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Classroom Rules for Middle School

Looking for the best way to create classroom rules with your middle school classes?  See what's worked for me through 25 years of teaching. #behaviormanagement  #ideas

Since I have been teaching Middle School for 24 years (and 1 year in high school - that's another story for another time), I am often asked what I recommend as the best behavior management system.

What I recommend is this:  Creating "agreements" - not rules - and a system that recognizes students for their growth (and sometimes just for the everyday good things that they do.)

How do I do this?

Creating Agreements

Day one
1.  Give all students two sticky notes.

2.  On one sticky note ask the students to write down what they personally need to do to be successful.

3.  On the other sticky note, ask the students to write down what they need from YOU to be successful.

4.  Have them place their sticky notes on a bulletin board or some other location in the room.  

Get to know your students & their needs by creating class agreements!  #behaviormanagement #ideas

In between Day one and Day two, group the sticky notes into 4 categories:  Prompt, Prepared, Responsible, and Respectful.   Do not title the categories.

Day two
1.  Tell the students that yesterday you tried to group their ideas.  Read the stickies that have been grouped together and ask the students what they think the title of that group should be.  (Take several answers and then tell them the word that ties it all together - the category name you already have in mind.)  Then label it.

2.  After you label all 4 categories, you ask:
  • "So is there anything that needs to be added?  (Pause - look for hands.  Make additions as necessary.)  
  • Is there anything that doesn't belong?  (Pause - look for hands.  Discuss possible deletions.)  
  • So now, do we all agree that this is what we need to be successful in this classroom this year?  (Pause - any objections?  Fix that with additions/deletions and then gain consensus.)
  • So now we have just made an agreement that these are the things we need to be successful so these are our "rules" but I will call them our "agreements" because we all agreed on this together.  I will even summarize these for you with some posters that I will make and post this week.

3.  Now you might want to talk about consequences for students do not live up to their end of the agreement. I usually declare "It's only fair to first receive a warning, don't you agree?"  Then I follow it with my 4 step process:
  • Warning
  • Phone call home  (keep a log on the back of a students information sheet you might send home with a syllabus.)
  • Take Home detention:  A behavior essay (to help reteach them what appropriate behavior is)
  • Referral.

4.  Then I'll say "But I'm sure we won't have much of that to deal with since we all agreed on what we need to be successful so let's talk more about the successful side."  Now I will begin to talk about my positive reinforcement system - Super Improvers and/or Tickets.  

Super Improvers

This idea comes from Whole Brain Teaching.  I modified it for my middle school classes.  This is where kids can visually track progress and move up in the ranks as they progress through the year.  My students have really enjoyed moving up through the ranks and coming up with privileges for each rank.

Some of the privileges they have suggested are:  free tardy pass, bonus points, choose your own seat, and first to leave.  We decided together which level would earn which privilege.
Each student has to earn 10 improvements before they can move up a level.  My students all wanted to be living legends!  :)

Ticket System

This idea is mine and is something I use with students who need that something "extra" beyond the Super Improvers.  Basically, I give out tickets to students who have earned top grades, or who answer a question, or who positively contribute in some way to the class.  Then I do a weekly drawing on Fridays.   Students love it when their efforts are rewarded in immediate, tangible ways.

So there you have it!  These are the secrets to my success in making it through 25 years of teaching!  I hope they help you have success too!

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Tips for Wrapping Up The School Year

Before you say "It's a wrap" for this school year, be sure to check out these ideas for making it a smooth finish! #organization #ideas

Believe it or not, we're nearing the end of the school year!  But before we can call it "a wrap", there's a few loose ends that need to be tied up.  

Your #2ndaryELA friends discussed some of the best ways to close out the school year both on Twitter and on Facebook Live in the #2ndaryELA Facebook Group.  
(You'll see comments from both Twitter and Facebook in the post below.)

Read on for some of their best ideas and suggestions!

Q1: Do you give any specials gifts or mementos to students at the end of the year?
A1: not really because I have on average 260 students a year, so it isn’t very cost effective.
A1: Jumping in here late tonight- Kelli from TN - 7th and 8th ELA- when I taught in elementary grade levels I would give books - but now since I am secondary and have 5 times the students I do not.
A1 in middle school I don't do student gifts. We do a reflection and celebrate!
A1 No gifts in the past in high school, but thinking about it for this yr in 6th grade
A1: I don't give any gifts, but at the end of each year I have the students write their name in the center of a piece of paper on which other students write compliments. I love joining in and the students love reading them!
Q2: What do you have to do to “shut-down” your room for the year?
A2: As far as I know, this year I don't have to do ANYTHING! Last year we moved into a new building and had to remove EVERYTHING to store at home until August. It was quite the task, so I'm happy for an easier shutdown this year!
A2: Some years we have to take everything out but some years we can just box it all up. I try to do a little each day in the 2 or so weeks leading up to the last day.

Lauralee Epplin Moss15:25 I wipe down my room. Once I came back to a sticky mess. Gross.
A2 I take down personal items, most of my wall decorations/posters, box up my desk and get everything off the floors!
A2 We have a fairly short checklist of cleaning up our room. We can leave things up and don't have to pack much up.
A2: We have to clean out our rooms completely. Nothing can be left. They buff the tile floors over the summer.
A2: put up desks, clean off counters, clean the whiteboard. Our Custodiangives is a checklist and a summer cleaning schedule
Q3: How do you organize your things to help you be better prepared for the next year?
A3: I try to keep paper assignments organized in binders, so they are easier to find next year. Everything else is organized in Google Drive folders. If it weren't for I'd be a mess!
A3: Everything will be binders. Notice I said - will be, I am still working on it.
A3: I have tried making lists of what's in every box so I am not constantly searching through boxes for the item I need.
A3 I want to take the first couple days after the school year ends to jot down notes about what to do differently. Next year I'll keep of notebook as I go
A3 I will go through any extra copies I made and toss anything I know I'm going to change
A3: my room is very organized now so that helps. I have a cupboard I put things in so it is ready to go next year.

Emily Clausen19:43 A3 My temptation at the end of the year is to shove stuff wherever I can to be “packed up”...but the years that I take the time to sort through papers and pack things in an organized way, I am always happy I did when coming back for the next year
A3 I have been purging paper files over the last few years - I've got about three more drawers to go! I keep binders of some things, but now mostly everything in Google Drive. I've been scanning hard copies this year-it helps!
Q4: Do you work on lesson plans over the summer? PD? Anything school related?
A4: Of course! I'm attending a tech summit in May and a middle grades conference in June as well as the PD! This summer I'm going to work on flipping our novel unit; then in July we have summer cheer camp :)
A4: I have 4 district PD days and 1 department collaboration day right after school gets out then I work on plans at my own pace through the summer
A4: Not if I can help it! Well at least not until late July. (We go back August 5)

Erica Pasquale Young20:26 A4: yes! We just changed our whole curriculum for next year

Erica Pasquale Young22:04 We literally just rewrote the scope and sequence. We never had themes before (it was a mess...I’m glad it changed), but I just signed myself up for a ton of work
A4: I do. My kids are older and I am able to tweak lessons and read PD books. I occasionally will go to a summer PD if it’s something I really want to do.
A4 Guilty of doing lots of summer work. With 3 little ones, I'd rather put in some time over the summer so I have less work during the school year
A4 Hoping to attend ISTE in Philly at the end of June
Q5: Share your best teacher summer relaxation tips.
A5: Do things that bring you joy! I like to read, go to the parks with my own boys, play frisbee, & work on projects around the house. In short, I like to let my mind wander.

Erica Pasquale Young22:27 I’ll read for June, think of ideas in July, and plan in August
A5 My advice to to set aside a certain amount of time to work on school stuff and stick to it
A5: Relaxing outside in the sunshine listening to music or reading a book.
A5 My goal is also to read a book a day :)
A5: I try to take the month of June and half of July off and not do anything school related. Then I start getting things ready and planned middle of July
A5: I love getting away to the lake where I have ZERO phone signal and plenty of sun! Being able to enjoy a good book is a plus too :)

Tina Boss-McIver28:01 My husband just put 24 tomato and pepper plants in the garden; I will spend lots of time canning, but I find this relaxing! :)

Erica Pasquale Young25:35 A5: Hammock time! I also don’t do any work after 8 pm at all!
I hope you found some new ideas for closing out the school year!  This was our last #2ndaryELA chat for the 2018-2019 school year but we're already planning for next year!  Would you please take a moment and give us some feedback?  We really want the chats to be useful to you.  :)

You can catch up on past chats here:

Thanks for stopping by!