Donna O'Donnell Figurski's Blog

It's All About Me!

On School #8 Boys on Books with … Crowns

Disclaimer: The name in this musing is changed to protect the “infamous.”

Martez shrugged off his coat, took everything out of his backpack, and hung them both up in the coat room. Then he began to write in his journal. It’s what all the 1st graders in my class do every morning. But this morning Martez was first.

That’s not so remarkable when you think about it. Someone has to be first … right? But what was special was that is was Martez.

Martez is a sweet, very pleasant child of six years old, but Martez likes to talk – non-stop talk. He probably talks in his sleep. He likes to visit his friends at their desks or take strolls to the water fountain for “water cooler” chats. The pencil sharpener is another popular meeting place. (The pencil sharpener is off-limits, but some children ignore the rules. Then, of course, I have to remind them.) It’s amazing how many pencils need to be sharpened at the same time. It’s amazing that there is any wood left on the pencils. My 1st graders love to write with pencil nubs. They also like to collect the pencil sharpenings – but that’s another story.

Martez could be a good student … if he would do his work. If Martez spent half the energy that he puts into talking into studying addition or subtraction flash cards, or practicing reading his books, he would be an amazing student. I’ve tried an array of tricks to get him to settle into 1st grade, but it seems he has his “own” agenda. The top of his list is TALK. The bottom is the same. And in between … Talk! Talk! Talk! That’s my Martez!

So one morning when I saw Martez bent over his journal with his nubby pencil, I smiled. I couldn’t help but croon, “Martez, look at you! You are such a big 1st grader!” Kids love it when you tell them they are “big.” It makes them feel grown-up. (I don’t know why they want to feel grown-up. It’s over-rated.) Martez’s face lit up, as I knew it would. You can almost see him puff up. His face beams. He tries to hold it in, but you can see the pride oozing from his smile. I leaned over his desk to see what he was writing in his journal. His handwriting was tight and neat – not like it was in September or even in January when his letters scrawled across the page heeding no spacing, ignoring all lines. A change has been taking place in Martez.

I fussed when I saw his much-improved writing – both the handwriting and his thoughts imprinted on his paper, and I announced his progress to the whole class. I asked him if he wanted to take his journal around for a show-off walk. With a big grin plastered on his face, he nodded. He visited every one of his classmates’ desks. He thanked them for their praise. “Wow!” said one. “Good job, Martez,” said another. “Nice writing!” “I like your work,” and “How neat!” were among the many words of praise that Martez garnered on his show-off time

The change in Martez all started with a book and a crown. When nothing seemed to convince Martez to stay in his seat and do his work, drastic means were needed. My principal and I devised a new system. I kept a journal on Martez’s daily activities. Each day I opened to a new page, dated it and began to record everything Martez did from 8:30 AM when he arrived to 3:00 PM when he departed for the day. I looked for things that he was doing right so I could call attention to his good behavior, compliment him on them, and record them in his book for his parents to see. I also recorded each time I needed to remind him to get to work or do what he was supposed to be doing – also for his parents information.

8:50 – organized himself for the morning

9:00 – wrote in journal

9:15 – wandered around room interrupting his work and that of others

10:00 – listened well in math lesson

10:30 – played at the water fountain

Etc. etc. etc.  . . .  It is a time-consuming chore. It’s tedious. It takes away precious time from the other students, but so did having to frequently stop my lessons to remind Martez about his behavior and to get him back on track.

The goal of the “book” is to make Martez and his parents aware of his behavior. His parents read the book each night and discuss his behavior with him. Martez’s parents were cooperative and that is why the book worked for Martez. That is why he is showing improvement and enjoying success. That is why he is feeling more happy and content in class.

This system does not always work. When parents discount the book, as some have, or do not follow through with expectations at home, the book is useless. The child’s behavior does not change. There are several other children who are using this concept this year. They’ve dubbed themselves the boys on books. They are showing improvement, though not as much as Martez … yet. I still have time to mold these six-year-olds into students.

I’ve given each of the boys a crown, which I made from construction paper. Across the front of the crown I carefully printed, I Am a 1st Grader! When the children are cooperating, doing their work, or following all directions, they are able to wear their crowns. But, when they slip up, the crown comes off and sits on their desk until they are thinking like a 1st grader again. Martez wears his crown often now. His work has greatly improved – so has his attitude and his view on school. He wants to succeed … and he is succeeding. Martez thinks like a 1st grader now – more than not. He is proud of himself.

And … I am so proud of him, too.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing)

(Clip Art compliments of FreeSmileys)

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March 13, 2010 - Posted by | Anything Writing, On School | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. cool post granny!!!

    Comment by kaya | March 18, 2010 | Reply


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