Show your SWAG: a fun way to get kids ready to learn

real teachers, real tips on classroom management

Each month, I invite a different educator to share a few classroom management tips that have worked in his or her classroom. It’s part of a blog post series called Real Teachers, Real Tips.  My goal is to feature a large cross-section of teachers from all different parts of the world, at a wide range of grade levels, in a variety of teaching scenarios. Want to share your ideas here? Just fill out the guest blog form!

March’s featured teacher is Heather Lincoln. She’s a teacher at James Alcorn Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA., and has taught third grade for eight years and second grade for one year. Heather shares, “I absolutely love my job and could never imagine myself doing anything else. I graduated from Temple University in 2004 and went on to earn my Master’s Degree in elementary reading and mathematics instruction from Walden University. I am currently pursuing my National Board Certification. At home I have the three most amazing kids anyone could ever ask for. I have been happily married for five years. I still live in South Philadelphia where I was born and raised. I hope you enjoy reading my post as much as I enjoyed writing it.” Thank you, Heather, for sharing your creative ideas with us!

SWAG, SWAG, SWAG…..

“What is this swag that you speak of?” I asked. After the chuckles the students explain it is from a Justin Bieber song. Somehow I have heard this song, from my children, I suppose. So swag means you’re cool, basically. At least this is what the kids tell me.

I notice my third graders use the term swag a lot. “Oh that kid has swag,” I hear them say. So I decided to get creative with it. I made up an acrostic poem for the word SWAG, related to expected classroom behaviors: S-means sit up straight. W-watch the speaker. A-means ask and answer questions. G-means give claps. Let me explain why I chose these phrases.

First, S-Sitting up straight. This helps the students pay better attention. At least, that is my thought. They appear more attentive and it is just the appropriate thing to do. It also helps me move around the classroom better.

Second, the W-Watch the speaker. I worked with a teacher a few years ago that really stressed this idea. When the students watch the speaker, it makes them pay better attention but it also sends a message to the speaker. It helps them know we are interested in what they have to say. This is meaningful, especially when the speaker is a child.

A-Ask and answer questions. I think this sort of speaks for itself. We all strive to have our students ask and answer questions all day everyday.

Finally, the G-Give claps. The class gives claps to acknowledge each other. If someone earns a high test score, moves their color up, conquers a task, reads aloud to the class, or for many other reasons, we give them claps. What I love most about this is they are now giving claps without being told or reminded. They also really clap–it’s not just doing it because they have to clap. They really applaud each other.

At times I will remind them to “Show your SWAG.” Again, they chuckle, but they all sit up tall and look at the speaker, read to ask and answer questions, and give them claps. They like it. It’s relevant to their life and they think it is hysterical that their teacher says “swag.”

Here is HOW I set it up in my class. I made a little poster and brought it in. We went over every letter and what it stood for. I explained to them why these were important. We practiced each one. I said, “Show me what sitting up straight looks like.” I pointed out how well some of them did this task. I told them to show me NOT sitting up straight, and they did. We discussed how sitting in a slouched way could be rude and causes you to lose focus. We did this same thing for every letter. We actually practiced doing it and demonstrated doing inappropriate behavior, and then discussed why it was better to show your SWAG.

The entire lesson took about fifteen minutes. I told them later that day the nutritionist would be coming for a visit. I told them to make sure they showed the nutritionist their swag. Most of they complied with the request. After the nutritionist left we discussed again, for about 5-10 minutes, who showed swag and who did not.

I think this idea is simple, relevant, and effective. Not to mention, the kids love it! I hope you enjoyed reading my post and show some swag in your classroom.

How do you get students ready to learn in the classroom? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Judy March 25, 2016 at 10:35 am

I’m thinking of trying this with my kindergarten students. We are a Champs school. Since many of us – myself included – are new to Champs we are doing Macs (the abbreviated version of Champs). My students know the word “swag.” I’d love to see their reaction to this.

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2 Angela Watson March 26, 2016 at 10:24 am

Let me know how it goes!

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