Rich Parisi: I was blessed to spend 26 years of my educational career as an elementary school principal. During those years I was part of or attended well over 100 days of staff training. One of my personal goals was to be a life-long learner, so I was always looking for at least one thing I could use from a training day. I must admit that some of the days were far better than others. I left some days overwhelmed with new ideas to use. There were some days when I really had to search for that one nugget to take away. I was also on the planning or training side of many of those days. In that role I always tried to make sure that the staff was left with at least one practical idea (hopefully more than one) they could put to use.
Earlier this school year Matt Davidson and I were able to spend one day training at Allen Creek Elementary School. Maureen Norton, one of the teachers in that group, recently sent me a note to highlight some of what has been going on in her classroom. I was very encouraged to see that Maureen took the Power2Achieve Portable Compact-4-Excellence and immediately put it to use in her classroom. What follows is a brief summary of some of the highlights of Maureen’s school year that demonstrate her desire to be a life-long learner and take what she is learning to make a difference in her classroom. I was also thankful to see how one of our Power2Achieve tools was playing a key role in many of the good things that Maureen has done in her classroom this year.
Maureen Norton: Integrating the Compact-4-Excellence Into My Classroom
On the first day of First Grade we made a Class Power2Achieve Portable Compact-4-Excellence, aka our “Class Promise”. In our Power2Achieve Compact, we listed ways to “Be Our Best Selves and Do Our Best Work,” which is our school motto. Together we brainstormed ideas and this is the list we came up with:
- Make friends
- Help each other
- Be patient
- Be nice
- Try new things
- Take care of our classroom
- Understand that everyone makes mistakes and it’s ok
- Understand “Stop!” means “Stop!”
We recently added “Keep our volume down.” We refer to this promise almost every day. It helped us start our year off as a team and with a clear understanding of what is expected of us in our classroom. It has helped to create the culture of excellence that has allowed my students to continue to grow academically and as people of character.
Another management technique I have used for two years now is an approach called the Daily Five. This technique was created by two sisters who are teachers, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. This approach allows the children to make a choice of the activity they will be doing during literacy time. The five choices are 1. Read to Self 2. Read to Someone 3. Listen to Reading 4. Word Work and 5. Work on Writing. As I introduced these choices, we made a promise about the behavior that would go along with each choice. Taking this time to reflect on what we would need to do for the Daily Five to work brought us right back to our Portable Compact-4-Excellence/class promise and school motto Being Our Best Selves and Doing Our Best Work. I believe connecting the Daily Five to the Compact/Class Promise helped us to maximize the power of the Daily Five.
A strategy that is new to me this year and I am very happy with is the Literacy Café. This also was created by the “Two Sisters.” Café is an acronym for Comprehension Accuracy Fluency Expand Vocabulary. With this approach I have taught the class reading strategies in each category. At the beginning of each week in reading groups the children are asked to choose a goal for the week, a strategy to work on. This has been a huge success!! The kids have been so excited and will say, “Ms. Norton I just chunked a word and I figured it out” or “I just backed up and reread and I understood what the author was saying!” The kids have come so far as readers, and their confidence as learners has soared. Once again the culture of excellence we created by starting the year with the Power2Achieve Portable Compact-4-Excellence helped to establish the atmosphere where the Literary Café has been able to be so successful.
A conflict/resolution technique that we use in our classroom is The Talk It Out Corner. When the children have a problem with another student, they must go to The Talk It Out Corner to solve their problem with words. When they are there, one person holds a popsicle stick with a picture of an ear and the other person holds a picture of a mouth. The person with the mouth starts with an “I” statement, such as “I didn’t like it when you pushed me. It made me feel sad.” They then switch pictures and the other person has an opportunity to respond, for example, “I am sorry, I didn’t mean to, it was an accident, I will be more careful.” This technique has not only eliminated tattle telling in our classroom, it has also taught the students to solve problems using words and how to express their feelings. Once again as I look at the success of this process, I see connections to the work we did in starting the year with the Power2Achieve Portable Compact-4-Excellence. Because my students have learned to listen, help each other, understand that we all make mistakes and so on, we have been more successful in how we solve conflicts in our room.