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Organizing a Classroom for Optimal Learning, Safety, and Warmth
Effective and meaningful organization, management, and discipline are all vital components of an elementary school classroom. Appropriate physical arrangement begins before students even arrive for the first day of school. Regarding desk arrangement it is important to keep the amount of student interaction that you desire in your classroom in mind when organizing the desks. For example, since I hope to teach kindergarten students next year who need to learn how to interact with peers, I plan to arrange their seating accordingly. I would like to have my students sit at tables of four where interaction is pretty much inevitable. In addition, I would change the seating arrangements several times throughout the school year to encourage interaction between different children. Also, these tables will have a basket in the middle which contains frequently used materials so the students have easy access to these items. In addition, I believe it is important to create pathways in the classroom so students and teachers can move around with ease.
Regarding the physical arrangement of my classroom I would also love to create a warm and caring atmosphere where students can thrive. One way I will do this is by placing personal touches in the room, such as pictures of my family and friends. I would also love to have a few plants on the windowsill. In addition, I want the children to see their own personal touches in the room, such as student artwork and stories. A colorful room filled with soft materials, such as pillows, carpeting, and a comfortable reading area will help make the room pleasing to the students.
The final aspect of creating a functional classroom setting that is warm and inviting is to make sure that the students feel safe and secure. To ensure psychological security in my classroom I will encourage students to always express their opinions. In addition, I will make it a priority to never publically embarrass or humiliate the children (Competencies 19 & 20).

Using Effective Routines and Procedures

Using effective routines and procedures will help me to use the limited time I have with my students more efficiently. An example of a class-running routine that is nonacademic in nature that I plan to implement in my classroom regards student attendance. Last semester, my cooperating teacher had a large tree where students could hang their nametag apples to indicate their arrival at school. This method was very efficient because the teacher could see which apples where not hung on the tree and quickly know which students were absent. I will definitely use this class-running routine in my own classroom. Another example of a class-running routine I plan to use is the attention grabbing technique of “freeze and smile.” This nonacademic routine helps keep even a kindergarten classroom running smoothly. The teacher says “freeze and smile” and the students know to stop what they were doing, raise their hands in the air and smile at the teacher. This routine works beautifully in the two kindergarten classrooms I have seen! I will establish both of these class-running routines my teaching them to the students from the very first day of school.
Interaction routines which inform the students about when talking is acceptable will also be implemented in my classroom. For example, I plan to have my students use the three finger signal when they want to grab the attention of the teacher during a lesson. If a child raises one finger then the teacher knows they have a question about the lesson. If the student raises two fingers, they need to use the bathroom. Finally, if the student raises three fingers then the teacher understands that they want a drink of water. The teacher then just nods “yes” or “no” to let the students know about their answer to the posed question. I have seen this signal system used in a second grade classroom where I was substituting and it worked very well. This system allows students to get the teacher's attention teacher without being disruptive (Competencies 21 & 22).

Using Time Effectively and Efficiently

When transitioning my students in and out of the classroom I believe it is important to warn the students a few minutes prior to the change in activity. For example, in kindergarten we will give the students a 5 minute warning since they take a little longer to get things finished and ready to leave the room. Students show the teacher that they are ready to leave the class by putting their heads on the table after they have cleaned up their materials and are ready to walk out the door. I have found that a 5 minute warning works well with children this age, however, in older grades I would likely give a 2 or 3 minute warning. Another critical part of effective classroom transitions is to remind the students of their expected behavior in the hallway and at their upcoming destination. By reminding the students that they should keep their hands to themselves, walk quietly, and look in front of them the teacher is setting these child up to be successful. Being proactive is always more meaningful and effective than having to provide consequences to children after they have misbehaved.
I absolutely love the idea of having educational tubs for the students to use in order to prevent downtime when the students have completed one project but have not been assigned another task. For students who always finish tasks quickly these educational tubs provide something meaningful for the students to do. The tubs in my cooperating teacher’s room are fun for the children while also being directly related to skills a kindergarten student needs to know. For example, we have a tub where students can sort objects by color, size, and shape. In addition, we have a tub where students have a dry erase board and they write the word wall words on it. The variety and number of tubs in our classroom ensures that students are not always working on the same skill. Another great idea is to have students have a book bag on the back of their chair. If the children finish their work quickly and the teacher checks over the assignment for accuracy then these students may read a book for the bag on their chair. The students do not have to get out of their seats so they are not disrupting their peers (Competencies 21 & 22).

Classroom Management Plan and Responses to Inappropriate Behavior
Personally, I believe that classroom management must begin from the first day of school in order to be effective. Also, establishing rules in the classroom is always easier for the students and the teacher if these rules are logical and explained to the children. In kindergarten I strongly feel that the first few weeks of school should be focused on classroom routines and rules. Modeling appropriate behavior in all situations during the school day will ensure that the remainder of the school year is devoted to academics instead of dealing with student misbehavior. For example, during the first week of school in my practicum classroom I was amazed at how explicit my cooperating teacher was about explaining and modeling the routines for the students. There are only 3 rules in our kindergarten classroom, be nice, be safe, and do your best. My cooperating teacher believes it is easier for these young students to remember only a few, brief rules. Also, she feels that almost any form of misbehavior can fall into these 3 categories. In my own classroom next year, I would like to discuss the rules with the students and ask them why they feel these rules are important. In addition, I think it would be meaningful to ask the students if they think these rules are fair. If I notice a student misbehaving I can ask them “Are you being safe?” I believe holding my student’s responsible for their behavior gives them some degree of accountability in the classroom. In intermediate elementary school grades I would have the students come up with the rules and write the rules down themselves. Then, I would have all of the students sign the paper to remind them of their obligation. To promote positive reinforcement during my student teaching experience, each child was given a piggy bank to hold pennies that the student could earn by having appropriate school behavior. The pennies will be used to "buy" items in the classroom that the students enjoy. Pictured below is an example of one student's piggy bank.
Another idea that I would like to try next year is having a chart based on the colors of the stop sign where children move their cars from the green to the yellow to the red as their behavior gets worse. Having the children move their cars is another important aspect of this behavior plan because it holds the students accountable for their actions. I have seen young children get very upset about having to move their cars to the yellow or red and believe it is effective for reducing student misbehavior. There also must be some type of consequence for moving your car to the red line. For example, the student may receive a note home, miss free choice time, or loose other privileges they enjoy. Naturally, this behavior chart would be explained to the students on the very first day of school.
I believe the best way to respond to minor misbehavior is to use nonverbal communication, such as making eye contact, moving closer to the student, and using signals to let them know what they are doing wrong. I would use these methods during lunch time, free choice time, and other non-instructional times during the day. On the other hand, during instruction time I would call on the student to participate in order to get their attention back on task. I would also remind the class as a whole about the type of behavior I expect of them during learning time.
For more serious misbehaviors I believe it is extremely important to implement a logical and immediate consequence following the infraction. This is especially important when dealing with younger students because it is important that they understand why their misbehavior is unacceptable and have an immediate consequence following the reprimand. I feel that the following consequences are effective: time out, the loss of privileges, and sending a note home with parents or making a phone call home for repetitive problems. The appropriate consequence would vary depending on the student who was misbehaving. The consequence must be meaningful to the child (Competencies 23 & 24).
In addition, I believe it is important to open the lines of communication between the teacher and parents regarding their child's positive and/or negative behavior at school. During my student teaching experience, I completed daily behavior charts for each child. These behavior charts were then sent home at the end of each week for parents to read. There was a place on each student's chart for the parents to send me responses regarding their child's behavior. I will continue this weekly communication about student behavior when I have my own classroom next year.

Overall, I believe that classroom management must be an integral part of any elementary school classroom. To learn more about my views regarding positive reinforcement and student engagement, please take a look at my entire classroom management plan by clicking here.doc.