It’s Not Always an Accident

Two years ago, while teaching in my fourth grade classroom, I realized something. Maybe you already know this. Maybe not but I’m sharing my experience.

It’s Not Always an Accident


How many times have you heard a student (or even your own child) say, "But it was an accident!"

Yep, a million times.

::Flash back to two years ago::

After extensive discussion, examples, scenarios etc. I had a student crack the screen on his laptop. I was in a 1:1 classroom and every student was given multiple responsibilities and expectations on how to take care of their digital tools. When I found out about the crack, which was reported by another student, I was so disappointed. Disappointed A) because the student whose computer it was didn’t tell me and B) because HELLO? his computer screen was cracked!!  And of course, the student had no idea how the crack got there.

"Did you place something on the keyboard and close your laptop?" (One of the very specific examples I gave of what NOT to do.)

Teaching life lessons to kids doesn’t come with a manual.  We as adults need to use our wisdom to help children become more self-aware.  What’s the difference between an accident and a mistake?  Here are some anecdotes, examples and insight. #teachaholic #itsnotanaccident #lifelessons 🤷🏻‍♂️ {shoulder shrug} was the answer.

I told him, "Well, that’s the only way that could happen."

"It was an accident," he replied almost as a flippit response.

"Ummm no. It wasn’t an accident...

{Confused look on his face}

"It was a MISTAKE."

From that day forward, I made a point to ALWAYS point out the difference between an accident, a mistake, and something intentional. Even with my own children.  More importantly, discuss the cause of the mistake and how to avoid it in the future.  I always say, "You're a kid.  You're supposed to make mistakes.  Just learn from them so you don't do it again."



>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Dictionary.com describes each as such:

Accident - (noun) an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap

Mistake - (noun) an error in action, calculation, opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness, insufficient knowledge, etc.

Intentional - (adjective) done with intention or on purpose

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Here are a few examples from the classroom and a few from home...


  • Student has a water bottle on the desk while working on their computer.  Water spills on the keyboard... MISTAKE.  This is an avoidable incident.  The choice to have a water bottle on the desk is unnecessary for the task and was poor judgement
  • A child is walking with their shoes KNOWINGLY untied and trips.  MISTAKE.  Now, if they didn't know their shoe was untied and tripped, it would be an ACCIDENT.
  • A child is walking in line and swinging her lunch box... Whoops! She hits the person behind her in the face... MISTAKE
  • You spill water on the floor and choose not to clean it up... someone falls... MISTAKE.
  • And here are 29 Mistakes every adult has made at least once in their life (I've done 25 of the 29 listed lol)
Mistakes are the effect of poor decisions.  An accident does not have a cause.  It's purely coincidence.



So you can see my point. Because the word "accident" is also often used when one makes mistakes, it can confuse kids (and even some adults).

And in my class, students who made mistakes AND intentional behaviors got a consequence. Not the same degree but something that would hold them accountable.

So the next time a student does something like run their hands along a teacher’s bulletin board and makes something fall off... or jumps over someone sitting on the floor and steps on their hand, do us all a favor, point out their mistake and ways to prevent future mishaps 😉

Hold Students Accountable with 3 Words

I never bought into the whole Clip Chart thing.  As a parent, if I saw my child was on GREEN (or whatever the acceptable color is nowadays), I would still wonder if my kid made mistakes that needed a parent's guidance, or even worse, was a complete A$$ at school.  I get that kids need a chance to redeem themselves, but kids are so smart that they will goof off all day and pull it together in the last hour.  I've seen it happen. So with three words, I manage the expectations and behaviors in my class:

"Here's your ticket."

This is such an easy system to prep and implement.

After you've laid out the expectations and have a solid strategy for gaining control of your class and poor behavior (see previous post about CHAMPS and 1,2,3 Magic), you can start holding your students accountable for their own choices.

There are three types of consequence tickets, three types of reward tickets, and a weekly report for parents (or daily if you have an RTI student or young ones).  Also included are editable posters and tracking sheets.  PLUS, a 5 page document that walks you through how to get started.

Here are some photos from my classroom.







Using MAGIC in the Classroom (and a FREEBIE)

As a college student forging ahead to become a teacher, no one ever taught me how to manage the various behaviors and expectations of my future students.  There's no course that prepares one for the student who constantly calls out.  Or the one who never turns in their Reading Log.

After trying all sorts of strategies and reading a few books, I came to the enlightenment that students who are enabled or given excuses, will continue to do the behaviors they always do.  That is, unless, they are guided with clear expectations and held accountable for the things they are capable of doing.

I have used CHAMPS since my third year in the classroom.  Champs : A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Management by Randy Sprick was actually the course book used in an ESE grad course I took.  I carried it with me, not realizing the value it held.  In my third year of teaching, I took a short in-service, put it into action and fell in LOVE!  The gist of the program is each letter stands for an action:

Conversation
Help
Assignment
Movement
Participation
Success

The "S" was added in the later editions and I welcomed it - Except I used the word SIGNAL instead of SUCCESS.  The newer editions come with a CD with printable visual pictures to go along with each action.  I don't have pictures of it in action because I gave away my stash but I will update with photos of examples once my girl, @b.e.teaching, finishes her room.  In the meantime, Google and Pinterest are full of visuals and links.

CHAMPS is a Game-Changer!  Once I post the expectations for the activity, the only answer I have for students who have questions is, "What does the CHAMP say?"  Their little feet scurry over to the board and the lightbulb goes on.  A few times and they get it - Check the CHAMP first!

A few more years pass and I had a class of annoying 4th graders who just wanted to bug each other - and me.  A friend of mine, who is also a mom long before I was one, suggested 1,2,3 Magic for Teachers.  What an easy read!  To this day, I use the techniques in that book with my own children.  It really does work.  The best part is that it's discipline without emotion.

I also had a few behaviors I needed to extinguish.  One of them was calling out.  This is by far the easiest data collection to date. Here is my IG post on it.  Seriously, the student went from 14 interruptions to one (or even NONE) a day.  This particular student was doing attention-seeking behaviors so this worked like a charm.  A week in and all
Want to curb unwanted behavior in your classroom?  Use this Intervention!  It's an awesome strategy with an editable form!  Document and Organize your data with ease.  Useful for Pre-Kindergarten and older. #teachaholic #data #intervetion #rti
I had to do was just PUT the rubber bands on and he straightened right up.  Once we extinguished the calling out, we moved on to other unwanted behaviors.

Download this FREE (and editable - YAY!) data collection chart.  Each day I would have the student graph the number of times he called out.  This way, he had a visual reinforcement.  In a few weeks I had data to share with his mother and with our Guidance Counselor.  With this particular student, RtI wasn't necessary because the intervention worked, but I've used the same data collection chart for fluency and score-keeping by just changing the numerical scale on the left and the descriptor on the top.

I hope you enjoy these books and strategies!  Share your stories in the comments below!

Happy Teaching!





Classroom Library Organization for Upper Grades

If organizing your classroom library has you in a tizzy, here are 5 easy steps to get started. My 4th grade students navigated with ease and they were able to restock books in no time with a library organized by genre.
I don’t know about you, but my classroom library was always a headache until I really sat down and figured out how to make it not such a nightmare to maintain user-friendly for my students.

No matter where you are in your teaching career, setting up your library at the beginning of each year is vital. Here are some tips and tricks to help you navigate setting up and using your class library with students in upper grades. 

Setting the Stage

Your independent readers need a different type of library than they did in the primary grades.  They may be reading two chapter books at the same time, while reading several picture books during the week. They need to be able to navigate your library with ease and with little browsing time.

1. Separate Picture Books from Novels

A problem I always struggled with was how to provide access to picture books for my fourth graders in a way that was easy for them to see so they WANT to read them.  Just having the spine visible was NOT an option.  THEN... One weekend I visited my local library with my pre-schoolers and fell in love with how they displayed their picture books. Well, seeing as though I don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on one measly shelf, I improvised. And my version has held up for the past three years with very little damage.  I just took a sturdy bookshelf I had and turned it on its side.  The key to the bookshelf was that it had fixed shelves, not the kind that are adjustable.
::The Library Inspiration::

::Bookshelf on its Side for Picture Books::

2. Organize Books by Genre and/or Topic

For upper grades, students typically choose books based on a genre. I found that when I was helping students choose their next book, I’d ask:

"What types of books do you like to read?"
"What was the last book you really liked?"
"What topic/historical event/person interests you?"

This helped me guide them to a particular section of the library.  I had a place for picture books and I organized them by genre as pictured above.  Each part of the shelf was labeled and the books faced forward.  Kids just sifted through the selection until they found a book they wanted to read.
  • Animals (I had enough to make its own section in the library)
  • Science
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • People
  • History & Places
My novels were categorized and shelved accordingly by genre.
  • Classics/Fables/Folktale
  • Realistic Fiction
  • Historical Fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery
I also had a magazine holder for magazines and a small reference section with a few dictionaries and an atlas.  These were unmarked, as the majority of students could decipher those without needing a sticker.

::Genre Description Posters::
::Organization in Progress::
Once I was finished placing the books, I added labels with the matching colored dot onto each shelf.  

3. Use Color-Coded Labels for Easy Book Return

I went to town and bought every color label I could find.  With every genre, category or topic, I had a colored dot in the upper left corner of each book. The upper left is key because when books are on the shelf, this is the first part students see.  If it's on the right side, students have to pull the whole book out to view it.  It also makes straightening up super quick and returning books was fool-proof.

::Add AR or Lexile to Dot::

Whatever you do, DO NOT COMBINE genres.  Yes, you heard me.  Unless you are planning to retire, your library is only going to get bigGER.  So set your heart on a color for each book-category and keep it.  If you combine genres at the beginning, you'll only be making more work for yourself later.  Here are the colors I used:
  • Animals - Bright Green
  • Science - Blue
  • Realistic Fiction - Red
  • Fantasy - Orange
  • People - Purple
  • History & Places - Yellow
  • Classics/Fables/Folktale - Dark Green
  • Historical Fiction - Brown
  • Science Fiction - Bright Pink
  • Mystery - Black

** BONUS** the sticker is the perfect place to add an AR level or Lexile!!  If you zoom in, you'll see many of mine with the AR level.


4. Separate Books in a Series

As your library grows (or maybe you already have a ton of books), you'll need to keep your books in a series in a different part of the library.  I used these super cheap plastic CD/Media storage crates to hold mine.

::Books in a Series::

5. Label the Shelves & Bins

Once you've placed all of the books, it's time to label the shelves and bins.  This is key to making sure your library doesn't turn into an utter mess. I had labels for each shelf and each bin.  If you cannot match up the color to the labels you chose, simply print in black and save a space to adhere a label after printing.  I also chose to laminate my labels to keep them from tearing.

::Examples of Labels::

➜What to do with Book Clubs & Guided Reading Sets

I kept these book out of reach.  During Book Club sign up time, I would open the cabinet where I had them stored and allowed students to choose - under MY supervision.  Otherwise, you run the risk of having a book checked out when a group wants to read it.  Or worse, a book goes missing.  Read more about Book Clubs.

Text Coding

With the blessing of a new school, I was also lucky enough to have a Curriculum Coach on site who rolled out several strategies.  Many of which were a "tweak" different from what I already was doing in the class but most were certainly worth my while to incorporate into my routine.

Text Coding


This little reading and thinking strategy helped many of my students.  First, we came up with a list of CODES we would all use while reading.  I teach 4th grade so we had many codes.  Younger grades could use less codes.

Here's the anchor chart (don't mind the misspelling - I fixed it after I took the picture 😵

::sorry for the typo!::


Then we put the codes into action.  EVERY passage they could write on - they did.  Without question, it was the expectation.  This expectation led to text-coders on our state test.  Ultimately, the goal is to create metacognition while they are reading ANY piece of text.  The practice was great.

During review time we would discuss and share our text codes either with the whole class or with a partner.  It sparked many good conversations!


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