Friday, March 15, 2013

Focus Focus (Easy as Hocus Pocus) Strategy

Rounding out 3rd quarter, coming around the bend. I think some of you all are already on Spring break. My 3 weeks break starts on Tuesday after one school day and a teacher workday. WOOT WOO :) 

Is this the time of year that it seems your students are in need of a break? A few weeks ago, I found that my students were having a very challenging time listening, focusing, and treating each other with kindness. COME ON GUYS!!! This is the time of the year when I think I am supposed to be getting the most done--3rd quarter, pre-state-testing, still have major things to learn, and hey, I show up to work hard! Why aren’t my students doing the same?

Well, one thing I realized is that I had dropped the ball on morning meeting. With so many snow days and late starts, we stopped reflecting on our behavior and stopped setting new classroom goals to work towards. (Honestly, my kiddos repeat themselves every day when reflecting on morning meeting goals, and we had achieved perseverance in math for the most part. And my kiddos are DARN NEAR perfect...But hey, isn’t it better to give them the time to repeat themselves each morning--what went well yesterday, what needs to be better today--than for me to constantly have to repeat myself?)

Let’s just say the trade-off of cutting morning meeting this quarter turned into a week’s worth of lengthy morning meetings focused on problem-solving the issues we were having.

First, I had students reflect on what they wanted out of the classroom. “When you show up to school at 8 am, what are you looking to get out of our day?” In one morning meeting, we discussed these hopes and dreams.

Next, students listed the main issues they felt we were having. Next, we went around our circle and told our top two. While students were reporting out, I was taking notes and tallies. These were our issues:

* socializing/side-conversations
* getting off topic
* talking out
* group not getting along
* having fun at inappropriate times
* joking/purposely bothering people
* learning time being wasted
* not wanting to learn-motivation
* not learning enough time
* too many noises
* rudeness to teacher
* too many distractions

Wow! Does this list sound familiar?

We were able to group the issues into two main problems:
Kindness (how we treat each other)--I learned we were having problems at recess that were spilling over into our afternoon learning time and focusing-issues like too many distractions, side conversations, people joking, lacking the motivation to learn, talking while the teacher is talking, etc. all relate back to a lack of focus.

In comes our FOCUS reminder sign. 

While students did most of the problem solving in our next class meeting, I already had the idea of our FOCUS reminder. When I say FOCUS, students know to get it together. This doesn’t just mean focusing on me, but focusing on the task at hand, focusing on anyone who is talking, and being motivated to do their best with their best focus.

How do I use the FOCUS sign? The class starts out at O. (I simply place the clothespin on O). With extremely great focus, they can move up to an F, but with poor focus, they move down to a C, U, and lastly an S. In a given subject, they can always move back up the FOCUS sign. They can move down to a C in one minute, and immediately be returned to an O with appropriate focus. So far, no tangible consequences or rewards come from this strategy. It is meant to be motivating within itself. Pride in our accomplishments and compliments from the teacher should be reward enough!

Now, what if the kiddos are just having a bad day? With my strategic, wise teacher thinking, I decided that the FOCUS sign would reset to O for every subject. Students might think I am just being forgiving or easy on them, but I am really using reverse psychology AND helping them REFOCUS for a new subject area. By saying that I know they are going to RESTART their focus, it isn't like they have to move back up from a U or C during a new subject. They already start at O and just try to maintain it. (I'm not sure if I am explaining the beauty of this well, but I hope you "get" it :)

I found that focusing at transitions (from quiet reading to a whole group math lesson) is one of our biggest challenges. Now, I feel dumb putting that in writing because DUHHHH! but sometimes I think we (I) forget to give students time to refocus because we (I) am rushing to the next thing we need to learn.

As I write this, I once again feel like I am doing "beginning of the year" stuff. But, I am starting to learn that kids need us to revisit "beginning of the year" lessons ALL YEAR LONG. When I'm frustrated with my kiddos (behavior, learning, etc) I eventually come around to "what can I change to help them change?"

OH.....AND I ALMOST FORGOT TO TELL YOU ANOTHER AWESOME PART OF THE FOCUS SIGN....It can travel with us!!! This week, it went to the computer lab with us :)

You can download the FOCUS templatefor free here. I hope you can use the FOCUS sign, and STAY TUNED for a MOTIVATING classroom management strategy that my students and I came up with, including how I am dealing with those "stinkers" who just can't seem to control themselves no matter what I've tried (or can they??? :). I am putting the finishing touches on multiple themes for my positive management strategy and can’t wait to share (something soooooo simple) with you. Look for it tomorrow! 

(PS-The cool chevron frames in my FOCUS logo are from Mrs. Dixon at Teaching Special Thinkers and the swirly purple frame is from the 3 AM Teacher. Be sure to check them both out!)

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  1. LOVE this idea! Especially having the students focus on what needs to be improved, rather than telling the ownership! Your list is very similar to one I would make. Thanks for sharing!


  2. You are so right! The kids are restless and need to refocus. Thanks for this post I needed it this morning:)

  3. Thanks Jess and Lcooney! I'm learning it just takes SOMETHING, even if my kiddos are pretty awesome most of the time!



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