I think having too many signs in a classroom is a mistake. Having said that, this year I am going to put up a bunch of signs. As teachers, we sometimes do the things we can find redundant or distasteful. I think a bunch of signs with Dos and Don’ts looks like Jail. Stay behind the yellow line! No touching! Pick up your visitation paperwork at window C.
My room is really horrible. I mean REALLY horrible. It has those 1970s moveable walls that no teacher has ever utilized. They are tan except for the dirt marks. My carpet. Yes carpet. Is horrifyingly grey and it took me about five seconds to dump a Venti coffee on it, never to remove the stain.
Kids are used to ugly institutional walls with informative signs. DMVs, Social Security Offices, Social Services, just a few of the places my kids see signs and drab walls. This year I need to dress things up, add visual interest and have visual information I can use as the bedrock of establishing my class as a semi orderly polite place to learn.
Taking all this into consideration I have designed a few posters that I will use as my Anchor Charts for the school year. From my last post you can see I have many goals about building relationships but with my kids boundaries are important. I know from day one of undergrad you have your kids help you come up with rules for the classroom and set up expectations.
I am down with this but what I discovered with my kids is that they show up with established ideas about school.
On many levels, they come to me with an idea that every class is an opportunity to push the limits. Students often arrive in my room with a negative view of school and have learned a pattern of behaviors designed to derail the class or teacher and in the end entertain themselves and others. It is often not even a conscious decision. My kids have come from ineffectual social situations, whether that is at home or school. They know what should be done but often live in situations where boundaries are not clear or enforced. They also have generally low expectations about what they should accomplish to be proficient or achieve mastery.
So now you’re thinking I am a bad teacher or bad at classroom management or racist, classist or whatever. I will tell you I’m through the veil. I see my kids at face value. They are wonderful, lovable people in a broken system. So I am going to start with a sign. It outlines the class schedule. It tells them what part of the day they are in. It covers the acceptable actions and behaviors, and gives them a reference for what they should be doing.
This sign will be used in conjunction with a variety of strategies. Group behavior roles will be introduced the second day. These are not the class “rules” but they are established procedures for working together. Working together is another skill sorely lacking with my kiddos.
So this is how I built it.
I tried Word. I looked at instructional videos, but quickly found my version didn’t match their version and any hack I tried wound up with error messages. Good ol Microsoft.
I went to Google Docs next. I created the whole thing using a combination of tables, clip art, bullet text, google drawings, and shapes. This was also a bust. You can’t really achieve a poster in this app.
I should have started with Google Drawings. Go to Drive, then click NEW, then select Drawing.
I went to my district print shop page and found some of their established printing sizes. In Drawing, under File, find page set up and set your size. I did 24 x 36. Having accidentally done in it a doc format I actually had all the text and images I wanted. If you are ever doing ANYTHING multimedia, write the text, and gather images all in one place. A folder or a doc.
Now drop text elements into individual text boxes. Drop all your images in randomly. It will end up being like an old school collage. From here you just drag and drop and move your elements around like you would cut outs from a magazine. It lets you overlap, place wherever want, bullet, center, change fonts, text sizes- all in the drawing program.
So what’s in my sign?
I fret over the first day. How much structure do they need? If i don’t lay down some rules, will I lose them right away? So I decided on the first day (among all the other get to know you stuff) I will show them the sign. It tells us what the intro task portion of class looks like, what instruction, independent work, and class wrap up look like. It will allude to other yet to be discussed procedures (That will have a sign!)
The sign will also peek interest when they read about “class bloggers and photographers.” They will see a “PayDay” listed, and see that they will be able to have a place to get supplies in case they need it.
The sign is funny. I’m funny. Please don’t make me tell you again.
Its middle school so bad funny is good funny. I chose Deadpool because it’s middle school. If there was ever a super hero for middle school it’s the Pool.
Be sure to check out the Educators Guide to Fair Use to make sure you are a comfortable with any images you may have used. I found that I can use fewer than 5 rom the same artist without getting in hot water.
He is obscene, narcissistic, sarcastic, hormonal and the banality of his character speaks to the larger absurdity that is public school. He fights even when he gets his hands chopped off. He comes back for more after every beating. What better metaphor for teaching? Plus I use the Chibi version because, again, Irony +Sarcasm +Cuteness + Grown Up= Middle School Kid.
So this is just one of many signs that will go up. This one provides procedures I can pattern everyday after. It will hold me to routines I desperately need, and provide a road map for other elements of classroom organization. Kids are also wicked rule followers. I don’t have to tell you how they like to bust us when we forget a rule or procedure. 🙂