Lions and Tigers and Bears…and Sharks!

Wall outside my 5th grade classroom with group mural 2011

Wall outside my 5th grade classroom with group mural 2011

I student taught 5th grade for a year and one of the things I implemented was a new classroom management system that worked on the premise of team work and peer pressure – in a good way!  We had 20 boys and 7 girls so the competition aspect really worked for this rowdy group of students.

So:  5 groups of 5-6 students arranged in table groups.  Each group had a name, and a cardboard pennant above their group.  I am all about accent you the positive – eliminate the negative in my teaching style.  When students were doing RIGHT, I clothes pinned their sign.  When they weren’t making good choices, I took a pin away.  I usually never even had to say a word or stop my teaching.  They got the message and the peer pressure usually halted this behavior for the duration.

At the end of the week we got to award the group with the most pins with a copy of their pennant added to the Ceiling Border of Pride that stayed up all year – they wanted to keep their winning streaks going –  and the entire class and myself sang loudly, badly, yet with feeling, the Queen anthem:  “we are the champions” song substituting the winning group name in and much air guitaring and jovial good well wishing and congratulating.  Being a good sport was massively important as a lesson to be learned with this particular group.    I also would hand out 5 mechanical pencils to the winners and that kind o’ stuff, but really, the pride as a group that had pulled together really created an awesome learning environment where everyone could win.

The poster outside the door really just cemented our classroom commitment to the idea that each student was an ambassador for their group wherever they went.  This poster was divided up between the first week’s winners to help decorate it.  I normally would have had them do the real work and have it be art – here it’s just my art with their help – but we were still working on building the trust it takes to create our own art.  That needed some more time for me to cultivate.