of my colleagues and I were asked by our principal to form a sixth-grade teaching team for this school year. We had
not worked together, and we wanted to be intentional about how we worked with
our students, including what we would emphasize across all classrooms.
Participating together in the Developmental Designs 1 (DD1)
workshop was our opportunity for a great beginning. Then it was time to get to
put to work
these Developmental Designs strategies
impacted my classroom on an ongoing,
- The Circle of Power and Respect advisory
- Goals and declarations
- The Social Contract
- Take a break (TAB)
- Take a break out of the classroom (TAB
In order to be effective
in integrating these new strategies into the daily life of our sixth-grade
team, we needed to use other Developmental Designs strategies
as well, including modeling and remodeling, and empowering teacher language.
A major focus this year
has been to have students handle their responsibilities independently. We
created procedures for this, and have tried to stay consistent throughout the
year as we set and maintained our expectations. For starters, my colleague and
I defined what we wanted to see from our students:
students work independently, they enter the classroom with a sense of purpose.
They know what they need to do to be ready for class, and they take care of
their classroom responsibilities without checking in with us.
Ready to Learn in 3 Min.
Intervene early when students don’t
“At the start of one class
The next day, I greeted
We talked about the strategies they used to get the job done
In the class that wasn’t able
what independent learners look like
shared this vision with students and created Y-charts with them to flesh out
what a classroom of independent learners looks, sounds, and feels like at
different times during class. We referred to those charts frequently in the early
months of the school year, and we still use them as needed.
have established the following specific routines:
- Entering the classroom and getting ready for whole-group time
- Our signal for attention (“show five,” with all students raising a hand)
- Listening to morning announcements
- Moving furniture around the room
- Hand-raising rather than blurting during discussions
- Options when work is finished
- Using the restroom and getting a drink of water during class
- Use of materials and cleaning up
- Use of TAB chairs
change but routines stay the same
clear expectations and applying them consistently in all of our sixth grade classrooms
has increased students’ ability to remember the routines, which helps them to
be responsible and ready to learn.
the Social Contract
spent the first week working an hour per day on a Social Contract. Students worked
in small groups to propose three-word guidelines for success, and those groups
shared their proposed guidelines in their homerooms.
Each homeroom came to consensus on three guidelines, then brought
those guidelines to the all-sixth-grade meeting, where each of our homerooms presented
their guidelines. Sixty-six students and four adults worked together, and we
ended with these four guidelines:
– Be respectful
– Be responsible
– Be honest
– Do your best
These are posted in all classrooms, including our Special Educator’s room.
In language arts
classes, each student wrote about what they felt was the most important of the
four guidelines. Each student wrote about why he or she believed that guideline
was most important. Students signed their writing, and we posted these thoughts
on a bulletin board in our hallway.
we moved through the year, we stopped
periodically and reflected on our
progress as a team and as individuals
toward the goal of being responsibly
independent learners. During these
discussions, we created new Y-charts as needed. In one instance, we talked
about our silent reading time. It was worth the time it took: now, students
sometimes remind each other of expected behavior by pointing to the chart when
someone is having a difficult time getting settled.
behaviors with new confidence
through with teaching routines and skills takes time that sometimes seems to be stolen from academic teaching. But without taking this
critical time to teach the skills students need to be independent and
responsible, academic learning suffers.
For the first time in my teaching career, I feel confident in my
ability to manage classroom behavior challenges. My teammates
and I consistently use TAB and TAB Out, and that has reduced my anxiety about
making sure the classroom is conducive to learning for all students.
Telling a student to take a break is not a punishment, and is
not perceived as one. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that the student (or I,
when I go to the take-a-break chair), needs a minute to collect thoughts, take
a deep breath, and get ready to return to learning.
TAB Out has provided me with a consistent plan for what to do
when a student needs to rethink what is driving her behavior. In the past, I had
to decide regarding each behavior incident what to do: send the child into the
hallway, to another teacher’s classroom, to the behavior planning room, etc.
Because students knew there were several possibilities, they often pushed back against
my decisions. Now we have an agreed-upon system, and we use it. It always
involves a conversation about what needs are not being met and how to make sure
those needs are met appropriately. We are the only team in the building that
has not sent a student to the planning room this year. That feels great!
my teammates and I completed our DD1 workshop, we asked our principal to
purchase resources for us to support our ongoing learning. He did, and now we each have a copy of The Advisory
Book and Tried and True Classroom Games and
Greetings. With these, my DD1 Resource
Book from class last summer, my
teammates, and the other teachers in my
building who are using the practices in
their classrooms, I am well equipped to
continue growing as a teacher. Implementing a new pedagogical approach to
classroom management and teaching has reinvigorated me and boosted my
confidence in myself. It was a great year!
Alison Levy teaches sixth graders at Essex Middle School in Essex Junction,
Published January 2013