuff because I was so excited to have a teaching job (I graduated into a very tough market), but 90% of it was not needed because similar stuff was already in the room or it just didn't fit with the structure/expectations of the school. I kind of based what I would need off of what my student teaching placement looked like, and my "real" job ended up being very different.

If you're feeling very nervous, ask for the contact info for your future teammates and reach out. Offer to buy lunch or coffee if anyone is willing to meet with you so you can pick their brain about school policies/what would be helpful as far as preparing for this summer so that you're not just guessing and having to redo things later. I would be more than happy to do that if a new teammate asked me.

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Old 06-11-2019, 10:22 PM
 
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Thank you so much everyone! One more question for now, can I do a camping theme and stick with it all year? Or does it change for the holidays and I'd have to do a fall theme, Valentine's Day theme, etc?
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Old 06-11-2019, 10:53 PM
 
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Quote:
Thank you so much everyone! One more question for now, can I do a camping theme and stick with it all year? Or does it change for the holidays and I'd have to do a fall theme, Valentine's Day theme, etc?
Honestly no theme at all is needed, but if it's something that's going to make you happy, stick with the camping theme all year. Definitely do NOT keep changing for each season/holiday. That will add extra expense and stress to your plate and I promise the students will not notice or care.
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Old 06-11-2019, 11:06 PM
 
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Thank you. Yes that is exhausting for sure! I talked to someone and they said I needed to change for each season and I'm like huh? 😳 I know the bulletin outside will change and the days on the calendar and I'll probably decorate the door with a season theme. But I'm not changing everything in my room every holiday. Especially not for 4th because you're right, they probably won't care that much compared to kindergarten or 1st. I'm not taking all the furniture and making everything pink for Valentine's Day lol. I agree with you, too much effort to change everything for every holiday.
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Old 06-12-2019, 05:30 AM
 
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I didn’t read all the responses but am sure you received good suggestions from others. Just 2 from me (maybe these were already mentioned):

1. Every group is different. You can teach the same grade level for years and every year is different because the kids are different. My experience is the majority of my years I had really good classes of kids, some years they were absolutely heavenly classes of kids, and some years my classes challenge my sanity due to very immature and needy students. I often had the challenging kids because I worked well with them. Give your new class a chance. They aren’t the same group of kids you student taught. Be firm, fair, and human. Show your sense of humor, your happiness, bond with them, and bring enthusiasm to your teaching.

2. Form a good working relationship with your grade level teammates and team leader. Observe, listen, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find the balance between their being of assistance to you and you giving them a helping hand and being a source of information to them (tech ideas, good books, new websites you discover, etc.)

Good luck in your new position. I hope you enjoy your first year.
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Old 06-12-2019, 06:42 AM
 
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Quote:
Also, what do you guys do when the class gets too loud? That frequently happened during student teaching. One time I kept taking away Dojo points as a class and they kept talking and didn't care. I'm scared.
Therein lies the problem with "rewards". At some point (and some kids right from the get go) don't care about "points" and "rewards".

Honestly, I'd forget the point system/token system for now.

Set your expectations from day 1. Loudness is NOT accepted, period. Aim for peacefulness/quiet all day long. If/when they start getting loud, ring a chime. Remind them to "lower your voices 2 levels" (or whatever). I often say, "I'm sorry. It's getting too loud in here. Please lower your voices". And they respond. They don't need to be rewarded for being quiet. It should just be a general expectation.

Same with your reading group time. Expect them to be quiet and reading and they will. If they start talking, ring a chime and remind them. Repeat the above. "I'm sorry. I can't work with groups if there is noise in the background. Please go back to reading quietly. Thank you!"

My groups learn early on that I truly cannot pull reading groups if there is background noise. From day 1, we build that stamina for reading quietly.

You don't start pulling groups until the stamina for reading quietly, without stopping is 30+ min.

Day 1: All read silently. Time them. The minute someone stops reading, stop the timer and record how long their stamina was. Try again. Same thing. Time it. Their goal is to be the previous time. Do this 3x on Day 1.
Day 2: Same thing. The expectation for Day 2's times should be greater than Day 1's. Practice 3x. Graph their results and show them how much they've grown in just 2 days! Do this for the first 20 school days.
By Day 20 or so, their reading stamina (ability to read 30+ min. without stopping) should be great enough that you will now be able to start pulling groups. Do NOT allow talking. If they talk. Stop them immediately and remind them.

They don't get rewarded. They don't get punished. They just are told, "I can't pull reading groups if there is talking and my job right now is to pull reading groups. Your job is to build your reading skills by reading independently". Set the expectation and they will rise to it.

Do I praise them if all are working quietly? Sort of. I thank them. "Thank you for working quietly. I appreciate it".

Of course they are going to have days when they are "off". When that happens, I stop reading groups, and we go to whole group learning. No one is perfect. This typically only happens close to holidays or when we've had long stretches of no breaks and they are weary/tired. I don't make it a habit of it, and definitely use my, "I'm sorry. I can't pull reading groups if there is background noise". My students learn quickly that I truly can't!!!

A class does not behave because they are rewarded. A class behaves because they know it is expected of them. Expect it. They will rise to your expectations. They don't need to be rewarded daily with points, coupons, etc.

That doesn't mean you can't do a marble jar or scrabble letters to work towards earning a class reward. Those are easy and fun for the kids. School is hard work! A class reward gives you all something to work towards and to look forward to! I highly encourage that, for your sake as well as theirs.

But, all of that individual/team points/rewards are going to drive you nuts and they are going to quickly lose their effectiveness! Plus, you should not be expected to spend so much money on rewards. Teachers don't make enough for that!!!

Quote:
I hope I at least am able to do an independent reading time and a partner reading time during my 90 minute reading block
We are expected to pull 3 reading groups, 20-25 min. each, which means students have to be able to be on task and focused for over an hour. I would highly recommend you look into Daily 5. I modify it.

*Read to Self (often with some sort of response)
*Word Work (spelling words)
*Listen to Reading (Epic or I-Ready lessons)
*Work on Writing

I do not do partner reading because I HAVE to have silence during reading group time. Partner reading means it isn't silent. So, I do Daily 4.
It is plenty to keep them learning, busy, and quiet while I pull groups!
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:05 AM
 
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You have received a lot of good advice! I have taught 4th grade for 8 years and I am of the opinions to no do rewards. Even students in 4th grade want to please you! Rewards will wear you out and program students to only behave if they get something in return. It is about building relationships with the students. It is difficult at first, but gets easier as the years go by and you don't have to spend so much effort on other things like curriculum, lesson plans, learning routines.

On the first day there may things that your school wants you to do.; At my school we have to go over the student handbook and practice school procedures like how to walk in the hallway, how to line up for dismissal, cafeteria rules and so on. We also discuss emergency protocol. I go over my class expectations and procedures.

Read to them, start a chapter book on the first day of school. My school is departmentalized from 3rd and up. I have never taught reading to 4th grade, but I still read to my homeroom, the enjoy being read to.

Remember you are part of team. Ask your teammates questions or your mentor teacher.
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Yes
Old 06-12-2019, 10:50 AM
 
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You can keep Camping as your year long theme.

You cannot make kids be quiet, but you can plan what YOU will do if they arent.

I love this thread as it helps everyone. Yiu have received excellent advice and encouragement. I am re learning things i have forgotten, as well as learning new things.

Above all you want to foster a lifelong love of learning. You CAN do this! Pay attention to what you want and ignore what you dont want. Kids want your attention, try to spread it around evenly.

Make out a year long planner. This way you can budget your time. Give a copy to your Principal and to parents at Back to school night. You will end up making adjustments but it will be a great guide. Give the students a copy too. Ask for their input. They will respect you for this.

I am excited for you. Makes me want to go out a get another teaching position.
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And yes
Old 06-12-2019, 10:52 AM
 
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You can have more than one reading area. I love the plan of not changing anything until they can read at their seats for a full silent 30.
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Old 06-12-2019, 11:46 AM
 
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This will be my 25th year in 4th grade and I LOVE this age! They are independent yet still sweet. I use a ticket system in my classroom, but the rewards are more privilege based than actual prizes. They can choose to sit in the teacher's chair, switch seats (for 1/2 day), choose the first reading spot, work with their shoes off, bring a stuffed toy for the day (surprisingly a BIG favorite even in 4th grade!!), wear a hat for a day, etc.

I also didn't read all the responses, but you will need to build their reading stamina in order to have them all reading quietly. Read the Daily 5 book for more information. I don't use Daily 5 exclusively anymore, but building their stamina is one thing I still do at the beginning of every year.

You also asked about ways to get them quiet. I start out using the Whole Brain Teaching method of Class/Yes. They know if I say Class, they are to immediately respond with Yes and get quiet. I then introduce a variety of call/response chants once they understand the process. Here is a list of several:

https://thecornerstoneforteachers.co...nts-attention/

I think you will really enjoy 4th grade if you will just give it a chance! Praying you have a great year!
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Old 06-12-2019, 04:04 PM
 
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Thanks so much eagles and thanks to everyone for all your help! I love that you have one of the prizes be to choose the first reading spot, they'll love that! I can see that being a hit for sure!!
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Old 06-12-2019, 07:45 PM
 
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Recommend reading: Doug Lemov's Teach Like A Champion 2.0.
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Old 06-13-2019, 12:30 AM
 
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Here are a few random thoughts:

1. Start the year expecting to like and relate to your students instead of pining away for first graders. If you donít, your students will be able to tell that you are not fully invested and it will impact all things. 4th graders need the same caring, support, and creativity...theyíre just a little taller!

2. Ask if your district had new teacher professional development or if they set you up with a mentor type teacher. In CA new teachers go through an official program of support after being hired. If they do not provide a mentor, look for coworkers who are approachable to answer questions.

3. See if your district or your grade level team/school provides any pacing guides. This will help you chart out your year and know about how long to be spending on each topic.

4. Check if your school had a schoolwide behavior program, such as pbis, that must be followed. My school had cards kids earn for good behavior that are turned in at the office for bigger prizes, most of which are not store bought things, but events.

5. One class wide behavior idea is to make a copy of a 100ís chart, then have the 100 number squares, plus a few that say wild on them, in a baggy nearby. When kids as a whole group behave well at an assembly, get a good report from the PE teacher, zero people are tardy (whatever you decide) a student pulls a number and colors it in on the Bingo chart. When we get a Bingo, which takes a while, they get whatever we predetermined, such as 10 minutes of extra recess, popcorn and an educational video, art project, reading picnic day (bring blankets, read outside). All prizes are extremely cheap or free. Donít bankrupt yourself and donít bribe them. Sometimes we teach a prize quickly, sometimes it takes ages. Thatís up to them and their behavior choices. Caution: I donít use the BINGO for everything because I also want my class to understand that there is an expectation that they do something just because I told them to and for the good of their education. In teal life we are not rewarded for every second of the day, so this is used sporadically. It also has the benefit of being changeable. Extra great? Pull two numbers! A new issue, like tardiness, has cropped up? Letís add that to the way we can earn a Bingo number.

6. Donít forget to breathe and continue to practice self-care...yoga? Meeting with friends? Sleep? Teaching can be exhausting and you have to replenish and refresh yourself.

Enjoy your new year!
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apple annie apple annie is offline
 
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apple annie
 
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Old 06-13-2019, 09:48 AM
 
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I would be cautious about tangible prizes - especially really good ones. That can backfire on you and create resentment for kids who didn’t get one. Prizes like take off your shoes or sit by a friend or hat day - anyone can get since they’re pretty unlimited. How many gift cards can you really keep in your treasure box? And then the other prizes pale in comparison. They’ll seem to be not worth the effort. My rule when it comes to rewards is “Set the bar low.” You would be amazed at what a kid will do for ONE Skittle. Or a tiny sticker. Or a fist bump from the teacher. Because with stakes that low, it’s not about the prize, it’s about the acknowledgment. It’s a tiny, tangible, quick, cheap, and repeatable way to affirm your kids are on the right track.

Last edited by apple annie; 06-13-2019 at 06:47 PM..
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Old 06-17-2019, 04:45 AM
 
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Prizes- I have never done store bought prizes. As others said, the free ones the kids enjoy- lunch bunch with teacher and read to another classroom are some of my studentsí favorites. Play a game during morning work, help with school announcements, etc are all good and save money.

Theme- you can do it if you want. We will all say donít waste money (and ignored this advice as first year teachers as well &#128540. I would pick a color scheme you like and just stick to that- there is a good chance youíll get bored with a theme year to year. One of my best investments was felt for my bulletin boards- has lasted all 11 years in the classroom, and still looks great. Also saves time at the beginning of the year set up because itís already cut.

4th grade- I was moved up to 3rd in my 10th year of teaching and fought it kicking and screaming. Iíve actually wound up loving everything about it, except the focus on testing. The kids are so independent, you can really use them to accomplish tasks much quicker than the lower grades.

Dojo- I havenít used Dojo, but I use Bloomz which I believe is similar. Each child gets an egg, and you can add points or take them away. As soon as my kids hear the noises for points being added or taken away, they scramble to do what theyíre supposed to. When they get 25 points, their egg cracks (and realeases a character) and they pick a non-monetary prize. Tip to classroom management- DONíT do all the things- I was trying to do class incentives, individual incentives, etc- and I sucked at keeping up with it all. Pick ONE thing and be consistent. I found Bloomz this year and would never go back to anything else because itís so simple.

Reading groups- 90 min of silent work time is really unrealistic for them. Youíre going to have to learn how to conduct reading groups with some background noise. My students are allowed to work together through all my groups as long as they can control the volume. Some others have mentioned Daily 5- look into that, itís a great system to manage the reading block. Honestly, I find allowing choice of where to sit during their reading block eliminates a lot of behavior probs- you show that you trust them to be responsible, and they tend to rise to the occasion 😉

Iíll PM you in case you have any more questions!
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