Looks like, sounds like

Young kids listening to teacher

Classroom management is about students meeting expectations. However, often students are unaware of what the specific expectations are really are.

“Pay attention.”

A phrase I’ve heard directed to students, or used to describe students. “They can’t seem to pay attention.”

However, unless students are completely aware of what the expectations are, they will continue to fail to meet your expectations of them.

If your expectation is for students to walk in the hall, don’t tell them to “Stop running.” You are giving them the excuse to skip, crawl, gallop, or summersault their way to recess. Instead, make the expectation clear “Walk in the hallway.” You’re not only prompting a change in the behavior, but you are letting them know clearly what you expect.

One way to make expectations more concrete, is to discuss what an activity, environment, or behavior, should look like, and sound like.

Confused street sign

Teacher: “When we are on the carpet, and the teacher is reading a book to the class, what should it look like?”

If necessary, model this by having the conversation while you are sitting with your class in a circle, on the carpet with a book in hand. Talk about what it should, but also should not look like. Why should it look this way?

Teacher: “What happens if someone else, besides the teacher is talking when you are trying to listen to the story?”

This is also a great opportunity to talk about making mistakes, and how we help those who have made a mistake. Brainstorm ways to support each other even when they may be doing something that makes you mad or frustrated.

Teacher: “Maybe someone if talking and not following our classroom rules/expectations, what can you do to help them remember? Remember, we all make mistakes.”

The following pdf can be used to have students work on creating their own looks like, sounds like chart. However this can be done as a whole group (using an interactive board or chart paper), in small groups, partners, or even individually. This could also be used as a reflection activity for a student who is struggling to meet the expectations.

Looks like, Sounds Template

Looks like sounds like


Remember that once this is done as a class, a reminder of the looks like, sounds like expectations before starting an activity can take a minute, but save you ten in the end.



EAL and SPED Graphic Organizer

There are so many graphic organizers out there.  Some look like ice cream cones, others giant spider webs.  I have found that for me and many of my students, a simple 3-step graphic organizer works the best.

Here is the organizer that I created to work with students who are new or developing their english and students who have limited writing ability.

Beginning, Middle, Ending oganizer for drawing and adding key vocabulary

Beginning, Middle, Ending oganizer for drawing and adding key vocabulary


Writing Planning 3 step draw

The students can draw main ideas for the beginning, middle, and ending of a story.  After the drawing, they can independently or with teacher guidance, list key vocabulary words from each drawing.  This will help them recall the vocabulary during drafting without too much writing to complete during planning.

As an addition to this, students can also build a vocabulary binder where they begin to store key vocabulary based on alphabetized topics.  More on this for a later post.

I have also found this useful for students who tend to write their “planning” in whole paragraphs and it ends up looking identical to their first draft and takes a very long time to complete.

Web Browsing Fonts for People with Dyslexia

Research is starting to point toward ways of making text easier to read for people with Dyslexia.  This can be a change in font, size, color and even letter spacing.  Recently a font that has been getting some buzz is Open-Dyslexic.  More information can be found here.

I am always impressed by people creating tools to make the world a better place for others and then sharing it free of charge.  This is just the case with Open-Dyslexic.  This font can be downloaded for use in word processing or creating materials.

If you are a Mac user or Safari Browser user however, there is a very quick add-on that can change the fonts you see on websites as well to utilize this font.

When in Safari, click on Safari in the tool bar at the top.  From there click on Safari Extensions…


A webpage will open with a list of extensions.  Use the left side category options and select Productivity.



Next scroll down until you see the extension Open-Dyslexic.   Click on Install Now.


It is as simple as that.  You should now see all text in Safari using Open-Dyslexic.  There is also helpful shading to differentiate the lines.  Hope this helps.

Sound Levels in the Classroom

Every administrator, teacher, parent, and student has different levels of tolerance when it comes to sound levels.  Some classrooms I work in can be eerily silent, or too loud for me to think, let alone the students.  The fact is, noise can have an affect on student productivity and learning.  To get more of the science behind this, there is a great article discussing a research study done inside classroom at blog.sparkypro.com.

There are some ways that we can help control this level for the entire class and for individual students.

For the entire class, it can be useful to explicitly teach the students what the expected sound level should be for different activities.

The full version with description is available here:

Classroom Noise Meter

This visual is used to set expectations before and activity and silently prompt a reminder to the students.  In my room I have this printed and on the white board with an arrow to the present noise level.

For individual students, this could be made smaller and placed on their desk.

This is just one of many ways to set expectations or make accommodations for noise levels within the classroom.

Preparing your child with Autism for travel

I was reading an article by Miss Rorey about traveling with your child with Autism.  This post is specific to airplanes, but I think the ideas can be used whenever you are traveling for a distance or even preparing to be waiting for an appointment.  The key take home from this post is to be prepared.  Practice skills  in a safe environment, and slowly generalize these learned skills to new environments.

This is the same process we use when working with behaviors in the classroom.  Many times, we have to practice appropriate behaviors in a safer, easier environment first.  This way we can build up the student’s confidence by having them experience success, then slowly fading to more difficult environments.

Whether you are planing on a road trip, airline flight, or just a long wait in a crowded waiting room, take a look at this blog post first.  If you find success, use these same principles in other areas of your child’s life.

Miss Rorey 

Parent Communication Forms

One thing I always try to improve on in teaching is my communication with parents.  I love when parents are involved in their children’s education, and I want to make sure that I can keep them informed without spending too much of my work time on writing notes home.

For some of our families, when their child comes home from school they can ask them about their day.  They can talk about the fun new science project they did where they made their own cloud in a jar.  Or tell their parents that during their spelling activity they were bored and needed to move on.  Parents can get a basic idea of a classroom from the way their students perceive it.  But not all of our students are verbal.  When I was teaching in a young Autism specific classroom, 75% of my students communicated with picture communication systems and alternative argumentative communication devices.  This form of communication was still in it’s most basic stages and was mostly being used for requesting.  Parents were unable to ask their students about their day.  They had no idea what was happening in the classroom during the week unless they were able to communicate with me.  We needed to set up a simple system that allowed us to get the basics of the week that included academics, behavior, and communication.

Parent Communication Collaboration

To save time we created a simple checklist of items that parents wanted to know about, and items that I wanted them to know about.  This was all about collaboration.  Just like creating the IEP for the students, parents and teachers need to continue to work together throughout the year.  Sometimes I would be surprised to find out a parent wanted to know the times of the day their student used the toilet.  I tend to take a ton of data in my classroom, so these requests were not difficult.  Here is an example of a basic checklist.  If parents had access to the internet I just emailed these to them which is great because it keeps a record of communication.  If the parents needed the hard copy, I would make a copy for my records and one to be sent home.  It not only keeps track for the parents, but also for the teacher.  Always keep records of your communication.

Parent Daily Communication Form

Wallwishers in the classroom

What is Wallwisher?

Through the ongoing Teacher Challenge to become a better blogger, I have found a new favorite media tool.  Wallwisher is a simple to use brainstorming tool that allows you to open a discussion and have others help you brainstorm.  The idea works somewhat like a forum, you can invite people to stop by your “wall” and leave notes that add to the discussion.  You have some security and can request to approve all posts before they are displayed.  Leaving the comments like sticky notes where they can be moved around and organized feels more like my current offline brainstorming, and I like the kid friendly feel.  Forums can be dull to look at and not as easy to organize thoughts with a classroom.

What can we do with Wallwisher?

My first thought is homework discussions.  What a great way to have students discuss ideas or concepts from the school day.  They have a chance to think about the topic, maybe even get some insight from friends or family outside of school.  The more we are able to explore ideas, the deeper our understanding will be.  After the homework is completed, hook up a projector in the classroom, and have a group organization and follow-up activity.  If you would like to see an example, I have created a Wallwisher post here to brainstorm other ways to incorporate this form of media into the classroom.