No Series: Caring and Control Create a Safe, Positive Classroom

Caring and Control Create a Safe, Positive Classroom

Lesson Objective: Maximize student engagement through classroom culture and procedures
Grade 3 / ELA / Management
14 MIN


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  1. How does the 1 to 5 rating system encourage self-reflection and provide important feedback?
  2. How does Ms. Sinclair reinforce desired behaviors through positive feedback?
  3. What strategies does Ms. Sinclair use to consistently communicate expectations to her students?


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  1. How does the 1 to 5 rating system encourage self-reflection and provide important feedback?                                       The 1 to 5 rating system is an excellent resource to gauge how students are feeling at the start of the day. By determining the mood of each student, the teacher is better equipped to address the individual needs of each student.
  2. How does Ms. Sinclair reinforce desired behaviors through positive feedback?                                                                 Throughout her lessons, she is contantly using postive commentary to encourgae her students. She acknowledges that she can provide corrections without it being perceived as a critique. Her students are more willing to take her feedback because it is presented in a positive manner.
  3. What strategies does Ms. Sinclair use to consistently communicate expectations to her students?                                  She has taken the neccesary time to teach her students the expectations and procedures within the first few weeks of school. There is no confusion about how her class is to behave, and she has an easily viewed contract of the class policies posted for her students to see.
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The student rating system allows students to communicate how they are feeling, so the teacher can understand the  mindsets of the students. The teacher can adjust the way she delivers lessons and guides students in order to create a more positive learning environment. She is sure to interact with students by moving around the room, and set up a class layout using tape so students can rearrange desks and move them back easily. She provided consistent praise for the students throughout the lesson, which encouraged them to participate and follow proper procedures. 

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The railing system in the morning helps the teacher know how the students are feeling when they first come in, that way if one students is feeling angry she can talk to them and let them know that she understands and is there for them. The teacher uses positive feedback to get a desired action by pointing out a student that is doing something the way they are suppose to rather than pointing out the student that is exhibiting the unwanted behavior. The teacher takes the first 20 days to simply focus on her expectations in the classroom. 

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The 1 to 5 rating system that Ms. Sinclair has created for morning feedback and self reflection is a wonderful way to start the day.  It allow the students, as well as the teacher to reflect on their morning and what the day looks like.  It also gives students a chance to express in a comfortable/safe enviornment how they are feeling.  This gives the teacher a headstart for the day.  She becomes aware of which students are rested and ready to learn, as well as students that have glasses that are already full before the day begins.  This rating system also allows students to gain trust for their teacher and understand that she really cares about them as a whole person.  

Mrs. Sinclair reinforces behaviors through postive feedback by taking the time at the beginning of the year to throughly teach the expectations for the school year.  I like how she says that in the long run this saves her time.  She also makes a class contract  with class promises.  This gives the students some voice in how they would like the class to be managed and gives the students buy in.  She also acknowledges the students that are doing what she expects, instead of pointing out the negative.  One thing I think helps with her behaviors is her pacing "perky pacing". She doesn't give students time to disengage.  She also has a very upbeat attitude and communicates with the students in a very positive manner.   

The strategies Ms. Sinclair to consistently communicate expectatons to her students include; taking the first 20 days to teach the expectations, she also made a class contract.  Some other things that she does is focusing on the positive things that students are doing and correcting students in a positive way.  I also like how she uses values as she is notices what students are doing well.  She also, has set up her classroom so that she can see and manage each student.  The students know the expectations, I feel their is level of respect and they helped to create the class contract and so they understand the rules.  


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  1. How does the 1 to 5 rating system encourage self-reflection and provide important feedback?

Both 1 to 5 rating systems Ms. Sinclair uses allows the kids to self reflect and provides important feedback to the teacher. For the AM check- in the students assess how they are feeling and share the info with Ms. Sinclair, so she know before the academic day even begins the emotional state of each student. The rating system for understanding helps the students take control of their own learning by evaluating themselves on their understanding and sharing it with their teacher, who then can make teaching decisions based on the feedback. In both cases the rating system is quick check, encourages meanginful positive interaction between student and teacher, and helps inform Ms. Sinclair's teaching. 

  1. How does Ms. Sinclair reinforce desired behaviors through positive feedback? 

Ms. Sinclair uses lots of praise and positive comments to point out desired behaviors in her classroom. What's interesting is she uses very few negative comments, and instead points out instances of appropriate behavior. This allows lots of positive interactions with the students and creates a positive classroom environment. 

  1. What strategies does Ms. Sinclair use to consistently communicate expectations to her students?

Ms. Sinclair has a clear set of expectations and procedures that she follows each day so that students never have to guess about should happen. She spent the first 20 days to teach procedures to minimize distractions and time wasting the rest of the school year. She created a contract with her class based on their suggestions for appropriate behavior. Finally, she provides lots of positive feedback to reinforce the positive behavior in her classroom. 

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Lesson Plans


  • Lori Sinclair: [0:09] Morning, morning, hey, morning. Thomas, good morning. How are you doing? Christian, how are you doing today?

    Lori Sinclair: [0:09] Morning, morning, hey, morning. Thomas, good morning. How are you doing? Christian, how are you doing today? Oh, Gary. Alright, here you go, babe. [0:24]

    Interviewer: [0:26] Instructional expert Jim Knight is observing sixth year teacher Lori Sinclair in Lawrence, Kansas. Today Lori hopes Jim will help her with classroom management strategies. [0:36]

    Lori Sinclair: [0:38] Hey Carrie, can you take your coat off, hon? Thanks. [0:40]

    Interviewer: [0:44] Okay, now you mentioned when the kids came in that you wished the cameras would be here everyday because they were a little more angelic than usual. [0:50]

    Lori Sinclair: [0:50] Yes. [0:51]

    Interviewer: [0:52] So what would have ordinarily seen had we not had the cameras here? [0:56]

    Lori Sinclair: [0:56] Even then they’re usually a very chatty bunch, so even just coming in, it’s kind of like their social time, which is fine as long as the levels are a little low. There would be several times that I’d have to be alright boys and girls, our voices are getting a little loud. Let’s quiet down. [1:11]

    [1:12] We talk about the door frame is sort of the magic door. When you enter in, you’re supposed to be quiet. Today it really was a magic door. They were quiet. So they were on their best behavior, that’s for sure. [1:23]

    [1:24] Alright, go ahead and put your books away. Close them up and put them up, and let’s circle up. [1:27]

    [1:29] Good morning boys and girls. [1:30]

    Child Voice: [1:30] Good morning, Ms. Sinclair. [1:32]

    Lori Sinclair: [1:34] Alright, can you rate yourselves how you’re feeling today? I want to see—oh, we just put our fingers up. Great, I see lots of ones today. Mina, why are you a two today? [1:43]

    Child Voice: [1:44] Because I woke up very early. [1:46]

    Lori Sinclair: [1:46] Me too, Mina. I hear what you’re saying. [1:48]

    Interviewer: [1:49] How important do you think that morning check in is? [1:52]

    Lori Sinclair: [1:51] Oh my goodness, it is so important because they all come in a certain way whether you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or you had a fight with your mom and dad, or you didn’t get enough sleep, or didn’t get your breakfast. You’re gonna come in a certain way. [2:05]

    [2:05] Mahela, why are you a three today? [2:06]

    Child Voice: [2:06] Because my dad wouldn’t let me wear my favorite shirt today. [2:09]

    Lori Sinclair: [2:10] Oh, that’s a bummer. [2:10]

    [2:11] Zela, are you angry today? What are you angry about man? [2:13]

    Child Voice: [2:13] I woke up at midnight. [2:15]

    Lori Sinclair: [2:16] Really? I hope you got back to sleep. [2:17]

    Child Voice: [2:17] I did for two hours. [2:19]

    Lori Sinclair: [2:19] That morning time enables me to see what’s going on and that we can just kind of decompress and let it go. Alright, we’re in the classroom now. We can let whatever happened in the morning go. Some of them come in, one was excellent and then five is angry. Four is unhappy. So two and three are kinda okay or fine, just am. [2:36]

    Interviewer: [2:37] Right. [2:37]

    Lori Sinclair: [2:38] So it really helps me to see who’s going on, what’s going on with who. [2:41]

    Interviewer: [2:42] Parents should see that because it’s amazing how big sleep is. [2:45]

    Lori Sinclair: [2:45] Absolutely. That’s what I feel too. I’m like ugh, I understand. Then that helps me as a teacher regulate, like I’m not gonna be after so-and-so if they couldn’t sleep last night because of the thunderstorm. I’m gonna help them. [2:56]

    Interviewer: [2:57] Or somebody gives you a five, I better— [2:59]

    Lori Sinclair: [2:59] Yeah, I need to talk to that person. The fact that they want to share that is very important. That happens from the very beginning of the school year that they know that they can walk in and we’re a family. We might not always like each other. That’s okay, but we’re a family and we have to respect each other. [3:15]

    Interviewer: [3:15] Builds that mutual support like you end with the high five or handshake part and all that. There’s that sense of community. [3:21]

    Child Voice: [3:22] Morning, Tyler. [3:23]

    Child Voice: [3:23] Morning, Avi. [3:24]

    Child Voice: [3:24] Morning, Omega. [3:25]

    Child Voice: [3:26] Morning, Tyler. Morning, Nadia. [3:28]

    Child Voice: [3:28] Morning, Omega. [3:28]

    Lori Sinclair: [3:29] Okay, when I say one, I want you to stand up. When I say two, I want you to go to your seat, and when I say three, I want you to sit down. One. Two. Three. Show me ready learning positions. [3:51]

    Interviewer: [3:54] Boom, they’re doing it. I mean everything you ask them to do. You’ve trained them when they came up for their activity on the floor. They come up without any problems. Get your stuff out. They got their stuff out. They have to go sharpen their pencil. They do it, they come back. I mean they’ve learned the procedures really well. [4:06]

    Lori Sinclair: [4:07] Yes, lots of practice. [4:09]

    Interviewer: [4:09] Yeah? Well, tell me a little bit about how you did that. [4:10]

    Lori Sinclair: [4:10] We kind of do the first 20 days of school. Really you’re learning a lot of procedures, not so much oh, let’s dig deep into academics right away, but they need to learn the procedures to really help them. It saves time in the end if you take that first 20 days to teach everything. How do I want you to, what are the expectations of standing in line. They help us come up with that. It’s kind of like our class contract. [4:30]

    Interviewer: [4:30] Right. I like the way it’s phrased. What was that? Listen to everybody, especially the teacher. [4:34]

    Lori Sinclair: [4:35] Yeah, they came up with those. Of course, every year I have an idea of what I want my kids to do, but it’s their phrasing. So they voted on them. We had a whole list of what we thought could be good expectations. We call them class promises so it’s not rules, rules. My husband’s a lawyer, so we came up with the class contract because if you have it on paper and you sign your name to it, that’s it. [4:56]

    Interviewer: [4:55] Right. It’s a deal. [4:56]

    Lori Sinclair: [4:56] It’s a deal. It’s set. [4:57]

    [4:59] Alright, so the last few weeks we’ve been talking about suffixes. We’ve kind of been talking about different kinds of suffixes. So today what we’re gonna do is I think we’ve kind of been going too fast a little bit with those, and we’re just going to take a break, a pause. [5:13]

    [5:14] We’re going to review what a suffix is, okay? We’re gonna talk about some of the suffixes that we’ve already done. Then we’re gonna learn two new suffixes. So our title for today is what? Can we all read it together? [5:26]

    Child Voice: [5:27] Let’s dig deep with suffixes. [5:30]

    Lori Sinclair: [5:31] Yes. Sometimes we think we know everything there is about that topic, about suffixes. In fact, if I were to ask you right now to rate yourselves on suffixes that we know, rate yourselves. Let’s be honest. I see some fives, but I know I can getcha. [5:50]

    Interviewer: [5:51] So what are you looking for when you watch the kids because it looked like you were very attentive to them the whole time? [5:56]

    Lori Sinclair: [5:56] I’m looking for engagement. I’m looking to make sure that they’re all participating. I’m looking to make sure that they’re understanding because sometimes when you’re in the crowd, it’s easy to fake it. [6:10]

    Interviewer: [6:10] So what does engagement look like and what does lack of engagement look like? I can see you were watching really carefully. [6:15]

    Lori Sinclair: [6:15] Well it depends on every student. Every student I can tell. There was one student that I thought that he was always confused. He always gave me that confused look. Then I had a conversation with him and I realized he wasn’t confused, he just had copied the look from his dog. [6:29]

    Interviewer: [6:30] That’s the puppy look? [6:31]

    Lori Sinclair: [6:31] That’s the puppy look. One student might have a confused face, and they really are confused, whereas one student, it’s just the look he makes. If somebody—engagement, like if they’re writing their things down with the activity, if they’re involved, if they’re talking with the people. [6:45]

    Child Voice: [6:45] [Crosstalk] [7:00]

    Lori Sinclair: [7:01] I want to keep up the pace too and that’s part of engagement. I don’t want us to lag back a little bit. [7:05]

    Interviewer: [7:06] Anita Archer says keep a perky pace. [7:07]

    Lori Sinclair: [7:07] Right. [7:08]

    [7:09] Alright, I love Mina is showing me a ready learning position. She’s paying attention. [7:14]

    Interviewer: [7:14] You know what struck me, and I’m always watching for this, but is how often and how frequently you gave positive comments to the kids. At one point from 8:14 to 8:21, I thought I’m just gonna keep track of how often she corrects the students and how often she praises them. [7:32]

    [7:33] You had 10 positive statements and no negative statements in that seven minute period. There’s nothing wrong with corrections. When kids needed to be corrected, you were there, but you just found ways to say I like what so-and-so’s doing, I like the way you’re doing this, oh that’s really great. [7:48]

    Lori Sinclair: [7:49] Oh, I love that. Zoa just added one of our skittle words: pondering. [7:54]

    [7:55] Yes, Nadia? [7:55]

    Child Voice: [7:57] Do you just ignore that and pretend that’s an E? [8:00]

    Lori Sinclair: [8:00] Yes. [8:00]

    Child Voice: [8:01] You think we should? [8:01]

    Lori Sinclair: [8:02] That’s one of the rules, right? You got it. High five, babe. [8:05]

    Interviewer: [8:07] When we do this, we call it ratio of interaction. It’s not uncommon to see it be one to ten. [8:12]

    Lori Sinclair: [8:12] Oh wow. [8:12]

    Interviewer: [8:12] One positive statement for every ten corrected. [8:14]

    Lori Sinclair: [8:14] See, I can’t imagine that. I want that student to feel like oh—I don’t’ want them to be scared to come to class. I don’t want them to be scared to learn. So even if I’m correcting, I try to form it in a positive way so that they know that I’m here. I’m not saying something because I’m angry, but I want them to see the right way to do something. [8:31]

    [8:32] If it has a short vowel sound and it ends with a consonant, then we have to double the last letter. Yeah, that’s good. [8:38]

    Interviewer: [8:39] The way I think about it is in a classroom the teacher’s attention is like sunlight. [8:43]

    Lori Sinclair: [8:43] Right. [8:43]

    Interviewer: [8:44] The kids will do what you encourage them to do. So if you put all your attention on look at how so-and-so is doing this, then they’ll do it because they want to please you. [8:52]

    Lori Sinclair: [8:53] Now does everybody understand that mistakes that we saw on that sentence? Is anybody confused? Now prescription was a big long word. [9:00]

    Interviewer: [9:01] Well, the way your room is laid out is kinda cool too because you were able to walk around and see them really easily. So you can pretty well look at every kid without much of a problem. I think the layout really made things easier for you to check in on engagement and their understanding. [9:15]

    Lori Sinclair: [9:13] Right. This group really works well with the horseshoe. You might think oh, it’s gonna be really chatty, but not them. The way they’re seated, they’re able to see the board. I have some in the middle, but that’s not because they’re naughty or anything. It’s just because that’s how it has to work, but they love it. They really do. [9:33]

    Interviewer: [9:33] You’re able to access them really easily, so that’s probably part of the reason they don’t get off track is that they know you’re right there. [9:40]

    Lori Sinclair: [9:39] Right. That’s important too because I always try to make sure I cross the teacher plain because I think sometimes we get stuck up here. We feel like we can’t—over by the board or over by the screen, and we feel like we can’t move past it. [9:52]

    [9:53] For the kids, that’s so important for part of classroom management is to be able to move past. Just to let them know, like I’m not always gonna walk to the person that’s always off task. I’m gonna always do it so that they—I’m gonna always walk towards everybody so that they’re not thinking oh, I’m the naughty one. They’re always expecting it. [10:11]

    Interviewer: [10:12] What’s up with the blue tape? You’ve got this tape here around the floor. [10:16]

    Lori Sinclair: [10:17] Well, first of all, the blue tape is maybe because I’m a little anal. I like a little organization. It’s a way for us to organize our desks. All I have to do is say, oh guys, check your desks. They know exactly where is it with the blue line. That way too it’s very fast if we need to move our desk for any reason, which we do a lot. [10:36]

    [10:37] So it’s just a way to keep the classroom organized, which every teacher has a problem with, and just a way to keep it transition faster as well. [10:45]

    [10:45] Now who thinks—this was just our review time, but who thinks they learned some new things already? So really should you have rated yourselves as fives yet? No because really you had a lot to learn still, didn’t you? [10:56]

    [10:56] Okay, so now we’re gonna try two new suffixes. You guys are doing a great job. You did a great job with reviewing. Now here are the suffixes we’re going to add. What are we adding? [11:05]

    Child Voice: [11:05] E-R. [11:05]

    Lori Sinclair: [11:06] Tyler, what’s that next one we’re gonna add? [11:08]

    Child Voice: [11:08] E-S-T. [11:10]

    Lori Sinclair: [11:10] E-S-T. [11:10]

    [11:11] Towards that end, I’m sure that you could see that they’re starting to get a little restless with the new items. Really, I got so much great discussion out of that review part, even with the kids that rated themselves—we have two different rating systems—as a five, which means perfect. [11:25]

    [11:25] I could explain it. I could teach it. They really didn’t realize that they didn’t have everything. So my question was like would that have been better if I’d just stayed with the review part instead of adding the E-R, E-S-T? [11:41]

    Interviewer: [11:42] Well, I was looking at your chocolate book. What’s the book back there? [11:46]

    Lori Sinclair: [11:46] Oh, The Chocolate Touch. [11:46]

    Interviewer: [11:47] Right, and I thought what if you were to take a couple paragraphs? Pick them ahead of time, and just read the words, but maybe even photocopy it and white out the suffixes. Read the words without the suffix and then go, well, that doesn’t make any sense because you can’t set the tense. You can’t set the meaning. [12:05]

    Lori Sinclair: [12:02] Yes, I like that idea. [12:03]

    Interviewer: [12:05] You can say well, if we put E-D here in this sentence, what does it mean? If we put E-R in this sentence, what does it mean? So they can sort of actually see the function of the suffix. [12:15]

    Lori Sinclair: [12:15] Then I was thinking that could be an extension into their small group reading times because then they would be level on their own with their own book. Then we could kind of go through that on a smaller level instead of trying to do a whole classroom teaching it. I think that will be really great to do that. Take out the suffix part. [12:32]

    [12:32] Put your name on your exit slip. Put your names on your cards. Aden, put your name on your card and write your sentence. [12:40]

    Interviewer: [12:44] What you do know from your exit ticket is you know the kids can write a sentence that uses a word with a suffix in it, but do they know those parts? It doesn’t really—it’s not a criticism of it, but yeah. [12:55]

    Lori Sinclair: [12:55] Right. That’s why after watching the video, I was thinking I think that the lesson could be better as just the review part even, just keeping without introducing the E and the R. That’s new information. So that they could really answer those questions. [13:10]

    [13:11] I like how Mina’s standing with integrity, doing the right thing when no one’s looking. Go ahead, sweetie, line up. I like how Essie is standing. Thank you, Essie. [13:20]

    Interviewer: [13:21] The great thing about me being a part of this is not that I come in and say here do this or do that, it’s that I learn so much in every class I go to. I learn so much about the way you correct and the way you organize the classroom and building relationships with students. It was just a joy. [13:37]

    Lori Sinclair: [13:37] Thanks, Jim. [13:38]

    Interviewer: [13:38] Those ideas caring and control that are so important you really embodied them beautifully. It was a pleasure, and I’m grateful. [13:45]

    Lori Sinclair: [13:45] Well, thanks, Jim. Woodlawn welcomes you back anytime. [13:47]

    Interviewer: [13:47] I’ll be here. [13:47]

    Lori Sinclair: [13:48] Okay. [13:48]

    Interviewer: [13:48] Thanks. [13:48]

    Lori Sinclair: [13:49] Thanks. [13:49]

    [End of Audio]

School Details

Woodlawn Elementary School
508 Elm Street
Lawrence KS 66044
Population: 229

Data Provided By:



Lori Sinclair


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