News, resources, and links to help educators and home schoolers improve academic achievement.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Refocus Area" Classroom Management Technique (Elementary)

Not all parents are equipped to discipline their children properly, and teachers are left to deal with interruptions caused by students with behavioral and emotional problems. Are you ready to face the discipline challenges that are sure to come with the start of the school year? If not, there are some great online teacher forums and social network communities that share tips on classroom management.  

Jason Harris, an elementary teacher in southern coastal Maine who has taught kindergarten through grade 5 over the past 14 years (in Maine as well as Kansas), shared a unique classroom management tool with Teacher's Lounge group members on LinkedIn. 

Jason had this to say:  "I know what works in terms of discipline and keeping kids focused and giving them a sense of purpose by establishing goals through one on one and ongoing conferencing in literacy and mathematics."  He added, "As long as I spend the first few weeks teaching procedures and routines as well as being relentless and persistent, everyone eventually settles down."  One concept Jason uses in his classroom is the "refocus area," which he implemented as a result of participating in Larry Thompson's Responsibility-Centered Discipline training program (  The program is based around natural consequences and doesn't coddle children the way some school discipline plans do.  Mr. Thompson came to Jason's school in Wichita, Kansas and gave the staff there intensive training in Give 'em Five, which is used in conjunction with the "refocus area" concept.  Both are outlined below:   

Give 'em Five  

1.  A positive statement:  "Child's name, I'm so happy to have you as a student this year."  

2. Communicate the behavior breakdown: "I want you to be successful this year, so I'm going to tell you something that will help you.  Right now I  saw/heard you were...."  

3.  Communicate the behavior expectation: "What will make you more successful would be to....." 

4.  Check for understanding: "Do you understand what I'm saying?  

5.  Closure:  "Great! Thanks, (Child's name), I think you're going to be very successful this year."  

Refocus Area 

Jason says he introduces the "refocus area" on the very first day of class.  Here's how it works:  

Using color-coded foam mats that connect (found at Home Depot and Lowe's), connect the red, yellow, and blue mats (in that order) in a designated "refocus area."  On the first day, before anyone misbehaves, explain to all of the students what the "refocus area" is and how it works.  When a student is sent there, he/she first sits on the red mat, which means, "I'm not ready to work with you."  After a short while, the student can move to the middle mat (the yellow one), which means, "I'm thinking."  Jason notes, "I never talk to a student or look over there for more than a nano second if they are sitting on the red or yellow mats."  When a child is calm (and bored) and ready to rejoin the group or activity, he/she knows to move to the blue mat which shows the teacher, "I'm ready to work with you."  At this point, Jason says, "(Child's name, I see you're on the blue mat and you appear to be ready to work with me."  He then goes through the Give 'em Five routine outline above, repeating everything he already said before he was interrupted by the student.  

If the "refocus area" routine doesn't work, he keeps a huge smile on his face, and no matter what the student does (kicking chairs, cussing -- whatever) he and the entire class know to ignore him/her, and he calmly sends the student to the principal's office.   Jason's advice is to "disengage once you tell the child what to do."  He tells readers, "Hope this helps.  It's no silver bullet, but my office referrals plummeted (as did other teachers') once we all were consistent.  Consistent language is also crucial.  I used to practice in front of the mirror!" 

"The important thing is not to argue or get hooked into getting upset or angry.  It is so much less taxing and tiring.  My energy level and stamina have increased in the past 5 years of 'practicing' this; and it is definitely a practice.  I think it is amazing how the love for teaching can endure if discipline and classroom management can be kept under the teacher's control."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Free at Last!

I was reading through a newsletter for educators, and saw that there was a link to FREE printables and resources for teachers.  I decided to check it out. When I clicked on the link, it took me to a website that had a long list of links, each offering FREE printables or resources.  One by one, I clicked on each link. Many of these links required a membership fee of up to $39.95 in order to access the “free” printables; others boldly advertised products for sale right on the home page. Seriously? That’s like ordering a hamburger at the drive-through and the worker asking you if you want cheese on your hamburger (for an additional charge, of course).  Wouldn’t that make it a CHEESEburger?
Back to the printables:  I was guarded when I finally came across a link that promised “free printables and resources – free membership." I clicked on the link and it took me to the homepage to register for the Teachers’ Social Network.  It’s like Facebook, but for teachers.  Interesting….but still no printables. Maybe my free membership would give me access to the free resources.  I decided it couldn’t hurt to join,so I entered my profile information.  I got an error message on my computer screen (and wondered if I just downloaded a virus on my computer). Irritated, I went back to the home page and started over, but when I entered my e-mail address, it said I was already registered.  So, I logged in and clicked on my profile page.  It belonged to a different “Sue” who lives in New Zealand. I noticed that “Sue”-in-New-Zealand joined the community in 2010 and there was no activity or profile pic, so I deleted the profile altogether. Then I realized I never did see that link to those free resources!  Another hour wasted on the internet!
At this point, I was even more determined to find a website that truly had free resources for teachers, so I Googled “free printables, no membership fee,” and I found a site that has worksheets, printables and craft projects.  As an added bonus, all of the freebies are organized by category, grade level and subject!  I crossed my fingers as I clicked through to a specific math worksheet and hit the “print” button.  I was so excited when it actually sent the page to my print que!  Then, I thought, "I can't keep this to myself -- I need to share it on all of our social media networks right away!" 
Here’s the link:
If you happen to be surfing (the internet) this summer, and run across a great website, would you please share it in the Comments section below?  We will pass the links along to our newsletter subscribers and Facebook fans. As for me, I've learned my lesson about clicking on website links that don't come highly recommended from a friend or associate.