Although I am a seasoned educator who has spent most of my career teaching at-risk kids in Title I schools, I still got excited when I saw this book online: Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and Other Special Areas (2016, Center for Responsive Schools). This book goes hand in hand with The First Six Weeks of School, the tenets of which my school was reading adopting, and also gives me insight on how to more effectively manage classroom behavior in all the grades I see every day.
It is rare to have a classroom management book that speaks to my fixed schedule experience, so I was excited to see if I could learn some new tricks. Boy, did I. As I read and highlighted the book, I realized that what classroom teachers were emphasizing was what I could focus on, too.
The book, like The First Six Weeks of School, notes that relationships are the foundation of all positive classroom management. If we have happy relationships with our students, then they will want to learn. It sounds simplistic, yet it is worthwhile. Another takeaway from this book was “predictable routines” (p. 7). I am writing this at the end of the first day of school. I taught six classes from Kindergarteners to fifth graders today. This year, I slowed everything–from how to enter the library to how to check out books to how to exit the library–way down. I am always eager to share our newly purchased books with my students and tell them what we are going to learn. However, today (and for the rest of the week), I concentrated on how to teach and model entering and exiting the library. Once that procedure was mastered, I moved on how to walk into the book nook and how to sit for story time. When they entered our book nook area, my morning (or afternoon) message was displayed. I had seen these morning messages over the years in classrooms, but never thought about using them in the library. As one students wisely said, “When this is displayed, you don’t have to answer all of our questions about what we are going to do!”
The book also gives clear advice about Interactive Modeling, which is a great tool to teach skills and routines. As the librarian you “invite students to actively notice and describe what you’re showing them, let them practice immediately, and give them meaningful feedback right away” (p. 44). I used this effectively with how to model the proper use of a shelf marker. It may seem like a small matter in the overall picture of library management, but the smoother the routines now, the happier we will be in October, January, and June.
We all know that students, despite their best efforts, are not angels who never make mistakes. That is also true of us. No one is perfect, and we all deserve second, third, or even fourth chances. The book offers good ideas to stop misbehavior in its tracks: proximity, visual cues, redirecting language and logical consequences. I really liked reading about ways to halt misbehavior that didn’t disrupt the other children’s learning or shame the student who wasn’t making good choices.
Relationships are at the heart of any learning. If you are having difficulty managing your many classes in your elementary library, I urge you to read Responsive Classroom for Music , Art, PE and Other Special Areas. We all know we have the best jobs in the school, and I hope that after you read this book, you will find some practical help so that you are able to love your job even more!
Author: Elizabeth Kyser
H!! I am the lucky librarian at Ettrick Elementary School, located in Chesterfield County, Virginia. I graduated with a degree in History from Allegheny College, received a Master of Education degree from Loyola University in Maryland, and my library certification classes were taken at Longwood University. I was a classroom teacher for fourteen years before I became a school librarian and I am so glad I was. Please feel free to find me on social media. I am energized by sharing ideas with colleagues from around the world!