July 30, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Class Point Competition

Today's Teacher Tip is specifically for middle and high school teachers looking to motivate their students to make better choices.

If there's one thing that's true about adolescents, it's that they want to fit in with their peers. So I wanted to come up with a system that would reward the whole class for following expectations and demonstrating all the positive choices that can be made in the classroom. 

I've already blogged about my use of the 100 Chart, which is a fantastic motivator, but this an alternative idea that I used for my first two year: The Class Point Competition. In my experience, the class point competition went the extra mile in motivation because it kept the class accountable to the rest of their peers. No one wanted to be the class in last place, and they knew they were 100% in control of the outcome. 

The concept is very simple: I determined a pre-set point goal for each period (15 points worked for me, for a total of 30 points per day in my ELA class). I would simply deduct points whenever the class (or at least the majority of the class) wasn't making the best choices.

Too much talking? Procrastinating? Bickering? Shout outs? This solution allows you the luxury of simply erasing numbers rather than redirecting them with words time and time again.

I also added numbers to class totals when students identified an OAW (see last week's post for more here) or did other "above and beyond" type things.

I simply used a small dry-erase board to conveniently display the class totals, so they always knew where they stood compared to the other classes. I kept the daily total on my front board so it was convenient to erase as necessary, and the I usually had one student in charge of adding the daily total to the overall score at the end of class.

The class with the highest total at the end of each term receives a class party where we have a small treat and a game day or a movie as a reward.

July 26, 2013

Second Chance Late Homework Management

During my first year teaching, I was fortunate to work with a fabulous team that had a very creative approach to homework management that I thought was very effective. It's called Second Chance, and here's how it works:

If a student did not complete a homework assignment, he or she must complete the following:

  1. Fill out a Second Chance Slip stating the name of the assignment and why it wasn't completed.
  2. Obtain a parent signature on the Second Chance Slip.
  3. Attach the Second Chance Slip to the COMPLETED assignment.
  4. Come to Second Chance Club BEFORE school the NEXT day.
Students who came to Second Chance with their homework completed were awarded 100% credit for their work. I know this may sound crazy, but keep in mind the other consequences.

What exactly is Second Chance? Basically, it's a morning detention. We just didn't call it that because it has such a negative connotation. Students were expected to hand in their completed work and read silently for 20 minutes. The nice thing is that we rotated who would supervise Second Chance Club, and we were still able to use that time to prepare for the day as normal because the kids were silent.

This policy was effective for a few reasons:
  1. Our district firmly believes that grades should be a reflection of learning rather than compliance. Grading homework was frowned upon. Taking off points for late work was really frowned upon. This policy assured we would have the support of our administration should there be any parental pushback. 
  2. Parents are inconvenienced by having to bring their children to school early so they could come to Second Chance. This puts the responsibility of discipline back on the parent instead of us as teachers. Also, they become more diligent about making sure their children are doing their homework on time so they don't have to adjust their schedules to accommodate them.
  3. We were consistent about our policy. This was how it worked for every teacher on our team, and work was never graded unless it was submitted through these procedures.
As with any other procedure, you have to do what works for you. If mornings aren't possible because of your duties, try making them stay after school that day to finish their missing assignments. If you can't depend on the parental support factor, consider having a Second Chance room or table during lunch. Whatever you do, make sure it's pushing students toward your overall goal of homework completion in a timely manner!

July 25, 2013

7 Steps for Poetry Analysis

I originally posted on this topic back in February, but I wanted to share it again today for First Grade Parade's Throwback Thursday, now that I have many more followers who may benefit from a lesson idea like this!

We started our poetry unit this week, and today I introduced TP-CASTT, which are the seven steps we use for poetry analysis. I think this is a really important and often-overlooked step in poetry. It we want our students to move into higher-level thinking, we need to teach them how to do that. We can't expect our students to just analyze a poem without teaching that what that looks like. TP-CASTT is a great 7-step method that teaches your students how to analyze a poem. For those that don't know, the steps are:

Title
Paraphrase
Connotations
Attitude
Shift
Title (again, with new context)
Theme.

Today's goal was for every student to memorize the steps so they know what they have to do (and what each step means). I don't know about your students, but mine are constantly tapping their pens and pencils to the various rhythms in their heads. I'm thankfully for this poetry unit, which allows them to put those beats to good use!!


Additionally, I'm a big believer in using kinesthetic learning in the classroom because I have SO many students that learn this way. Keeping my students moving keeps them involved in their learning and makes the material more memorable. I don't fully use Whole Brain Teaching my classroom because I feel it's better for lower grades, but I definitely incorporate parts of it!

To that end, I asked each of my classes to come up with their own gestures to memorize the steps in TP-CASTT. Each class came up with very different movements, but the great thing is that they own them! There may have been a little bit of a battle during lunch today over who has the best moves. haha!



Tomorrow, I will model how to apply these steps to the poem, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein, and then we will do plenty of guided and independent practice with leveled texts over the next few weeks.

July 23, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Own-A-Word Vocabulary Instruction

This week's Teacher Tip is one I learned while I was student teaching. I was introduced to a great instructional technique for teaching vocabulary in the classroom: Own-A-Word.


The concept is simple. Instead of providing a list of vocabulary words for students to look up and break apart, each student in the room is assigned only one word per unit. Depending on the size of your class, you may want to this in partners, but my students were able to master 30 words during a 4-6 week unit.

Students can then choose from (or be assigned, if you prefer) a number of OAW activities through which they will demonstrate their mastery of the word and come up with a memorable way to teach it to the class.

Sample activities include:
Movie Posters
Infomercials
Candy Advertisements
Cartoons (free in TPT)
Campaign Flyers

No matter which activity is selected, students are required to identify definitions, parts of speech, synonyms, and antonyms, and contextual sentences for their words. The rest of the class takes notes as students present their words. When appropriate, I shrink visuals on the copier to make packets for studying.

One of the things I really like about doing OAW is that students really do show ownership of the vocabulary words. All year long, my students will point out the words in whatever we're reading. In fact, it became a game in my classroom to be the first to yell out "Word!" when we came across vocabulary in a different text, and I would award the class a point for their Class Point Competition (more on this to come). Not only could my students tell me the word and definition, but they also remembered who "owned" the word months later.

Another option is to award students with extra credit for bringing in evidence of the words being used outside of school. Students can bring music lyrics, send links to commercials on YouTube, and even have their parents sign off on sticky notes where they heard the word on TV or the radio.

In my opinion, this is much more effective than asking students to learn a preset list of vocabulary and testing them at the end of the week. The OAW activities make the words more memorable, and I truly think they retain more of the words through this method.


July 18, 2013

Organizing Your Paperwork

I came across this post today and decided to share it for Throwback Thursday, where I am linking up for the very first time!


Originally posted 4/13/11:

One of the many groups I follow on Facebook is Scholastic Teachers.  I love reading the teaching tips, articles, and lesson plans they post and appreciate having a community of teachers to swap ideas with.  This afternoon, the following post appeared on the wall:

"Which areas of your classroom do you need the most help decluttering and organizing? The magazine is working a story and we'd love to tackle your problem spots!"

My jaw dropped when I saw the responses only two hours after the post first appeared.  Of 76 replies, almost every person mentioned papers - on desks and in file cabinets as being their biggest problem areas.  There were lots of comments about endless paperwork that needed to be filed and desperate requests for suggestions about how to organize handouts. 

This is just not an issue in my life.  The OCD in me would never be able to tolerate random stacks of papers in search of a home.  I like everything to have a place and everything to be in its place.  I once had a coworker ask me if I'm human because he was amazed that I didn't have stacks of paper all over my desk.  True story.  The truth is, I can't work when I'm surrounded by all that clutter, so I can completely understand the frustration these teachers are expressing!

Fellow teachers, your days of feeling overwhelmed by papers are over!  Being the organizational guru that I am, I have a couple suggestions that might help!

My first year teaching, I created a binder for each unit and used index dividers to break up the varying components.  The labels varied depending on the needs of each unit, but for the most part, they were divided as follows: vocabulary, teacher resources, student handouts, tests & quizzes, student examples.  I made sure to keep a master copy of everything in my binder (but never any "extra" copies).  During my planning time, I would just take the binder for whatever unit I was working with, and everything I needed would be right there. 

While this method worked very well for my first year (and I still think it's a great place to start if you're new to this whole organization idea), I decided to change it up for my second year.  I found myself revising my worksheets several times, and it became cumbersome to always have to remember to put the "new" master copy in my binder.  What I ended up discovering was that my digital files pretty much mirrored my unit binders, with the exception of the things that had been handed down to me and student examples.  Thankfully, the copy machine at my school doubles as a scanner, and I made it a habit to scan anything I didn't have digitally as I went through each unit.  Now, everything I have is on my computer (and backed up on an external hard drive), which means I don't have to carry around any more binders.  The only hard copies I've kept are student samples. 

This system has also come in handy when coworkers have asked me to share files because I can send them electronic copies without worrying about losing my masters.  Also, it's extremely helpful when using the SMART board because any of those electronic papers can be easily attached to a file.  Also, if you have to email assignments or attach things to a homework hotline, everything is already at your fingertips!

And I don't limit my electronic filing to only my lesson plans.  I scan just about everything I want to keep: letters of recommendation, evaluations, district information, CPDU certifications... everything!  My file cabinet is filled with stationary and other special papers rather than files I have to dig through just to find one worksheet.  It takes a little more time on the front end to actually file everything after it's scanned, but the end result has been worth it for me!

*** Note: Since writing this original post, I have switched to using Dropbox to store all of my digital files instead of saving things directly to my computer or an external hard drive. It makes me feel more secure knowing my "stuff" is stored in a "cloud" I can access from anywhere!

July 17, 2013

Liebster!

The German girl in me is very honored to be nominated not once, not twice, but three times for a Liebster award. For those that don't speak my language, Liebster means sweetheart, darling, or beloved. Basically, this award says I'm pretty lovable. And I sure like to think that I am! :) I was nominated by Bridget at First Grade Circus, Tara at Teaching With Twitte, and Amy at Middle School Minions.

Liebster Nomination Rules
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you. 
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with less than 200 followers. 
3. Answer the questions posted for you by the nominator. 
4. Share 11 random facts about you. 
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees. 
6. Contact your nominees to inform them of their nomination. 

I'm going to do a question round-up here so I'm not repeating myself or boring my poor readers to death.

My Questions:
1. Why did you start blogging? I think my blog was originally an outlet for me to share my opinions on things that were happening both inside and outside my classroom. It was a place I could get on my pedestal and share with the "world" (more like my mom, grandmas, and a couple close friends) what I was thinking... with some fun narratives from my classroom.

2. What's your favorite after-work recipe? Anything in the crock pot! I think my absolute favorite meal is one we call Mexican Chili, which I got from Pinterest (like all great recipes). I throw in frozen chicken breasts/tenders, cream cheese, green chilies, corn, southwestern tomatoes, and black beans. When I get home from school, I'm always ready to eat my own arm, so this recipe is great because I can just shred the chicken (which takes about a minute) and eat it over brown rice or lime tortilla chips.

3. What is your most memorable teaching experience? My most meaningful moments as a teacher have honestly come from when students thank me for going above and beyond to support their children during rough times. I have a few thank-you notes that make my eyes fill with tears whenever I think about them.

4. Where did you go to school? I got my bachelor's in Communication Arts at North Park University, which is a tiny, private school in Chicago. I wanted to go to a Christian school and loved the idea of having that safety net while still living in the city. And to be honest, I thought I would intern at Harpo Studios, become BFF with Oprah (sorry, Gayle), and take over her show when she retired. :)

After two years working in marketing, I decided to go get my master's in Education from DePaul University. The program had a great reputation, and I was able to take all my classes at a suburban campus near my house. Win-win.

5. How do you deal with difficult students & parents? I think the best thing to do is to remind everyone that we need to work together for a common goal. Every situation is so different, but I think, at the end of the day, everyone just wants to feel valued and heard. Just letting people vent is often the first step in coming together to solve a problem.

6. What is your favorite television show? The Real Housewives of... wherever. I watch them all. The only season that doesn't trill me is Miami, but I still watch it because Joel loves Mama Elsa. ha! I could probably happily lose my remote if the TV were stuck on Bravo. :)

7. Do you speak any other languages? I speak some German. I took it in high school and college. My sister is always amazed at how much I still remember, but I know I've lost quite a bit over the years since I never have an opportunity to use it. I wish I spoke Spanish... maybe someday.

8. How do you feel about grading? I definitely give participation grades for many, many assignments. I went to a district-wide institute once where the speakers talked about how the value comes in students practicing the skills rather than getting the grades all the time. I think this is especially true for ELA teachers because we can't possibly grade every writing assignment. So, I take a lot of participation grades for accountability and then grade parts of assignments or maybe only a handful of students for assignments that repeat (so I can assess for mini-lesson needs).

9. What is your favorite thing about teaching? Building relationships with my students. It makes me so happy that I still have relationships with many of my former students on Facebook where we still check on each other and even share book recommendations.

10. What is your favorite read aloud? I think my new favorite is the Emmett Till book (Getting Away with Murder) I did at the end of this school year. My students were super engaged in the story and accompanying lessons.

11. What teaching resource have you found the most helpful? I would say my CRISS handbook because it's kinda my teaching Bible. I have so many pages flagged and have loved so many of the activities I learned about in that training.

12. What is your favorite way to relax after a tough day at school? Definitely with some Bravo, snuggles with Joel, and maybe a glass of wine. :)

13. What is your favorite food? If I had to pick just one thing, I think I'd choose an Italian Beef from Portillo's. Oh, the deliciousness!

14. What is your best vacation spot? I'm not very good at taking vacations, but I have to say our Destin trip over spring break this year was Ah-mazing!

15. What's one thing you would change about schools in general? I would get rid of standardized testing. I envision a happier, less stressful environment for teachers and students.

16. What's the most frustrating thing about blogging? You never know how people will respond to what you put out there. Like my linky party from last week that I was SO excited about but didn't have ANY participants. And then I see a million people participating in linky parties that I don't even care to read. Maybe I'm just weird. ha!

17. Do you create your own classroom items or buy them? I've always created my own or received items from co-workers, which I tweak for my students. I'm not good at getting something and using it as-is. I always have to change things to make it fit my style.

Random Facts About Me
1. If you give me hard wood floors and a pair of socks, I will do endless fouette turns.
2. I make no apologies for the fact that I sing in the car at the top of my lungs.
3. I get super hot and bored laying out, but I can sit in the pool all day long.
4. I'm obsessed with painting my ring finger a different color.
5. I judge drivers with Packers stickers on their cars.
6. If I could, I would live in flip flops.
7. I can't sleep without my squishy pillow and a good fan.
8. I know the name of every neighborhood kid that goes to our pool but not one parent.
9. Kelly Gallagher has had a major influence on me as a teacher.
10. I would love to work on a morning radio show.

My Nominees:

Questions for My Nominees:
1. How do you seat students in your classroom? 
2. How do you solve the dreaded "I can't find my pencil" issue?
3. What's a typical lunch for you at school?
4. What one technology do you want most for your classroom?
5. What hours do you typically work in your building?
6. Do you see yourself teaching the same subject/grade in 5 years?
7. If you weren't teaching, what would you do?
8. What is the best TPT resource you've ever purchased?
9. Whose blog are you always excited to read and why?
10. How much do you collaborate with colleagues? 
11. What is one thing you hope to improve on as a teacher this year?

July 16, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Supply Center

Today's Teacher Tip is my final recommendation (for now) for minimizing disruptions in the classroom.

My tip is to create a Supply Center to make everything accessible for students. This sounds like a no-brainer, but think about how often we make things convenient for ourselves versus our students.

When I was setting up my classroom for my first year of teaching, I had a giant rolling cart, which I decided I would use to hold any and all supplies my students may need. The drawers on top contained markers, colored pencils, scissors, glue, and sticky notes. I kept a stapler and tape dispenser there for my students so they wouldn't touch the ones on my desk. You can see that I also had a container of pens for students, which is where I'd throw the ones I found on the floor for those students who just can't seem to remember a writing utensil for class. The trays held my late work and absent work forms, extra handouts, and each class had a designated tray where we would put work for absent students to collect when they returned to class. The inside of the cart (sorry, I don't have a picture) housed highlighters, construction paper, packets of lined paper and copy paper in various colors for our projects, rulers, scrapbooking supplies, and other things I can't remember at the moment.

I loved this cart. It was the perfect way to store all of those goodies for my students, and I never once had any student ask me where to find a supply. They picked up their handouts here as they walked into the room, and we were always ready to being as soon as the bell rang, without wasting any time handing things out.

Even though I don't have this cart anymore (it belonged to the school), I still try to re-create this same idea by designating a similar space in my room. I think it not only frees me from having to hand out these supplies at every student request, but it also gives students ownership of the room. I told them it was their cart, and they had to maintain it. Believe it or not, I always had students who would offer to organize it during study halls or when they finished their work early.

This past year, I will admit, my Supply Center wasn't nearly as complete. I had good intentions, but I learned the hard way how quickly said supplies would disappear from my classroom. The truth is, I was working with students who came from poverty and literally didn't come to school with a single pen or notebook. My supplies were just too much of a temptation and would often grow legs and walk away. This was especially true for pens/pencils. My students were in the habit of bringing them with them to the bathroom because they couldn't even trust their classmates to leave them on their desks.

For these students, it was less important that they had access to these "bonus" supplies and more important that they had access to the basic learning materials. I provided each student with a file folder and composition notebook, which they were required to leave in my classroom. My school didn't have lockers, so this was the only way I could guarantee they would have anything to use in class. If I wanted them to keep it, it couldn't leave the room.

So, even though it was annoying for me to have to waste time handing these things out and collecting them each day, I really did solve quite a few headaches by designating space in my room for students to keep their file folders, notebooks, and even their independent reading books.

My point here is that the amount of accessibility you allow in your classroom will vary depending on the responsibility of your students. So, you need to figure out what works for you, but consider which items are worth relinquishing control to make your life easier in the end. :)

July 12, 2013

Epic Linky Fail

My sincerest apologies to anyone who tried to participate in my linky party earlier today only to realize my link wasn't active until noon. Oops! I meant for that to have been midnight.

It's working now... come link up!

Field Trip Friday Linky Party


I am super excited to introduce my new series called Field Trip Friday and hope you will participate in this fun linky party. I was thinking about all the fun things I've been doing this summer that are not necessarily school-related (although those would definitely be appropriate as well). After all, we all have lives outside of the classroom too, right? (At least I hope so! haha)

The purpose of this linky is to share your pictures and stories from at least one "Field Trip" from the past week. Maybe you visited the water park with your children, saw a concert, had some "me" time at the spa, or hung out with friends at the local pub. Whatever it is you did, this is the place to share it!

**Note: This is a great way for my non-teacher readers to participate in the fun as well!

My Field Trip for the week was a trip to the Morton Arboretum. Despite the fact that I've lived in this state nearly my whole life (of course, with the exception of this past year in Louisiana) and it's only about 20 minutes away, I've never before visited the Arboretum. And honestly, I never really had the desire. But when my dear friend Carolyn asked Joel and I to join her and her son, Ryan, I couldn't say no. 

The best thing about this field trip was that it was 100% free! We pulled in at 4:30 on Wednesday, which just happens to be the time that the park becomes free. I swear this was pure luck - we had no idea they had this deal on Wednesdays, but it was a very welcome surprise. 

Joel was such a trooper, helping Ryan climb all over the jungle gym in the children's area, and we all had a great time running around in the shrub maze. There's something about watching a man play with a child that just melts my heart... I swear I fell in love all over again!

OK, folks! It's your turn to share your field trips...

July 11, 2013

Instacollage Fun

Okay, I have to give a shout out to Brandee at Creating Lifelong Learners because she's the one who introduced me to this Instacollage app, which has turned into my new obsession.

I've seriously spent the past 2 days creating collages of all the pictures on my iphone from the past year. I like that I can add a fun border and label the event with text. I also like that I can select my collage frame first and then take pictures to fit in each space... you know, so I'm not stretching and cropping them to fit. That's my next project!

I know my photography skills need some work, but you can see through our smiles the fun that we had at my sister's house for her 4th of July party last week. Yummy food on the grill, fun adult-beverages, lounging in the hammock, s'mores around the campfire, great music, fabulous company, and, of course, fireworks from their backyard.

I'm LOVING this summer!

And my new app! :) I even used the app to create the button for a new linky party I'm hosting that starts tomorrow... be sure to come by again tomorrow to check it out and participate!

Thanks, again, Brandee!


July 10, 2013

Chicago Pride

This post is overdue, but I just learned about this fantastic app called Instacollage, which allowed me to put all my pics together into one image for your viewing pleasure. I've wanted to know how to do this for a long time, but since I don't use Instagram, I feel behind the world. ha!

Anyway, this image is from our trip to the city last weekend with my sister, her boyfriend, and some friends for the Gay Pride Parade. It was actually my first time attending, though I've wanted to go for years. I found some fun rainbow wigs for the occasion and knew they'd be perfect for us sisters at this event.

It was a beautiful day, both in weather and spirit. There's something magical about seeing a million people (literally) come together to celebrate love. We were actually right across the street from where the "haters" set up their camp, spewing hatred in every direction. This was toward the end of the parade route, which typically means the participants are running on fumes, but as soon as they saw this group, it really revved them up again, making this a great spot to view the parade.

I wish I had gotten a picture of them, but there was a group of Christians who stood directly in front of this group with a big banner that said, "We're sorry for the hurt the church has caused you." I got chills as soon as I saw them, as they embraced parade participants. Clearly, this group and I know the same God!

I also want to give a shout out to the man dressed as Jesus who literally stood in that spot for HOURS holding the, "I'm not with these guys" sign. I wanted to hug him as I walked by, but I simply told him he was amazing! And if you can see the "Secretly Gay" sign... we met the guy who made it and gave him a couple beers. I love these people who stand up against criticism. 

Keep spreading the love, Chicago! You make me proud!

July 9, 2013

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Hand Signals to Minimize Distractions

Today's Teacher Tip is a continuation of last week's effort to minimize distractions in the classroom. You already know about my beloved Hall Pass Punch Cards, and today, I'm going to share how my students seek permission to use them!

At my school last year, students were expected to use hand signals (numbers 1-5) to communicate their needs in the classroom. While I love this idea, it can be quite confusing for middle school students when their teachers aren't consistent about what the numbers mean. (You think this would be common sense, but although we were all instructed to use the numbers, there was no consensus on what each number should mean.) I was constantly referring to my poster and correcting students for using the wrong signal.

That didn't save me any time or distractions, did it?

In my mind, it makes SO much more sense to use American Sign Language to communicate these needs. Not only are students able to clearly show me their needs, but they are also learning a life skill. Win-win!

For my classroom purposes, students need the following signals (click on each word to see what I'm using in my classroom):


Bathroom,    Drink,    Locker,    Nurse,    Library/Book

If you click on any of those links, you can see the signs I plan to teach my students. I think they make a lot more sense than using just numbers, and therefore will be easier to remember.

**Side Note: I also use ASL when I'm going over multiple choice answers with my students. "B" and "D" sound an awful lot alike when you're going through a whole list of answers, so this is one of the ways I differentiate for my students. The kids pick it up pretty quickly, and I actually find them signing their answers along with me (and then it can be used during Check for Understanding). :)

July 2, 2013

Middle School Blog Hop

Attention Middle School Teachers!

Jamie, over at Sixth Grade Tales is hosting a Middle School Blog Hop to help us connect over at Bloglovin'.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm always super excited when I come across a middle school blogger to follow. There just doesn't seem to be as many of us out there, and I love being able to share experiences with people who truly understand the ins and outs of working in middle school settings.

Head on over and link up with your blog, so we can all follow each other!

Teacher Tip Tuesday: Hall Pass Punch Card

For the next few Tuesday Teacher Tips, I want to focus on some of my classroom management techniques that have helped me minimize distractions in the classroom.

The Hall Pass Punch Card solved three problems in my classroom:

  1. Abuse of bathroom/water breaks
  2. "Forgetting" things in lockers
  3. Tardies

You know what I'm talking about. One student asks for the bathroom pass, and it's quickly followed by a steady stream of hands asking, "Can I go next?" or "Can I get a drink?" The mere suggestion that one person might be able to leave the room seems to remind every middle school student that they would rather be wandering the halls than in the classroom.

At the beginning of each term (trimester, or quarter, depending on where I've worked), I give each student a Hall Pass Punch Card, which I print on brightly colored card stock  making it durable enough to last the tern. Students are required to write their names in pen on the cards (so they cannot be used by anyone else) and store them in their binders/pencil cases for safe keeping.

On each pass, I have a pre-determined number of icons, usually matching the school or team mascot (see example below). Each time a student needs to leave my classroom, he or she must present his pass, and I simply use my single hole puncher to mark one icon as "used." (Just make sure your icons are along the edges so your single hole punch can reach each image.)

At the end of each term, students submit their passes and receive extra credit for each unused punch.  I don't offer many extra credit options in my classroom, so this is typically a good incentive for students to use their passes wisely. I can't tell you how many times the conversation has sounded like this:

     Student: Can I use the bathroom?

     Me: Sure! Do you have your punch pass?

     Student: Never mind.

My other "favorite" thing is when students (it's always the same students, over and over) "forget" mandatory items in their lockers (because they're too busy socializing). Sometimes I make them do the lesson without the item, but if it's something they truly need, I make them use their punch pass to retrieve it. This has worked tremendously well in teaching my students to be prepared for class.

Finally, and I've only had to use this for one class, I use the punch card as a tardy consequence. If students are not in their assigned seats when the final bell rings, I simply walk around with my hole puncher and ask for their passes. It's actually pretty hilarious to watch them all scramble to their seats just as the bell begins to ring. And you know they are more than happy to rat each other out! It's a guaranteed laugh every single day! :)

So, what happens when the student is out of passes? It's simple: they can't go! Some students will use up their card in the first few weeks of the term and learn this the hard way, but I promise they are much more thoughtful about it for the next term. If it's a real emergency, of course, I let them go with a stern warning that they are losing participation points. Truthfully, I never waste my time keeping track of this, but my students don't need to know that!

This is easily a task that can be given to a responsible student as a class job if it's not something you want to deal with. Or, if your students are trustworthy, you can use the honor system and keep the hole punch near the door for each student to access as needed.