Embracing Change

Embraces Change!

My new mantra: Don’t panic, EMBRACE the  change!

This school year I will be embracing change like it’s a long-lost sister (I will also be having mini panic attacks about it). I came across the 5 Habits of an Effective Teacher while idly browsing Facebook and realized just how much #2 relates to me. Besides the millions of ways I’ve thought of to improve my routines, lessons and management, I’m also going on maternity leave in December. During the first few weeks of school I’m planning to focus on classroom procedures with the intensity of this cat:

Ms. Shirley Focuses on Classroom Procedures

Ms. Shirley plans and rehearses classroom procedures with laser like focus.


Two more changes I’m making are how we store artwork and how we start each class. Last year, I used simple manilla file folders as portfolios. They were affordable and easy to re-use (just flip them inside out) with our transient student population. However, artwork often fell out and students had trouble finding things as there were no pockets to organize papers. This summer I had the BRILLIANT idea to order folders with three prongs in the middle to hold loose leaf paper.  So I now have 700 bright, new, multicolored folders sitting in my living room.

Boxes of new, squeaky clean folders

Boxes containing 700 glorious folders


How does this tie in with how we start class? When students come in to my class, they have a “Do Now”, which is something they get started on right away. Sometimes it’s an open-ended question, sometimes it’s a quote to think about – a hook to get them invested in what we’re about to do. Now, thanks to the loose leaf paper in their folders, they can keep their answers organized, in chronological order – we can even incorporate more art vocabulary. Paper in the folders also solves the conundrum of where to store 700 spiral notebooks. I’m pumped!

The Do-Now

The Do-Now


Rocky Balboa and Glitter Showers

Tracking Class Behavior


Behavior management – I’ve tried to think of a clever metaphor to capture the magnitude of this in the classroom. If done right, effective behavior management can provide a mutually joyful and relaxed learning environment for students and teacher. My day goes by smoothly, filled with engaged kids and meaningful routines – on days like these I feel like Rocky Balboa running up the steps and punching the air in triumph while glitter rains down around me (the glitter part didn’t happen in the movie but that’s how it plays out in my head).

On those inevitable bad days, I wallow in my crumpled confidence for a little while, eat unnecessary amounts of chocolate and figure out what I can do differently tomorrow.


This past school year, my system of tracking and redirecting whole class behavior worked OK.  I had three letters that spell out  A R T and a stop sign. The class received three warnings – I took away a letter for each warning, then I moved the arrow on the stop sign from green to yellow.

Tracking behavior by taking down letters one by one

Tracking behavior by taking down letters one by one


If I moved the arrow down to red, the result was silent art (this was excruciating to enforce – it was more work for me than the students).  If a class kept all the letters up, and it still spelled A R T at the end of class, I colored in a square for their class on the Good Choices Chart.

The Good Choices Challenge Chart

The Good Choices Challenge Chart


At the end of each semester, if a class had a certain amount of squares colored in, they received a prize. This system had a few problems, the positive reinforcement wasn’t immediate and I saw certain classes more often than others because of holidays or testing. This year I’m SO excited to try out a different system I came across on Pinterest from teacher Katie Jarvis.


In this whole brain teaching method, the class gets tally marks for positive and off task behavior. At the end of class, if there are more points on the positive behavior side, the class receives a golden paintbrush. If there are an equal amount of tally marks on each side, the class receives a silver paintbrush. Four golden paint brushes earns the class a day of free art (a silver paintbrush is worth 1/2 of a silver brush).


I think this way of tracking whole class behavior is genius because the “reward” is more immediate and tangible – a physical brush they can bring back to class. I’ll let you know how it goes – for now I’m focused on finding 200 chip paintbrushes for dirt cheap.