Names with Numbers

Student numbers…it may sound rather strange, but as many times as it has come in handy. I shall share the idea.

Student lists enter the class alphabetically. Ever after, the teacher is putting their information in alphabetical form.

Once the year has begun, and most late comers have arrived, I assign a number to each child.

Using the alphabetical list of names, I assign beginning with ‘1’ – or ‘001’ for fun.


Whenever the child does a worksheet or an assignment, they put their number under their name. That lets me alphabetize them quickly and record their grades on the computer.  If there is a reason I don’t want the name of the children on the paper, I ask them to use their number at the bottom. This helps if I am hanging their papers in the hallway and want a bit of privacy. The number can even be put on the back.

I keep a small jar with circle tags with their numbers. At the beginning of the week, I pull tags out to give turns for answering questions. If asked, I put it back and pull another number. (Sometimes, the child is allowed to go and ask someone for the answer. They then return to their seat and give the answer. They do think that is fun!)

I have a set of ‘mailboxes’ in the room to put papers in that are going home that night. By putting the papers in number order, I can quickly put them in the alphabetized boxes.


Numbers are helpful, but I do not forget that using their names is loving.

One Minute to a Clean Classroom

With a little time and planning, your classroom will sparkle at the end of each day.

The process begins with the students. Asked the open-needed question, “What are the many ways we can clean up our classroom at the end of the day?” Their hands waved. I listed the ideas on the board.

We then determined whether it would take one person or two to do the job. Some jobs were marked with a ‘2’.

My students had already been assigned numbers alphabetically. (A small jar held the numbers written on those little cardboard circles). On Monday, I pulled out a number. That person had the first turn in identifying the job they wanted for the week. Using clothespins with numbers and the list of jobs on large cardboard, let me quickly show who had that job. Each week, we drew another number to go first.


At the end of each day, everyone was asked to get ready – to think about their job and how they would do it in one minute.  I counted down…five, four, three, two, one Begin!

Watching the clock, I called out the last ten seconds – 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1! Students tore back to their seats. Students who had finished early had called out, ‘Who needs me?” and another child answered.


They sat and basked in the praise. Shiny black/whiteboards were noted. Clean floors were admired. Empty pencil sharpeners were appreciated. Yes, we were ready for tomorrow and new day and a clean classroom.


I especially praised the children when parents were coming in for conferences. “They will be so proud of you.”

A lovely benefit. The custodian loved that our classroom was so clean. He spent more time on cleaning the floor and other items.






The Love of the Teacher

As the class sat expectantly and slightly in awe, my first college education professor asked,  “Why do you want to be a teacher?” One student answered, “I want to be a teacher because I love children.”  Boom! The instructor’s firm response was, in essence, “Loving the children alone doesn’t do it. You have to know what you’re doing.”  Our careers in teaching had begun.

When the heart of child is touched by the love of the teacher, true learning takes place.


Now that I am on the other side of decades of teaching, here’s my take on it –     “When the heart of the student is touched by the love of the teacher, true learning takes place.”  When a teacher loves and appreciates the student for who he is and what he can become, he/she knows it and is willing to do as much as they can.

For me, being a well-trained teacher is a form of love; being open to new ideas is a form of love; learning to see the good in every student is a form of love.


VIGNETTE. Five years into my teaching career, I was assigned a science class with sixth graders when sixth was in the elementary school. One  student loved disrupting our class.  One day, as the sixth graders lined up to leave the room, he decided it was time to teach his teacher a lesson. Putting up his fists and taking a fighter’s stance, he offered to beat me up. [Mind you, he was a shade taller than I was!] That challenge put the class on pause.

My humor kicked in. I carefully and slowly bit by bit moved my body to mimic his pose making sure he knew what I was doing. I set myself up as he was – fists up, feet spread, chin out – then, sighing deeply, I said with an exaggerated sadness, “I know I’m going to lose, but if it makes you happy, I’m willing to take you on.” He burst into laughter – as did the class.

Now I don’t recommend this as a teaching technique, but letting him save face after putting us both into a lose-lose situation saved both of us.  After this, the classroom was no longer a place for him to demand attention. He knew I wasn’t trying to win, I just wanted to teach. And, he realized that I appreciated him – just as he was. Yes, we were friends from then on – ‘teacher/student’ friends.  No, I didn’t send him to the office although I let the principal know what happened.  Sometimes, as a friend once told me, we just move on. We moved on.





Telling Time. Minute By Minute

Clocks are everywhere.

Clocks are everywhere.

 ‘Telling time’ comes with many experiences.

My second year of teaching was second grade. To keep me on schedule, I posted clocks on the board showing the time the class needed to be somewhere. Next to the paper clock was where we needed to be. Fairly soon, the children were matching the paper clock to the classroom clock. We were never late!

With higher grade levels, the schedule was posted with the digital times. An analog clock in the classroom, helped students learn to ‘translate’ the time to match the digital. Students had to ‘remind’ me when to leave the classroom so we wouldn’t be late.

My first grade had a classroom bathroom. Near the bathroom door, I put a clipboard of papers with four columns. To use the bathroom, they had to sign in and sign out. In the 1st column they put their name or initials. In the 2nd column, they put the bathroom entry time in digital format. When they came out, they put their initials in the 3rd column and the time out in the 4th column. The classroom had an analog clock.

To make it easier, asking for assistance was encouraged. Some students followed immediately behind someone else so their times would be written correctly. As needed, there were review lessons given by students.

A wonderful benefit. Many young ones were surprised when they were asked to clean up a mess they made! (The child who followed them was always quick to report the problem.) I’m not sure cleaning up one’s own ‘playfulness’ in the bathroom is allowed today, but it worked many years ago.  It took awhile for students to realize their own names had told me who created the problem.

For older students, passes were used to leave the room, and they still signed in and out. This was a nice lead in to ‘clocking in’ for a future job.

One last idea. Next to the electric pencil sharpener were posted the digital times to use it. The times were before and after classes began; and before and after lunch. Nearby were handheld pencil sharpeners and a wastebasket to be used in between the scheduled times.  But, they weren’t as much ‘fun’ as the electric. A nice benefit. This approach stopped students from sharpening pencils during teaching time and tests.


Another benefit. When the math lessons were on clocks and time, the students were solid in the basics.

Build Trust

To trust children’s behavior is to trust that they want to be independent.

It’s in the little things. Students who understand the expectations for assignments can move forward independently. Once they trust that there are no mine fields waiting to trip them up, they follow directions more consistently and eventually gain their independence

Telling them exactly what is happening in a situation, gives the students the opportunity to prove that they will do what is right. There were times when I literally had no choice.

VIGNETTE   On the way to an assembly, one child needed immediate help. Telling the class that they were on their own and that they knew where to go and knew what to do, I stepped back to help the child. The rest of the class proceeded down the hall into the assembly with me at the back trusting they would enter the room and find their seats without me. They did. (Fourth graders.)

VIGNETTE   This happened to a sixth grade teacher with a self-contained classroom. His wife was expecting any moment. His class knew that he would rush out when the call came, and a sub would come. On his way to work, his wife called. He headed to the hospital. Returning to the classroom the next day, he noticed that all the papers were corrected, the room was neat, and the students happy. He asked who the substitute was. “No one,” they answered. “You forgot to call for one. When we realized what happened, we decided to go through the day as though someone was here. We knew what to do. No one ever noticed.” Amazing? Well-informed students who felt trusted led to correct independent behavior.

VIGNETTE   Just before recess, a student with a bad wound revealed to a friend that it was worse.  (It had happened at home, and he had shown me earlier. His long sleeves covered it.) (Sixth grader.) The friend immediately told me.   Checking it out, I knew he needed medical help. Telling the class that the student was now my priority and that they knew the rules and what to do, they were sent out the classroom door to walk around the building to the playground for recess. Making a fast trip to the office, his parents were called, and the student went straight to the hospital. At the end of recess, back came the class – proud and happy they did something on their own. They had proved they were trustworthy and independent. I was most grateful and told them so many times.


There will be times when the students need to be trusted. Give them that trust often and praise their follow through. It may be as simple as everyone remembering to bring their homework. or walk down the hall properly or…. (I just recalled this. My first grade students loved to have an adult compliment them on their good behavior in the hallway. When they returned to the room, as they stepped through the door, they would choose an M&M out of the box we kept them in. Two compliments meant two M&Ms.)

Gratitude and Praise

Happiness is knowing you are doing a great job!

Happiness is knowing you are doing a great job!

What makes a student happy? A teacher happy? Anybody happy? For me, praise and gratitude.

VIGNETTE   My daughter, a manager at her business, called a few days ago. She had recently noticed that the focus for improving at work had become a forum for criticism more than compliments. Good people were finding themselves unhappy. We talked. She decided that the team would improve when compliments were given in a way that was fun. “Hey, everyone, I feel like a 10! Thanks, Bob, for helping out!”

I have learned though, that compliments can build up or take down. (See the last paragraph.)

As teachers, we teach students how to give compliments. (See blog  The ABCD’s of Kindness.) Praise also contributes to growth. This is what I have learned – Keep it light and easy. What we do, they do. Give it to the whole class and no one specifically. Pay attention to the ‘running smoothly moments’. “You are all awesome and right on target!” You know that you have the process for praise right when everyone nods and smiles.

VIGNETTE   Rewards
I didn’t tend toward treats/food/stickers for good behavior. [Although at one point I put out a bowl of stickers and told the children to put them on their papers when they wanted them. At the time, there were free stickers that came with book orders.] However, if the class as a whole received a compliment from another adult, everyone received an M&M.  Example: Everyone is walking quietly in the hall. A teacher passing by and compliments them. Big smiles from the students! Returning to the classroom, a student stands by the door and holds out a box of those little chocolates. Each child takes one. Two compliments? Two chocolates. For the children, those compliments really counted!

One principal in my teaching career visited at least once a week. We had open space classrooms so his jaunt took him from one room directly into the next. His smile was broad, his compliments for all. “You are great class!” he would boom out.  “Learning is important. You have a great teacher! Listen to her and learn.”  He made a difference to all of us. Thank you, Mr. Rich!

An exception from my point of view.
One thing I would like to make clear. A compliment is not meant to control others. I have heard ‘compliments’ given to make other students feel guilty or superior. For me, this is not useful praise. Example: “I see Mary is sitting with her hands folded. Good job, Mary. Look, now Joey is sitting with his hands folded. Good job, Joey.”   I have also heard compliments that are backhanded ways of saying, ‘You are not doing this right.’   Neither of these is good or helpful.

For me, a nod of the head and a smile tells a child he/she is on target.  I also disciplined the same way: a raised eyebrow and shake of the head let someone know they were pushing the limit.

I love finding ways to love my students.

Happiness and smiles contribute a lot to learning.

Is It Fair? Lining up.

It isn’t fair! The theme song of the world. It is true. Many things aren’t fair. Yet, whenever children can be shown a fairer way of doing something, they begin to get the message that – We can make an effort to be fair.

This idea is for the classrooms that line up to go places – lunch, recess, gym, music, art, assemblies, etc.

I used each idea for a week just to be consistent for myself. To be fair, short weeks have to get an extra day in somehow. You will find more and better ways.

For fun, have the children identify ways to be fair about lining up –  so everyone has a chance to be near the front..or back..or middle. 🙂

OPTIONS they may give or you can use.
1. Line up according to the rows: left to right, or right to left; front rows first or back rows.
2. Start with different corners of groups. If you are teaching cardinal points: north corner, south corner, east corner, and west corner.
3. Line up according to heights. (Don’t use this if someone is exceedingly tall or short. No point to making someone uncomfortable. I never used weight!)
4. Line up by birthdays, either the month or the day. Go backwards and forwards.
5. Line up alphabetically – first names or last names.
6. Surprise line ups.  Colors of shirts or shoes – black, blue, green, pink, purple, red, white, yellow.


Being fair is a teaching lesson in itself.


2006 March 1 download 288

The ABCD’s of Kindness

This is one of those ideas that sprang into existence with a simple statement of praise – “Kevin, you deserve a big thank you from the class!  You’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty.”   Looking at the blank faces, it was clear that no one had a clue as to what the phrase meant. Launching into a brief explanation, I put the words on the board and looking at the first letters, an idea was born:  the ABCD’s of Kindness. Above and Beyond the Call Of Duty

The class contributed their ideas of how to be kind. Cards would be made with the words around the outer edge as the ‘logo’.  An enterprising young lady offered to design the card on her computer.  Copies were run off on slightly heavy paper.  As a class, we decided on values of one point, five, ten and twenty points. The teacher wrote the numbers on them.  The students took them home to design and color.  Last, the cards were laminated by the teacher and trimmed by the students. 

With the students committed and excited, it was only two weeks until a huge set of ABCD cards was completed.

The guideline was simple: If the teacher saw someone doing something kind, then points would be awarded with a card. A class discussion ensued to determine the amount of points related to the kindness involved. Much of this evolved over time as we returned to the idea for discussion and update.  After a few weeks,  the entire process was in place.  The students eventually joined in identifying kindnesses themselves.

Toward the end of the year the question arose, how would these points benefit the students who had earned them?  It was clear the teacher wasn’t trading them for dollar bills!

The final decision was an auction. Students and teacher brought in items.  On one of the last days of school, the auction was held. And, an interesting event took place.  One very thoughtful student had no ABCD cards. The class explained that he always gave them away.  And so it happened that the greatest act of selfless kindness received the privilege of choosing the first auction item.

The year ended. Although the cards were used other years, nothing seemed as wonderful as that first year when the whole class joined in an effort to acknowledge and reward their classmates who went ‘Above and Beyond the Call of Duty’ to be kind to their friends.

20105.23 download 098

One Minute to a Clean Classroom

A Teacher’s Dream – a room that is neat and clean.
At the day’s end, a classroom can be made clean and neat in a hurry!   Upfront planning with the students is well worth it.

What I did.
First,  the class and I identified a list of clean-up jobs that took less than a minute.  The details for each job were clarified by the students. If the work was loner than two minutes, then two students were assigned. The jobs were posted where students could read them.

On Monday, names were drawn and students chose their job for the week.  A student wasn’t allowed to choose the same job twice in one quarter. A few extra jobs allowed the last child to have a choice.

At the end of each day, a big deal was made out of starting the Clean-up Minute. Everyone was asked to look toward their job and think about what they would do. Then we watched the second hand until it reached the twelve. Ready!  Set!  Go!

When someone was done early, they offered help by calling out,  “Does anyone need me?”

As the minute ended, the teacher counted the last ten seconds aloud while everyone returned [Ran?] to their seats.  Admiration and pride for contributing to a great looking classroom was the final step.  (No criticism of anyone or anything. Joy is the purpose.)

When the last child flew out the door for home,  the room was beautiful – a joy to behold.  For me, this made teaching a lot easier.

2006 March 1 download 285

P.S.  The custodians loved this, too!

BONUS: During the day, the children were more alert to keeping the classroom clean and picked up.

The Love of Teaching

My first college education professor asked all of us this question,  “Why are you choosing to be a teacher?” One my classmates answered, “I want to be a teacher because I love children.”  Boom! The instructor’s firm response was, in essence, “Loving the children doesn’t do it. You have to know what you’re doing.”  Now that I am on the other side of decades of teaching, here’s my take on it:  “When the heart of the student is touched by the love of the teacher, true learning takes place.”  Real learning for a student happens when a teacher appreciates the child for who he is.

VIGNETTE. A sixth grade student loved disrupting my class.  One day, as the class lined up in the room to leave, he decided it was time to teach me a lesson. Putting up his fists and taking a fighting stance, he offered to beat me up. [Mind you, he was a shade taller than I was!] That put the class on pause. My humor kicked in. I carefully copied his pose making sure he knew what I was doing. I set myself up as he was- fist up, feet spread, chin out – sighing deeply, I said with exaggerated sadness, “I know I’m going to lose, but if it makes you happy, I’m willing to take you on.” He burst into laughter – as did the class.  I don’t recommend this teaching technique, but letting him save face after putting us both into a lose-lose situation saved us.  At last the classroom was no longer a place for him to demand attention. He knew I wasn’t trying to win, I just wanted to teach. And, he realized that I loved him – just as he was.


Red rose…love.