Establishing a classroom management plan from the very beginning of the school year is the first step in creating a classroom environment that is ideal for learning. To create a classroom that is ideal for learning, the students must feel safe and clearly understand the behavioral expectations.

Students need to feel safe in the classroom, both physically and emotionally. By the time most students reach first grade (the level on which my student teaching experience was focused) they have been to school for at least one year. The basic rules have already been established. These basic rules include: no hitting, walking quietly in the hallway, raising a hand to speak, etc. It is important at the beginning of the year to re-establish these very important rules. After reviewing the basics, I believe it is important to come up with a set of class rules together. The students will understand, and therefore be more likely to follow, rules that they helped develop.

For our classroom management course, I wrote up a classroom management plan for a future, fictional class. It provides an overview of some of the techniques I could use in a third grade class.

My student teaching classroom has a small list of class rules. I did not participate in the creation of this set of rules. I agree with the message but I would have preferred to create the list with the class so that every student is involved in its creation. There are many differences in acceptable behavior at school and at home. It is important to understand from what type of environment every student is coming from in order to acclimate them to the school environment. I believe it is incredibly important to emphasize to our students the fact that school expectations might be different than home expectations.
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Some situations call for a new, temporary rule (field trips, science experiments, assemblies, visit from a special guest, etc.). These rules need to be explicitly explained (and explained and explained) until the students fully understand them. It is important to explain why we have the rules so the students will understand and follow them.

My student teaching class is very energetic. They squirm around on the carpet, trying to get the best view of whatever it is we are doing. During a science activity that involved a hot plate turning ice into steam, I felt it necessary to create a very clear boundary that the student were not to cross without consequences. I placed a string around the very hot experiment. I explained to the students that this experiment is rather dangerous and I do not want them to get hurt. I told them that they were to stay behind the string; any student who did not follow directions was asked to turn their card and go to the back of the group. Before the experiment even started, one student decided to test the limits (see picture below). I quietly told him to turn his card and go to the back of the group.

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Transitions can create classroom management difficulties. To avoid distraction that tends to happen between lessons, it is important to have procedures in place to deal with transitions. One way that I like to engage students during transitions from a bathroom break to lining up for center time (or specials) is to read a math mystery book. Short, fun math word problems keep the students in line engaged while they wait for their classmates instead of talking loudly and misbehaving.

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Some students need a bit of extra help with behavior management. Two of the students require more attention because of behavior issues. My cooperating teacher and I decided to always keep their assigned seats halfway between the board and the document projector so we would almost always be close to them and it would be easier for them to stay focused. The classroom came with four very large tables instead of desks (see picture below). The tables are set up so every student has a view of the board, but some of the students are facing away from the document camera, where the teacher must stand while using the projector. It was important to have well-focused students sit in these inconvenient seats because we can rely on them to focus more efficiently than some of our other students.

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I was fortunate to collaborate with the school guidance counselor throughout the year in order to help a few of our friends who were struggling with behavior issues. Some of the students were assigned to a lunch bunch group so they could work on their social skills. Some received personalized behavior management plans. The picture below shows an example of one of the student's personalized plans. I collaborated with and gave my suggestions to the counselor and my cooperating teacher about this plan, but I respectfully let them have the final say in the final plan. If this were my student, I would have shortened the list to no more than 3 items and I would have only used positive phrasing. For example, I would change #3 to "raise my hand and wait to be called on", or simply get rid of it since #2 seems to cover it already.

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When students do act out, there need to be consequences to their actions. I use the term "consequences" instead of "punishments" because it is important that the repercussion relates to the misbehavior. For example, if the student rips a book on purpose they could be sent to the library during free time to help the librarian repair damaged books. This helps them see why their actions were not acceptable. My student teaching school has a color card chart system. Each classroom has a chart with a spot for each student. Each student starts the day on green and through misbehavior can move to yellow, blue, and red. When on blue, a student walks the line during half of their recess time. When on red a student walks the line for their entire recess. Since the repercussion of misbehavior manifests more as a punishment than a consequence, I like to take the student aside after they turn their card and have them explain why they had to turn their card and what they will do in the future to avoid turning their card.

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