Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

It's a New Year and why not start it with a New Year's Resolution via The Teacher's Cauldron and Teaching Maddeness Linky Parties?

I've certainly got some resolutions for the upcoming year but I've chosen one personal and one blogging resolution. 

My New Year's Resolutions

I want to be healthier. I am not overweight, but I am totally out of shape. I probably can't run a mile without getting winded. My excessive eating of anything with sugar surely can't be helping. Oh, and that dusty gym membership? Hmmm....I need to make some serious changes not for my weight, but for my health! Today was actually my first day in forever without candy. I opted for one skinny cow mint ice cream sandwich after dinner and because I made it to the gym today I came in under my calorie count too! Woohoo for working a way to a healthier me! 

My Blogging Resolution: Work harder to get more followers by leaving comments and following more blogs. I spend most of my free days on my computer, looking at different blogs and pinning all of the wonderful ideas. I need to take the time to follow these amazing teachers and give them a shout out every now and then :-) 

It will be a lonely New Year's for me, though I will stay up with my favorites, Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin to ring it in, but with the hubby still deployed I am saving big celebrations for his return! 

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2013 filled with success in all aspects of your life!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Coupons ROCK!!!

This is the first year that I have latched on to the idea of using coupons as rewards. To be honest, I've never used them for fear that fifth graders wouldn't buy in to them. In the past, I've tried rewarding kids in many different ways. In my first three years of teaching, I think I spent more money on items for the prize bucket than I made in a week! Then I did the worst thing a teacher can do: I gave them candy rewards. Yes, I am sad to admit that I actually rewarded their actions with candy. Of course, this led to the inevitable, "Mrs. O, didn't I do a good job? Is it worth a piece of candy?" Excuse me while I cringe at the thought. I eventually let go of the prize bucket idea and the candy and kind of scrapped rewards altogether.

But this year, with a fresh and new start, I wanted to try rewards again. I blame this on the never-ending amount of amazing rewards that are always listed on Pinterest. I mean, if all these teachers are doing it, shouldn't I? Yes, it's Pinterest peer pressure at it's finest! Needless to say, I worked hard at figuring out what coupons I would use and how they would be earned. When I met one of my teammates, she mentioned that she was using the ticket system. At first, I had dreaded flashbacks to my Friday drawings from my prize bucket and saw the money already beginning to crawl out of my wallet, but I did like the idea of tickets. I had to give it some thought. I went home that August evening and considered the tickets, and promptly visited my Pinterest for more ideas. On Pinterest, I found two ideas that caught my attention: Classroom Coupons and reading raffles.

Here's the coupons I found:

And the reading raffle:

Well, I took these ideas, combined with the ticket idea from my colleague, and twisted them around in my brain for awhile.  This is what I did: 

I give students tickets. I bought a roll at Target at the beginning of the year and still have more than half of it left. 

I did not designate what they could do to earn it other than if we have a full day of good behavior, everyone gets one. This was one I thought was important. I told them that other than that, I would give them out for various actions in class, obviously only for positive actions and behavior. That actually keeps them on edge, because they are never quite sure when they will get one. I also told them that they are positively not allowed to ask for one at any time. Amazingly, this worked! We're four months in, and they have never asked me for a ticket. 

Some of the things that I have given my students tickets for are: 

  • positive behavior
  • random acts of kindness (and I always make a big deal of these)
  • amazing grades on tests, quizzes, etc. (again, I make a big deal of these too)
  • solving hink pinks, hinky pinkies, and hinkity pinkities - if you want to read more about these, you will have to wait until my next blog :-)
  • acting appropriately during fire drills
  • positive changes in a student (ex. a student who doesn't normally do homework starts turning it in on a regular basis)
On 12/12/12, I also had the "12/12/12 fairy" leave 12 sets of 12 tickets in 12 spots in the room. Beware, this may cause a bit of chaos, but it was a total blast. I am already thinking of something fun for the 100th day, maybe hiding tickets in the school with different clues leading them to them or something along those lines. I will let you know! 

Students keep their tickets in a Ziploc bag in their desk. They are totally responsible for keeping track of them and if they lose then, I tell them there is nothing I can do. 

I have placed a poster up in my room with coupons on it. The coupons they can earn are as follows: 

  • Flip Flop - Swap seats with a friend for a day.
  • Stinky Feet - Go without shoes in class for a day
  • Story Time - Take over the teacher's read aloud for the day
  • Lunch With the Teacher - Self-explanatory
  • Pop! - Chew gum in class for the day. 
  • Move that mouse! - Get an extra computer rotation for the day.
  • Furry Friend - Keep a stuffed animal of your choice at your desk for the day.
  • Comfy Reading - Get first choice in the reading area for two rotations. (We have a very inviting reading area that students ALWAYS want to be in.)
  • Cool Cat in the Hat - Wear a hat in class for the day.
  • iPad Learning - Use the teacher's iPad in class during computer time.
The coupons range in price from 25 tickets up to 100.

Here is what they look like:

Then, I have baskets (all from the dollar store) set up with coupon amounts on the front. Inside each basket are different books. They are all from Scholastic, mostly purchased with points I've earned from book orders, though I throw in a few bucks here and there, but nothing to seriously break the bank.

So the students LOVE this reward system! The most popular coupons are stinky feet and flip flop. The most popular book items are always journals or diaries or anything related to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. To be honest, my students are more apt to just use the coupons, but I am happy that when they do choose a book reward they are getting an item that will enhance their reading or writing in some way! I am so glad to have come up with this system, a melting pot of other wonderful ideas that has created a positive, affordable system that the kids in my classroom thoroughly enjoy! 

I plan to add more coupons in about midway through the year. If you'll notice, the items I posted have some really great ideas that I would love to add, but for now my students are quite content with what's being offered and that makes me a happy teacher! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

The title of this post seems to be my motto this year. Yes, I have become that annoying teacher who brags incessantly about my amazing class and how well-behaved they are.

Changing schools can really be a life saver. It's not easy to do, but last year I was very unhappy where I was. I knew I would not complete another year and so I begun the search for somewhere new, hoping it would renew my love of teaching. Well, I cannot begin to tell you how much I lucked out. I found a small district that has turned out to be the perfect fit. I have 23 amazing students in my class. They are kind to adults and each other, they have a love of learning and soak in every little bit of information that I give them, and they are the best class I have had in eight years. Now, I am realistic, I know they will get antsy in the spring as they get elementary "senioritis", but I am going to enjoy every second of my time with them this year.

I had so hoped to be better about blogging, but when you have a great class, you find yourself doing more and more to keep up their love of learning. Needless to say, I've been quite busy. I need to get better about blogging.

With a deployed husband, this class has been exactly what I need to make his time away pass faster. During this wonderful holiday season, I am grateful to have found my love of teaching once again, and I wish all of my fellow teachers the same experience, if even for one year, to renew your purpose and being.

I have so many wonderful ideas to share and I will try my best to get better as the New Year arrives. In the meantime, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Let's hope we all have a happy and healthy 2013!