Part One: The “Awesome” Book
Self-esteem is the one of the most valuable tools for students to succeed in school. As teachers we are instrumental in making this happen. But how do we make it happen? Teachers have a lot of power! Do you remember your favorite teachers? The ones who made a difference in your life?
It’s the little things that make a BIG difference! Start small by starting an “Awesome” Book!
Set up your “Awesome” Book: First, find a large notebook that lies flat when I open it. I prefer to use a one subject spiral notebook with pocket folders, not composition, because then I can open it up and flip it around. Label the top of each page in the notebook with the name of each student.
Decorate the Notebook Over the Top! Cover it with the word “AWESOME” with either colorful permanent markers, stickers, or even fancy duct tape that you know the students will recognize. Be creative and have fun to make it look colorful and extraordinary.
Introduce the “AWESOME notebook” and ritual to students. Make a big deal out of it! Explain to them that you will be walking around the classroom at different times during the day and observing them. So if they see you carrying around this notebook or clipboard and taking notes, it’s because you are looking for “Awesome” things to write in your notebook.
Set Expectations & Give Examples: Explain that you know that they will be doing tons of awesome things like helping out a partner, highlighting details in an article, sharing a pencil with a student who needs one, taking detailed notes on their sticky note during reading time, being a good leader by handing in your homework every day, keeping a group on task, or whatever your specific classroom expectations are.
Model it: I might say to the students, “For instance, today I noticed that Meggen volunteered to read the poem to the class. And did you notice the way she read it? She read it expression and proper rhythm. She did an “Awesome” job of reading that poem. I was very proud of her. How many of you noticed that after she read it to us, I jotted down a note in my “Awesome” notebook? Here’s what I wrote down, “September 22. Meggen volunteered to read “title of poem” aloud to the class. She read it loudly and with lots of expression.”
Get the students Involved! Ask the class what do they think I will be doing with these notes of awesomeness? Call on students to hear what they think. You might even get some new awesome ideas.
Show them the power of the “Awesome” book & sell it to your students! I often tell the students, “I love all your ideas and I will keep them mind for the future. But for now, here’s what I plan to do with these notes. Inside this notebook is a page dedicated for each of you (show them a few pages with names). At the end of each day and week, I am going to look through my “Awesome” book and chose a few students to recognize. I might share my observations with the class and sometimes I might share it with your families at home. I might send home a positive (good) note home, it looks like this. Everyone say, “Oooh! Ahhh!” Do you know how much you’re your parents and grandparents are going to love to get these good notes home? They will absolutely love it! Or I might even send a note to the principal of our school, so she knows how awesome you’re doing in this class. Who knows I might even do all these things. The most important thing is that you continue doing awesome things all the time because you never know when or who I am watching. But know this. . . I am watching all the time.”
Practice it right then! Tell them you’re going to practice it. Begin on the next lesson of the day. Take some notes in your “awesome” notebook. Show the students the front of the notebook so they see that you’re taking down some notes. After the lesson is over, share a note or two with the students. It’s very important to continue practicing this everyday so it become a routine. Pick a time that works well with your classroom schedule. Maybe right after recess or at the end of the day. But always hold up the “awesome” notebook many times throughout the day so they see that you’re following through on your word and that you’re watching and taking notes. You will probably see or hear students whisper, “Look Ms. Smart has the “awesome” book out. Let’s do our best on this project. Maybe she’ll notice us.”
Weekly Recognition: At the end of each week, draw a line across the page under where the notes end for each student’s name. This makes it easier to figure out where to start the next week. It also helps you to notice who you haven’t taken notes on recently. Then pick out a few students that you want to recognize and write a positive (good) note home. Put a star next to those student notes. It’ll help you remember who you've recognized and how many times as the weeks fly by. Set a goal of how many students you want to recognize each day and/or week. I announce 1 or 2 students and good deeds at the end of each day. Weekly I send home 2-3 positive notes home at the end of the week. I set a goal of doing this on Friday afternoons and won’t let myself leave for the weekend until it’s finished.
What’s the Purpose? Now, what the students don’t know is that you’re using this notebook for several purposes. First, as a way to reinforce positive behavior and build self-esteem in each student. However, you can make any kind of note in this notebook that also helps you because the students will never get to read it.
The more ways you use it, the more valuable it becomes:
· This notebook is a way to record anecdotal notes such as strengths or weaknesses of a student, what students need extra help on a specific concept or skill, or what you need to reteach or practice more.
· In the back of the notebook where there’s some extra pages, I have a “Miscellaneous” Section where I can write down notes to myself.
· It also becomes a classroom management tool. The more you use it the more the students will follow your class procedures and be better behaved.
· For reflection notes not only about each student but also about the class as a whole. For example, I might note that Miguel was struggling with his multiplication facts so I need to send home some fact cards or extra practice sheets for him.
· Another great way to use this strategy is you could jot down behavior or social issues that arise too. Maybe you notice that Sam and Sophia had a hard time working together during centers today. Then you can have a talk with both them and see how if it gets better. If not, maybe they shouldn't be in the same group for a bit.
· It also serves as a record for Parent Teacher Conferences, important meetings, and report cards.
Check Back next Sunday at: H2HTeaching.com for Part Two
Check out Kindness Counts: A Classroom Building Activity Pack
Don't Forget to be Awesome!