Classroom Theme: Welcome to the Real World

Lajean Shiney, Lawence Elementary, Wichita KS

“Welcome to the Real World” was a theme for the entire year which I used with my fifth graders last year to communicate responsibility, bring their grade school experience to a close, and increase their awareness of the community around them. I used a logo consistently as often as possible, and on a variety of items. Most visible were the large signs on our door, and a huge “Welcome to the Real World” banner on the back wall that was the first thing someone walking into room would see.

Our ticket system centered on each student receiving three tickets made by attaching copied artwork to flexible magnetic sheeting (available through sign supply companies or screen printers), and drawing their name in the empty space provided. The magnetic sheeting allowed these tickets to be easily attached to the fronts of their desks, and when a student was reprimanded for not minding or using inappropriate behavior, they would lose one ticket, which was attached to our metal-backed blackboard. Anyone losing all three in a day was in for some serious consequences. An added benefit was that they served as name tags on the desks for substitute teachers.

Name badges were made using clear plastic, pin backed holders (available at office supply stores) for paper we printed with a color printer on the computer. The art was ganged up 10 to a sheet, and included individual student names printed at the same time.

I also ran off on the copier a quantity of Good Job tickets that I rewarded students with, to simply give them a pat on the back, or which they could turn back in periodically to enter in drawings or receive prizes. These were small, 3/4″ x 3″ tickets with a space for the student to write their name for the drawings.

Right inside the door was the Responsibility Corner. We made a street sign out of cardboard to attach above a table and bulletin board. On the bulletin board in this corner was a Job List for the day, which worked by attaching each student’s name on a 1″ wide strip of magnetic sheeting and sticking it on the board next to the job they would be doing that day. Jobs were rotated daily and included: handing out office papers before students left for the day, picking up messages from the office, cleaning chalkboards, and even dustmopping the floor. A box attached to this bulletin board held notes to be taken home (and helped to remind me to hand them out!)

The Parents/Partners Note sheet became a very important vehicle for keeping parents informed. It listed upcoming events and dates to remember, listed the current curriculum focus in language arts, math, science/health and social studies, and detailed things to work on with their child. By copying off sheets with the events and curriculum focus already written in, it took me little time to jot down notes pertaining to their child that would personalize the sheet. I usually sent out these sheets every two weeks.

Welcome to the Real World was a success in all areas except for my hope of involving area businesses in the teaching process. I had hoped to get local businesses to send back a data sheet describing their line of work that would have been used to help students learn more about the community around them. Unfortunately, despite all of the talk of “turning things over to the private sector”, no data sheets ever materialized. But having this theme definitely built in some continuity to the learning process that I think wouldn’t have been there otherwise, and it strengthened responsibility and accountability.