30 March 2017

10 Tips for Helping BIG KIDS Manage Themselves at SCHOOL

I have a 5th grader and an 8th grader at home.  I just received letters from both the HIGH SCHOOL and MIDDLE SCHOOL informing me that I now, officially, have BIG kids!  How will I not have any little kids anymore?  My mommy heart is crying crocodile tears, but my mommy brain is spinning with thoughts of "how in the world will these two handle the new responsibilities of middle and high school?"

So, instead of looking at baby pictures with teary eyes and a glass of chardonnay, I stepped out of my mommy-self and put on my teacher-thinking-cap.  I work with big kids every day.  I help big kids get organized in my classroom.  I advise parents JUST LIKE ME on how to help their kids adjust to middle school.  Plus, my son has survived middle school with great grades and minimal drama, so I must have done something right. So, I sat down and made a list.  (Doesn't everything seem easier to handle when you start with a list?!?) Actually, I made 2 lists...one for teachers at school and one for parents at home! I'll share each list in a separate blog post :)

TOP 10 Tips for helping BIG KIDS Manage Themselves at SCHOOL

1. Each student should have a dedicated homework folder.  This folder goes to EVERY class and only work that needs to travel between school and home goes in it.  Now there is no need for kids dragging 50-pound backpacks home or forgetting something important in their locker!

2. Teach kids to use their planner/assignment book.  Spend time at the beginning of the year teaching this skill, then follow up throughout the year with occasional check ups.  Reward those students with fully filled-in books.

3. Use Google Classroom!  It is SO easy to set up and manage.  You can post assigments, a calendar, e-copies of work, online textbook links, video links, just about anything you can think of.  This is a life-saving resource for kids who forget papers...all they need is an internet connection and device!

4.Use remind.com to make parent/student communication quick and easy!  Just sign up for an account, then you can send texts to remind parents and students of upcoming due dates, tests, etc.

5. Create a team blog to use as an online assignment book.  Our 6th grade team all has "ownership" of a blog and we all post our daily assignments in one place.  This is especially helpful for students who struggle to fill in their planners.  Google Sites and Blogger are really easy to set up and use!

6. Have a box of extra copies in your classroom.  Put a file folder in for each day of the month.  Toss in a few extra copies of papers passed out each day for absent or absent-minded students.  If today is March 30, the papers go in file #30.

7. Don't let important materials leave the room!  I like to have ISN/Journal storage bins in my classroom.  I also don't let textbooks leave...students have online textbooks for home.

8. Offer a "Get Out of Jail Free" card!  Let kids know that we understand mistakes happen and occasionally we are all forgetful.  I like to give out one or two homework passes per quarter and my team uses "oops" coupons which students can attach to late work for no point loss.

9. Reward GREAT behavior!  Our school is a PBIS school and we give coupons to students who are caught being good.  Then, each teacher has a "store" in their classroom where students can redeem their coupons for candy, late work passes, leave class early passes, sit in the teacher's seat reward, etc.  Students really love these rewards and it helps keep them on task!

10. Offer help, but set boundaries.  I like to open my class for lunch one or two days a week to students who have questions, need extra help, or need to make up work after an absence.  I also make myself available via e-mail.  However, many students (and parents) try to overuse this help, so make sure you set boundaries about how quickly parents should expect a response from e-mail, how many times a student can come in at lunch, or how late in the day is acceptable to send e-mails about homework.

Have questions about how I organize things? Have other ideas to help students become more responsible?  I'd love to hear what you do! Comment below or e-mail me at teachwithmrsb@gmail.com!   

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