by Harry and Rosemary Wong
A Stress Free Teacher
Because of the teachers in the alternative program,
I am doing better in class and in life.
Chris Taylor, 7th grader
||N. P. Moss Middle School
||A High Poverty Middle School
||95% African-American, 92% Free and Reduced Lunches
||Poor discipline, poor social skills, and academic failure
||93% of class pass Louisiana Educational Assessment Program test
||Liz Breaux, classroom teacher
Liz Breaux has been teaching for 17 years. At N. P, Moss Middle School, she seldom has major problems, her students are successful, and she is basically stress free! Administrators, teachers, and parents have often wondered what's Liz's "secret" recipe for success with her students.
Liz has no secrets, because effective teachers do not employ tricks of the trade, the latest fad, or untested opinions. Liz Breaux's success is based on good classroom management skills, which are known to all effective classroom teachers. These can all be found in Unit C of The First Days of School.
Currently, Liz teaches Language Arts in a middle school to alternative students who are anywhere from one to three years behind their appropriate grade levels and who have experienced failure in so many forms that they know little else. Thanks to
her students are highly successful. Last year, all of her students passed the 7th grade--and the curriculum is accelerated to prepare them for the statewide 8th grade test.
- simple structural procedures,
- a positive attitude, and
- high student expectations,
A "Start/Stop" Page
The beginning is the most important part of the work.
On the first day of school, Liz Breaux greets her students at the door and instructs each one to find the desk which has a "start/stop" page with their name written on it. Silent reading is done daily for the first ten minutes of class. Each day students use this sheet to record the page on which they start and then the page on which they stop their reading.
She also uses this sheet as a roll "call" tool (names are never actually "called out"), as sheets are left in books, which are laid out on the counter daily. On succeeding days, the students pick up their books upon entering class and begin their daily reading. The teacher can mark absences while students are reading by checking which students' books have remained on the counter.
On the first day of school, Liz Breaux explains the "start/stop" procedure, which will commence as soon as all students have checked out a book from the library. Since this activity is a graded activity, she also explains the grading scale on the first day, as students must know the importance of their daily reading and how they will be graded on a six-week basis. The school uses the Accelerated Reader computer tests, so each book that a student checks out comes complete with a test which students take, on the computer, once the book has been read.
Liz Breaux uses an accountability/responsibility technique she calls her "Star Chart," which she says, "Works beautifully!"
There are four colored charts (white, yellow, red, and blue, in that order), which are placed on the bulletin board. A numbered star for each student is on the red chart on the first day of school. Students are given a number on that first day, also. The object is to get your star to the blue chart. Stars remain on a chart from Monday- Friday. A student whose star is on the blue chart for that week can add 5 points to all graded assignment that week. She changes stars after school every Friday. Students move "up" a chart when they do the following for one week:
- turn in all homework that week
- are on time to class every day that week
- receive no conduct marks/demerits that week
- bring all materials to class that week
A student who is deficient in any one or more areas above for that week will have his/her star moved "down" one chart. There is no penalty for going down, other than forfeiting the opportunity for the extra points that week. STUDENTS LOVE THIS! They can't wait for Monday mornings to see on which chart their star is! They know that if their star is on the blue chart, they may write their own +5 at the top of every graded assignment that week!
"Graded Assignment Folder"
The students are each given a "graded assignment folder." They are to write their names on their folders and on the "grade sheet" which has already been placed inside the folder. From here on, they are responsible for writing down and inserting all returned graded assignments. (This is for student use only, as the teacher keeps all scores in a grade book!) The grade sheet is a chart, which lists every assignment that they will have for that six-week period. Whenever an assignment is returned, students are given their folders. They record the following:
- type of assignment
- possible points that can be earned on the assignment
- total points actually earned on the assignment
- letter grade given according to points earned
The students are shown how to tally "points earned" and "possible points," and how to use these two figures to average their grades. This way, they can do a quick average of their own from time to time during the six-week period. This keeps the students constantly aware of their averages throughout the six-week period. There is NEVER a question about a grade, as students know exactly what they have earned. Parents receive a copy of this also, as it is very easy to read and understand and keeps them abreast of academic progress.
Ms. Breaux not only helped me with my schoolwork
but with my social skills. Without this program,
I'd be just another at risk kid.
Victor Senegal, 7th grader
Liz Breaux teaches and models and the students practice and rehearse an extensive list of social skills throughout the year. She begins with "getting the teacher's attention." She begins by asking a question that every student will know the answer to and will be eager to share. When the question is asked, the students invariably all answer at once. She commends them for their enthusiasm, but explains that they cannot all answer at once. She informs them that from now on they must raise their hand and answer only when called upon. They then practice this.
Liz Breaux then asks a variety of fun questions that they will all be eager to answer. This activity is always fun and is also a way for everyone to get to know one another.
The following is a list of some of the other social skills that her students typically DO NOT possess when they come to school. She treats each skill like the above, making it a learning activity.
- Entering and exiting the room
- Disagreeing appropriately
- Accepting "no" for an answer
- Greeting others appropriately
- Saying "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome"
- Additional procedures as the year progresses
Using this technique, Liz Breaux has very few major discipline problems in the classroom, due to the efficacy of structured procedures and routines. For literally everything that the students do in the classroom, behaviorally and academically, structured procedures are implemented. When students do not follow the procedures, as does happen from time to time, she does not scold them. She simply reminds them of the procedures and they practice them again. This way, students always know what is expected of them, they know exactly what to expect from the teacher, and the classroom runs very smoothly. The classroom atmosphere is extremely work-oriented, yet it is always pleasant and supportive.
This is why Liz Breaux says she has very little work-related stress---because good classroom management is the key! When asked by new teachers at one of her workshops recently if she had a "secret," she referred them to The First Days of School and said, "Here's the secret."
Establish Consistency the First Week of School
Let's review what Liz Breaux does to make her classroom run so smoothly so that her students can improve academically.
Liz spends her first week of school basically teaching procedures, first in management and then in academics. She implements and practices with her students things such as entering the classroom, sharpening pencils, getting busy with bellwork upon entering, asking for permission to speak, treating one another with dignity, passing in papers, keeping track of supplies, working in groups, etc. And all the while, she never raises her voice.
When students don't follow the procedure, she simply reminds them and practices the appropriate procedure with them. She also makes sure that students are constantly working--from bell to bell. Many of her students will tell you that they're so busy, they literally don't have time to misbehave! And she remains, most importantly, consistent.
The most important concept to install the first week of school is CONSISTENCY.
When Liz Breaux feels certain that students understand the basic operational procedures of the classroom, she moves on to academic procedures. Her students come to her with very poor reading and writing skills. She begins by teaching basic paragraph structure--the "five finger rule" of topic sentence, three detail sentences, and one closing sentence. Students practice and practice and practice until they understand and can implement the basic procedure. She then moves on to extended writings where the same procedure is applied--five paragraphs, with one opening paragraph, three detail paragraphs, and one closing paragraph. Students can grasp this concept due to the simple procedures.
If not for you, I would not know
how to write an essay.
Curtis Thomas, 7th grader
My life is so much easier, now that I
LaShonda Harris, 7th grader
finally understand how TO DO the
work. Thank you for making a
difference in my life.
The students behave in class because they know exactly what is expected of them, and they are made to feel successful! By March of the school year, students have become so accustomed to writing and reading, due to structured practice following basic procedures, that they are well prepared for the 8th grade LEAP test--Louisiana Educational Assessment Program. A passing grade on this test allows her 7th grade alternative students to move to the 9th grade, skipping the 8th grade, and therefore getting "back on track."
Last year, 27 of 29 of her students passed the Language Arts portion of the LEAP test and the other two passed following summer remediation. Statewide, 15 percent of 8th graders did not pass the Language Arts portion. In Liz Breaux's parish 9 percent did not pass the Language Arts portion. So her students exceeded both the state and parish levels with regard to pass/fail ratio. Remember, these are all students in an alternative program who are repeaters.
You explained things from A to Z, and you broke them down
piece by piece. You wouldn't stop until you would know I got it.
Brian Mouton, 7th grader
Making a Difference
Liz's philosophy is that well-rehearsed procedures are the key to successful classroom management and effective teaching. She has proven, 17 years running, that discipline need not be a concern if procedural practices are implemented and consistently adhered to.
Annette Breaux, who is Liz Breaux's sister, shared much of the information for this column with us. She says, "Liz is probably too humble to tell you how good she is, so I'm sending you this information."
Liz Breaux is representative of the thousands of unsung teachers who are accomplishing what effective teachers know how to do, and since it's all so common sense, they do not think they are doing anything unusual or exceptional.
We know there are many Liz Breaux's out there, who are exceptional teachers. You will never be nominated for a Milkin Award or a Disney Teaching Award. You will probably not even become a teacher certified by the National Board. And more than likely you'll never be honored by your local school system.
But, we will venture to say that you will receive at least one award from a Chris Taylor who says because of you I am doing better in class and in life or from a LaShonda Harris who says thank you for making a difference in my life.
These are the awards, the plaques, the trophies that say the most as they come from the heart of the kids we struggle to keep on track in life.
You came into teaching to make a difference. Find a way to touch a child's heart today.
Past Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:
If you spot a link that appears to be out-of-date, please alert us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years (Jun 2015)
- Love, Marriage, and Babies, Oh My! (May 2015)
- Retention Rate Is 100 Percent (Apr 2015)
- Teacher Effectiveness and Human Capital (Mar 2015)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Feb 2015)
- Making Deals Is Ineffective (Dec 2014 / Jan 2015)
- Retrieving and Carrying Electronic Devices (Nov 2014)
- Sharing to Succeed (Oct 2014)
- How a University Prepares Its Students (Sep 2014)
- Effective Teaching (Aug 2014)
- Your Future Is in Your Hands (June/July 2014)
- The Classroom Management Book (May 2014)
- When Students Succeed; Teachers Succeed (April 2014)
- Teaching New Teachers How to Succeed (March 2014)
- Execute and Praise (February 2014)
- Shaping a Solid Foundation (Dec 2013 / Jan 2014)
- The Most Misunderstood Word (November 2013)
- How to Start Class Every Day (October 2013)
- Prevention: The Key to Solving Discipline Problems (September 2013)
- Planning, Planning, Planning (August 2013)
- Are You THE One? (June / July 2013)
- Practical Examples That Work (May 2013)
- A Disability Is Not a Handicap (Apr 2013)
- Totally Inexcusable (Mar 2013)
- Be Proud of Public Education (Feb 2013)
- Structure Will Motivate Students (Dec 2012 / Jan2013)
- Orchestrating the Classroom (Nov 2012)
- The Lasting Impact of Instructional Coaching (Oct 2012)
- Learning, Laughing, and Leaving a Legacy (Sep 2012)
- Twenty-two, First Year, and Legit (Aug 2012)
- A Master Teacher of Teachers (June/July 2012)
- Where Going to School Means Success (May 2012)
- A Nationally Celebrated High School (Apr 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 2 (Mar 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 1 (Feb 2012)
- The Importance of Culture (Dec 2011 / Jan 2012)
- You Can Teach Classroom Management (Nov 2011)
- Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent (Oct 2011)
- Coaching Teachers to Be Effective Instructors (Sep 2011)
- How a Principal Creates a Culture of Consistency (Aug 2011)
- Graduation Begins in Your Classroom (June/July 2011)
- The Inspiration of a Mother (May 2011)
- How to Be an Effective Leader (Apr 2011)
- Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson (Mar 2011)
- Even Shakespeare Had Structure (Feb 2011)
- Effectiveness Defined: It's Not a Mystery (Dec 2010 / Jan 2011)
- Surviving Without a Principal (Nov 2010)
- Achieving Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 2 (Oct 2010)
- Teaching Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 1 (Sep 2010)
- Effective from the Start (Aug 2010)
- Ten Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2010 (June/July 2010)
- The Success of a Culture of Consistency (May 2010)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Apr 2010)
- Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn (Mar 2010)
- Turning Teaching Dreams into Reality (Feb 2010)
- Dreams and Wishes Can Come True (Dec 2009 / Jan 2010)
- Success in a State Controlled School (Nov 2009)
- Inner City Is Not An Excuse (Oct 2009)
- Exceeding All Expectations (Sep 2009)
- Teachers Are the Difference (Aug 2009)
- Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2009 (Jun/Jul 2009)
- Teachers Are the Greatest Assets (May 2009)
- The Tools for Success (Apr 2009)
- Assessing for Student Learning (Mar 2009)
- To Be an Effective Teacher Simply Copy and Paste (Feb 2009)
- The Sounds of Students Learning and Performing (Dec 2008)
- A School That Achieves Greatness (Nov 2008)
- Boaz City Schools: Professional Learning Teams (Oct 2008)
- It Was Something Close to a Miracle (Sep 2008)
- A Computer Teacher Shows the Way (Aug 2008)
- Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008 (Jun/Jul 2008)
- An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher (May 2008)
- Schools That Beat the Academic Odds (Apr 2008)
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers (Mar 2008)
- Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors (Feb 2008)
- Wrapping the Year with Rap! (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)
- The Floating Teacher (Nov 2007)
- Taking the Bite Out of Assessment—Using Scoring Guides (Oct 2007)
- Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School (Sep 2007)
- First Day of School Script - in Spanish, Too! (Aug 2007)
- Seven Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2007 (Jun 2007)
- Effective Teachers End the Year Successfully (May 2007)
- Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness (Apr 2007)
- Classroom Management Applies to All Teachers (Mar 2007)
- Students Want a Sense of Direction (Feb 2007)
- Rubrics in Two College Classes (Dec 2006/Jan 2007)
- How to Write a Rubric (Nov 2006)
- Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric (Oct 2006)
- A 92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate (Sep 2006)
- Effective Teachers Are Proactive (Aug 2006)
- Five Year Summary of Articles (Jun 2006)
- Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher (May 2006)
- They're Eager to Do the Assignments (Apr 2006)
- The Success of Special Ed Teachers (Mar 2006)
- What Teachers Have Accomplished (Feb 2006)
- Fifty Years Ago, The Legacy (Dec 2005/Jan 2006)
- The Emergency Teacher (Nov 2005)
- Classroom Management Is Not Discipline (Oct 2005)
- A Successful First Day Is No Secret (Sep 2005)
- The Most Important Factor (Aug 2005)
- Four Year Summary of Articles (Jul 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 2) (Jun 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 1) (May 2005)
- Never Cease to Learn (Apr 2005)
- His Classroom Is a Real Life Office (Mar 2005)
- The Power of Procedures (Feb 2005)
- The First Ten Days of School (Jan 2005)
- PowerPoint Procedures (Nov/Dec 2004)
- The Saints of Education (Oct 2004)
- How Procedures Saved a Teacher's Life (Sep 2004)
- How to Help Students with Their Assignments (Aug 2004)
- Three Year Summary of Articles (Jun/Jul 2004)
- His Students are All Certified (May 2004)
- What to Do When They Complain (Apr 2004)
- A Well-Oiled Learning Machine (Mar 2004)
- The Effective Teacher Adapts (Feb 2004)
- How to Start a Lesson Plan (Aug 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market - Part 2 (Jun/Jul 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market (May 2003)
- The Effective Substitute Teacher (Apr 2003)
- A First Day of School Script (Mar 2003)
- How to Retain New Teachers (Feb 2003)
- No Problem With Hurricane Lili (Dec 2002)
- A Class Size of 500 (Nov 2002)
- Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers (Oct 2002)
- Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds (Sept 2002)
- How To Start School Successfully (Aug 2002)
- Teaching Procedures Is Teaching Expectations (June - July 2002)
- $50,000 to Replace Each Teacher (May 2002)
- Even Superintendents Do It (Apr 2002)
- Impossible, No Job Openings? (Mar 2002)
- A Stress Free Teacher (Feb 2002)
- A Most Effective School (Jan 2002)
- Van Gogh in Nine Hours (Dec 2001)
- The Effective Teacher Thinks (Nov 2001)
- How a Good University Can Help You (Sep 2001)
- How to Motivate Your Students (May 2001)
- How to Recognize Where You Want to Be (Apr 2001)
- What Successful New Teachers Are Taught (Mar 2001)
- A Journey of the Heart (Feb 2001)
- The Miracle of Teachers (Jan 2001)
- It's Not the Students. It's the Teacher. (Dec 2000)
- The First Five Minutes Are Critical (Nov 2000)
- How to Start a Class Effectively (Oct 2000)
- The Problem Is Not Discipline (Sep 2000)
- There Is Only One First Day of School (Aug 2000)
- Applying for Your First Job (Jul 2000)
- Your First Day (Jun 2000)
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