by Harry and Rosemary
Barbara De Santis
can get the attention of her students in less than five seconds.
And she can do this just by saying three words accompanied with
a smile—because she knows it works every time.
Currently teaching in the Sayreville Public Schools in New Jersey,
Ms. De Santis only has to say, “Give Me Five” and
the class quiets down immediately. This technique is explained
on page 184 of the book The First Days of School,
and in DVD 4 in the video series The Effective Teacher.
Her procedure to get the attention of her class works so well
that her fifth grade student, Sejal Kapadia, wrote a poem that
illustrates how well the class internalizes the procedure.
“GIVE ME FIVE”
When the teacher says, “Give me five”
It’s just like the queen bee calling us to the hive.
When she says 1 it means
you have to look at her.
When she says 2
you have to be quiet.
When she says 3
still is what you’ll be.
When she says 4
your hands are free.
When 5 is said,
just turn your head.
Then you’ll have to listen, listen, listen.
Barbara has taught for five years and came into teaching from
private industry on a career change through the New Jersey alternative
One of the traits of career changers is that they come
from the private sector which is procedure and results-oriented.
For the most part, they are intelligent, confident, mature, professional
people who have come from a background that values results.
Thus, producing student achievement is part of their culture
of generating results. Student achievement is their
Barbara Starts Her First Day of School With a Plan
Effective teachers have a plan for student achievement ready
on the first day of school. To see Barbara De Santis’
first day of school script, click
She meets her students in the hallway.
This is an excellent management procedure as it prevents students
from wandering around the room before they find their seats.
She arranges them in alphabetical order and then welcomes her
students with a message of positive expectations that they will
have a wonderful year. For them to succeed, she encourages
them to “Choose their attitude” toward each day.
She greets each student individually as they enter the
room, checks their name off of the class list, and gives each
a card with a student number. The desks have been numbered to
match the student number. The students sit quickly
and begin to work.
There is an assignment already on the board, called a
“Do Now.” Their first Do Now is to
complete an information card and to also to draw pictures about
their feelings on science and social studies.
While they are working on their assignment, classical music is
playing and Barbara checks the class for vision problems and seating
adjustments based on IEP/504 accommodations. (Google IEP/504 if
you are not aware of this law and what your responsibilities are
to accommodate children.)
After she collects the information cards, she introduces herself
to the class and shares her mission with the class.
Her mission is to see that her students do the following:
- Achieve strong academic skills
- Build self-efficacy (Google this wonderful
- Cultivate conscientious citizenship
Orientation to the classroom and housekeeping follows.
This includes room layout, homework board, garbage and recycle
box, location of bathrooms, reference materials, and the teacher
inbox. The inbox is for 1) early work, such as contracts
submitted for grading and revision, 2) makeup work, and 3) mail
for the teacher.
Barbara has a team goal: Be a BRAIN! She
asks her class repeatedly what BRAIN means and if they are following
the procedures of being a BRAIN.
Bring writing supplies
Ready to learn
Assignments at hand
Barbara Has a Classroom Management Plan
Barbara’s first day of school script is really
her classroom management plan for the first two weeks of school.
With her plan, she teaches her students how to be responsible
by building their self-efficacy and conscientious citizenship.
It takes her two weeks to teach her class how to be responsible
and in control of their own learning.
To help them, she has classroom procedures.
Remember, as we have said repeatedly:
Students can only be responsible
if there are procedures
to which they can be responsible to.
First Days of School, p. 191
Barbara has a procedure for these activities:
At the beginning of the class
Daily homework review
At the end of class
When a guest enters the room
Traveling in the building
Coming to attention or “Give Me Five”
And many more
She presents her procedures as a PowerPoint presentation to her
here to see a list of her classroom procedures.
|In past columns, we have featured other teachers using PowerPoint
to share their procedures with the students.
To help you develop a classroom management plan, you can review
“A Successful First Day Is No Secret.” (September
If you would like to learn how to develop your
own classroom management plan,
please go to
Barbara Builds a Classroom Community
Because her class is highly interactive, Barbara has
discovered the efficacy of using sign language.
For instance, the sign for “please” is made by placing
the flat right hand over the center of the chest and moving the
hand in a clockwise motion.
The sign for “thank you” is made by touching the
lips with the front of the fingers of the right hand. The
hand should be an "open-b." Move the hand away from
your face, palms upward. Smile.
To see these and other signed words, go to http://www.lifeprint.com.
Building a classroom community is Barbara’s goal.
Using sign language is a part of the culture of her class.
Signing gives both the teacher and students something else to
have in common and since "please" and "thank you"
are the most frequently used signs, she uses this to build a community.
She shares that using sign language is another way of
communicating and breaks up the daily routine.
It also encourages a person to look at the speaker. Some
of her students, who do not do as well academically, excel in
sign language! One year, she had the Spanish teacher teach
them the correct phrase to use for going to the bathroom.
If some of her students could not do it, she had some of her ESL
students assist them, using mastery to build self-efficacy!
Barbara says, “As much as I want my students to take the
content knowledge from my class, I also want to teach life skills,
like manners.” For instance, if a student wishes to
go to the bathroom, she teaches them that "may" and
"please" are the key words.
She likes the additional form of communicating in sign language.
For a student who has done something for her, such as turning
off the lights at the end of the day, she can sign "Thank
you." During assemblies, she can often catch the eye of a
student whose mind is wandering and sign "Pay attention,
Because there are some basic words that she uses over and over,
she has created signs for these words. In time, the students
become move involved and create signs of their own. They
even made up signs for "Give Me Five." Many of her students
are kinesthetic learners, and even Barbara feels that she is a
kinesthetic learner, so both have profited from the experience.
At the end of the year, student feedback has been very
positive in indicating to her the benefits of gestures and signs.
“It makes it much more fun and animated for all of us,”
Barbara Teaches Her Class to Celebrate Success
She teaches her class to celebrate the success of other
students. The procedure is called
Get it; Got it; Good!
- The teacher will ask one student if he/she “Get(s)
it” (or understands the idea).
- If the student understands the direction or idea, he/she will
say “Got it” and the class responds with “Good”
(as low as they can).
- If the student does not understand the concept, he/she will
say “No.” The teacher will then
ask a question about what part is not clear. The teacher
will provide any additional information or example. When
the student understands the information, the teacher will go
back to step one.
In some schools and classrooms, peer pressure severely limits
achievement. Students who DO NOT do well scorn those who
DO well, and these students join together,
socially, to limit each other’s success. It may even
accelerate into bullying.
Barbara does not allow that culture to develop in her
classroom by teaching her students to respect and celebrate the
success of others.
Marvin Marshall (The First Days of School,
p. 164 and www.MarvinMarshall.com)
recently shared how a high school posted two signs, “respect”
and “responsibility,” on the walls of every classroom
and halls. Some teachers greeted this procedure with rolling
eyes and doubtful looks, but all were told that they did not need
to do anything except to observe and make notes of any reactions
the students had regarding the posted signs.
Within a few weeks, anecdote after anecdote painted a picture
of positive reactions by students. At first, students asked
why the signs were posted, and then they wanted to discuss the
principles. Teachers, without being prompted, began to use
the words "respect" and "responsibility" in
class discussions and in some cases taught writing, language arts,
and social studies lessons using the concepts.
Most surprising were the examples of students beginning to use
the language of respect and responsibility in conversations.
Several teachers related that they had heard students discussing
these concept and in a few cases reminding their peers to be more
respectful or responsible. One teacher said, "They
were actually using the words."
In Barbara’s classroom, the students
get into the habit of saying “Good.”
Testing the Classroom Management Plan
Barbara has a test she gives her students to assess their
understanding of the Classroom Management Plan.
To see her Classroom Procedures Test, click
Because she wants her class to do well on the test, she gives
the students an opportunity to show her how much they have learned
after two weeks of being taught the procedures. The test
counts as two grades, one for science and one for social studies.
The procedures have been rehearsed and rehearsed, thus everyone
does well on the test and the class starts the year off in a positive
Barbara Is Proactive
Effective teachers are proactive teachers.
They have a plan to prevent problems. Then they work the plan.
They proactively have a plan to forestall problems from occurring.
Ineffective teachers are reactive. Ineffective
teachers do not have a plan. They react to each problem
as they occur. Then they rely on gimmicks and single shot
tricks, such as shrill sounding whistles, to use on a hit or miss
process to confront the problem.
Read the chat board that follows this column and note the number
of teachers looking for simplistic, quick-fix gimmicks to solve
classroom problems. And when the quick-fix gimmick does
not work, they react and seek consequences or punishments to control
the classroom or, as one teacher wanted, “make an impact”
on the class.
Effective teachers can see the big picture.
They are ready on the first day of school with a big picture of
a complete classroom management action plan. See www.ClassroomManagement.com
for an explanation of this term.
|Barbara is ready and organized for the first day
of school. The students immediately see and
sense this. It’s comforting to know that you are
in the classroom of a competent teacher.
- She has a classroom management plan.
- She has a class theme or goal: “BRAIN.”
- She has a class mission: “ABC.”
What a way to start!
Even With a Plan, Think Gumby
Barbara shared with us her thoughts on the first day of school.
Procedures are what will make your students (and you!) successful
and reduce your stress. It seems difficult at times to practice
(and practice, and practice), but the benefits are enormous –
so stick with it!
Teaching, to me, is undoubtedly, an evolutionary process.
It is full of constant change at irregular pace. The last
lesson of the day does not always look like the first. I’ve
made great leaps and then there have been a few extinctions, yet,
I still keep growing and refining my craft.
You really need to be flexible—not only from day to day
or class to class but also minute by minute! This does not
mean you change your rules or procedures, but you have to consider
the instructional methods, assessments, and interests of your
students. One size does not fit all! And Gumby was
not a solo performer; you shouldn’t be either. Seek
others for help and support.
Remember the magic. I think that’s why we have chosen
this profession. I cannot explain the wonder of seeing a
student really get it! I have my students complete a survey
each June with the question: “What class activity really
helped you learn this year?” Sometimes it is my carefully
prepared labs and detailed lessons. Or it can be a small
moment (that was not detailed in my lesson plan) that made all
And What Do You Think?
Who will you think about as the school year begins? Wong?
Disney?“ Gumby? Darwin? All have wonderful symbolism
associated with them for your happiness and success as a teacher.
“Think the Fox” from The Little
The soul of the book is embraced in a line uttered by the fox
to the little prince. The fox says, “It is only with
the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible
to the eye.”
That statement is the quintessential essence of classroom management—what
is essential is invisible to the eye. Barbara De Santis
works for weeks with her students on classroom management and
then gives them a test for grade. Yet, to walk into her
classroom, one would see students working and learning—the
classroom humming with excitement and curriculum. The classroom
procedures that have been taught and made part of the fabric of
the classroom environment are invisible to the eye, yet vital
for the smooth operation of the classroom. The casual observer
would spot the learning and completely miss the classroom management.
The time spent to establish your procedures at the start of the
school year will pay dividends that are clear and observable—more
time for teaching, greater responsibility by the students for
their behavior, a sense of calm and ease in the classroom, and
respect by students for one another.
The fox from The Little Prince also says, “You
become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” The
opportunity to make a difference in the life of a child begins
with organizing your classroom.
Gumby’s friend Pokey often got dragged into situations
against his will, but ended up always appreciating the experience.
Resist the temptation to ignore procedures and begin teaching
subject matter during the first days of school. It may seem
like a waste of valuable learning time, but in the end you and
your students will appreciate the atmosphere created in the classroom.
There is more time for student success after procedures are in
Procedures are just like the ABCs. They are deceivingly
simple, but when combined, they transform into powerful imagery.
- Achieve strong academic skills
- Build self-efficacy
- Cultivate conscientious citizenship
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