Science in the City

Nov 17, 2012

Free Resources and Giveaways

There are lots of resources right now free.....

One of the best is Success in Secondary, which is grouped by grade level and topic.  A great collection of free and paid resources

Another great giveaway going on at  These are all science freebies.

And finally a giveaway for a great inclusion book.  Check it out and enter.

I will post more as I find them...

Nov 13, 2012

Poor Environment and Classroom Management: One Teacher's Perspective

Ever feel like you work here?!!  I have been feeling like that lately.  The atmosphere in the school is crazy!  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go visit two other middle school classrooms in our district and observe, and see what I could bring back to our school.

I was left with one overriding thought as I visited.  WOW!! The whole atmosphere in the school is so calm!  and orderly!  Kids are walking, not running, not yelling, going to class.  It was a completely different feeling.  

Overall, I still think many of the things that I saw seemed to be small, rather than addressing the larger problem (school climate).  Someone once said to me you can tell a lot about a school by what the halls are like.  That is true.  However, even when the halls are crazy and terrible (multiple fights going on daily), I can't allow my class to look like this the rest of the year.  I have to see what I can do to take some small steps in my classroom to improve, and maybe to improve our school. 

Some of the things I noticed were (ones in bold I especially think are important and I'm going to focus on). 
  • At one school they ate breakfast in the classroom.  This allowed a much quieter, calmer start to the day than being in a crowded cafeteria.  It also allowed the kids to see the teacher as a person.
  • The teachers used some traditional incentive and other behavior management strategies such a names on a color coded chart (green=ready to learn, yellow=warning, red=consequence), a point system with rewards for the people each week with the highest points and class rewards when they reach a certain point total.
  • Threshold - be at the door to personally greet each student, shake hands and make eye contact....and set expectations for students as they enter class. 
  • All the teachers and administration were very much the same page, and taking care of the smaller things, before they turned into bigger things (tardy, uniforms, etc)....They had clear policies in place.
  • Routines were extensively practiced, even at some loss of instructional time early in the year, in order to save time and energy later.  This includes in-class routines and school-wide routines such as procedures for walking in the hall.   
  • Students were not allowed in class if they were truly not ready (ISS, buddy teacher)...the expectation was not to keep all students  in the room at all times if it ruined education for the rest of the class..
  • Lots of positive reinforcement, proximity, and a calm but authoritative tone of voice (not angry).
  • Make connections with kids, and let them be comfortable - make the work accessible and make sure they can be successful.  Don't go ahead without making sure they are with you.
  • Quiet individual reminders, not in front of the whole group.
  • Specific behaviors are targeted and tracked-  transitions, raising hand, respectful, staying in seats
  • Rewards are earned, but are also given randomly. 
  • Teacher was very animated, had a good sense of humor and could maintain student interest.
  • Control pencil sharpener usage, and going to throw things out - don't get out of seats.
I have been doing a lot of research and reading and talking on management as I try to get my class back under control....just need to decide over the weekend how I want to go from here.

I have already been doing raffle tickets as positive reinforcement, and names on the board with checks as warnings.  I tried "Class-yes" from Whole Brain Teaching.  Am I going to work with these, and the bold ideas above?  Do more Whole Brain Teaching? Classdojo?  

How do you think school climate affects the climate and behavior in you classroom?  What can you do to overcome the school culture?  

Nov 10, 2012

School Configurations

My school is a K-6 building that is now expanding to add 7th and 8th we are now a K (actually pre-K) to 8th grade building.  This presents many pluses and minuses.  It is a big contrast to the building where I came from, which was 9-12.  Many other high schools in our district are 7-12.

I would love to hear opinions from anyone else who teaches middle school, especially.  How is your school set up?  Here are some thoughts that I have about the K-8 configuration.


  • Smaller grouping of kids - we can keep better track of the kids, and they have more sense of connection
  • Many kids have gone there for many years.  They know each other, and they know many other teachers in the building.  They have connections to each other and to other teachers, and less transitions at such an otherwise tumultuous time in their life.
  • Kids can gradually transition to the changes of high school - they can switch classes but in a familiar location. 
  • Older kids can partner with younger kids and be role models. 
  • Attendance does seem better, so far without the influence of the older students, and with more smaller group accountability.


  • As kids are going through puberty, they have social issues, such as those in a small town by being in such a small group with kids they have known, and maybe have a history with in the past.  There is no 'new blood' mixing in, or place for them to go to separate.  
  • There are behavioral advantages to 7th graders being "low man" rather than "top dog."  
  • Is it safe to have 7th and 8th graders, and all the associated behaviors in a building, and sharing buses and hallways with 4 and 5 year olds? 
  • are the facilities up to speed - changing rooms, large enough classrooms, locker rooms, rest rooms, desks? 
  • Can the school provide clubs, intramurals, afterschool activities and the full range of courses that students can enjoy at a 7-12 building or a true middle school?
  • Is the school administration, scheduling, attendance, report cards, etc prepared for the differences of middle school? 
What do you think?  I have recently come to the conclusion that middle schoolers really deserve their own place, either 6-9, 6-8, 7-9, 7 and 8....but they have unique needs that are not met well in a high school setting or a k-8 setting.  

Maybe an ideal would be an elementary, or a couple of elementaries, that funnel into a specific middle school.  That middle school would really be equipped to run as a middle school and help kids transition to prepare for high school. 

Here is an article that shows really inconclusive research about the best setting for middle school students.   and here is another article in favor of K-8, and against traditional middle schools.  

Weigh in with your opinion.

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