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CHAMPS: The First Champions of Classroom Management

Picture this: classroom number one has students entering the room, checking the board or screen as they walk in, put their backpacks away, get out their materials, and begin to work on the bell ringer, with some quiet talking and joking around - this is a middle school classroom after all, but mostly quiet engagement, all without the teacher being INSIDE the classroom. She is out in the middle of the hall monitoring students during the passing period. Next door, in classroom number two, students are chasing each other around, hitting one another, yelling, throwing textbooks, and the teacher is doing his best impersonation of Mr. Hand..."Class. Class. Sit down now, class." Unheard by anyone until he finally yells. Why? 

Classroom management or the lack thereof. Ms. Sanchez has her classroom management systems in place before the doors open on the first day of school, while Mr. Franks is still trying to figure out which class period Jose is supposed to be in his room during - and it's week 7 now.

It is easy for a seasoned teacher to tell a newly accredited teacher, "You need effective classroom management," or that always helpful, "Why don't you control your class?!?" But what does it really mean, and how do those effective classroom managers establish that great "learning environment"? It starts with establishing BOTH relationships with your students AND routines within the classroom. Either one will get you just so far, but not to where you want it to be. This posting will not cover the relationship building, nor will it cover all routines you may use, but it is about what I consider to be perhaps the MOST EFFECTIVE routine tool in my toolbox.

Using CHAMPS to Establish Routines that Lead to Effective Classroom Management

So far, and I hope in the future I will be able to say "during my career", I have taught in only three districts. Inner city Jackson, Mississippi where I taught 7th and 8th grade my first year, and 8th grade my second at Hardy Middle School; two years in Bryan, Texas at Stephen F. Austin Middle School; and the last three years in Elgin, Texas at Elgin Middle School, from which I hope to retire from MANY years in the future! Bryan was a district that successfully married Capturing Kids Hearts (TM) (CKH) with CHAMPS, and I was heavily trained and deeply immersed in each while I was there.  For those who may not know, CKH is all about the relationships with your students and within your classroom. CHAMPS, on the other hand, is about managing behavior and establishing the behavior practices during specific classroom routines. I embraced CKH, but had to be led by a twisted ear to CHAMPS, quite frankly, until I suddenly realized IT WORKED! I stopped being Mr. Franks. The last three years I have taught Professional Development classes on using CHAMPS, I have become such a believer! I have 8 CHAMPS posters on my classroom walls, and if you have looked at my PowerPoint Focus on Grammar, you know that I also embed CHAMPS into my slides (editable for you to customize).

At it's core, CHAMPS is simply an acronym you can easily remember and refer to to remind students of your expectations. It stands for:
  • C - Communication, or What is our Conversation Voice Level allowed to be?
  • H - Help, or How do I (the student) get assistance?
  • A - Activity, or What are we as a class supposed to be doing? 
  • M - Movement, or What are we allowed to be out of our seats for?
  • P - Performance, or How will we show that we accomplished our goals?
  • S - Student Success!
You can easily use CHAMPS by embedding them into your digital materials, as I do with Focus on Grammar, but what about the rest of the time? For my classroom, the answer is in using posters. Fortunately for me, Suzanne loves designing posters, and making sure that they are attractive and placed effectively on my walls - okay, that last is a joint effort.

I have eight different CHAMPS posters for specific routines or rules that never change in my classroom - Arrival, Testing, Dismissal, Computer Work, Direct Instruction, Independent Work, Group Work, and Individual Conferencing. I also have a poster for Voice Levels, which is a simple reminder poster of what each voice level number means, from 0 to 5, complete silence to out at the football game. So, when students arrive in my classroom, they are first face to face with a poster that says "ARRIVAL" at the top, and when they look at the board they see the bell ringer with the embedded CHAMPS as well - a double reminder. If, during small group work, one of my tables (I do not have student desks in my room) begins to get loud, I can simply remind them, "hey, table 5, we are on our small group CHAMP," and they will understand that they need to quiet a bit.

If I am having an individual conference about grades or an assessment, let's say, my students know from the CHAMPS that if they need assistance, they should ask 3 other students first, and voice levels should be no more than a 2 so they are not interfering with the conference.

Now, are CHAMPS posters a "magic bullet" for classroom management? Absolutely not! They are simply another set of tools that works if you use them properly and with fidelity. And even the "experts" like myself can easily drop the ball! This last year I was having a bit of an issue with one of my classes. It happened to be the largest class, the lunch class, and with the greatest mix of student ability levels! So I asked one of our school's Master Teachers to come in, which she happily did. Can you guess what her feedback was? "Thanks for letting me visit your classroom today! You have such great relationships with the kids, and they were engaged, even if a bit loud. I couldn't help but notice that you never referred to your CHAMPS posters when you were redirecting students. I wonder if that might have been helpful?" Talk about a "duh" moment. And she was absolutely correct. I returned to my habit of referencing the CHAMPS, and behavior in the classroom returned to where it needed to be for my students to all succeed! 

When to Implement and How to use CHAMPS

Implementation of CHAMPS begins the first day of school for your students. Otherwise, you are trying to change habitual behavior that the students are enjoying. So, before the year even begins, decide what you want the classroom to look like, and how you want it to feel. Even with CHAMPS in full swing, you can have controlled chaos, but the control is obvious to observers. But if you have your CHAMPS figured out ahead of time, and posted or prepared for students to see and learn, you can begin at the beginning of the year to make those habits what YOU want. 

Consider your room and how you teach. What do you want it to look and feel like? Decide now if you want to have groups working together, computer work stations, or DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) time, and what that should look like. Now, create the CHAMPS to go with that routine. When you get the routine established, you are going to be shocked at how smoothly your classroom runs! And when you can point to a CHAMPS, your students will respond like champs!

A collection of CHAMPS and Voice Level Posters
Available from ELA in Middle School on your favorite 
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