Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy this well-deserved break to enjoy family, friends, food, and fun. Get some good rest, rejuvenate, and prepare for the craziness before winter break.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

planning proactively for classroom management

'It is significant to realize that the most creative environments 
in our society are not the ever-changing ones. 
The artist's studio, the researcher's laboratory, the scholar's library 
are each kept deliberately simple so as to support 
the complexities of the work in progress. 
They are deliberately kept predictable so the unpredictable can happen.'  
Lucy Calkins 

One of the most common concerns of preservice teachers, student teachers, and new teachers is classroom management.

I've written a number of times on the blog about the importance of building relationships with students as a key to management. In another opening post last school year, I wrote about the importance of establishing routines. Classroom management is most successful when students know what to do, and when to do it. I tend to be a pretty anxious person, and when I can anticipate what is coming next, I am much better able to focus on tasks at hand. Students are often the same way. Plans sometimes need to be adjusted, but it sure is a lot easier to adjust a plan than respond on the fly.

If you're in need of revising your rules, procedures, and consequences at this point in the school year, it can help to have students participate in development of the rules and consequences - so they understand where the rules come from and they have something invested in the consequences also. And you can also ask students about the set up of the classroom and what distractions might be preventing them from being engaged in lessons.

Once routines have been set and distractions minimized, then it is time to think about how your lessons are structured. Is there appropriate modeling and guided practice before students have to engage in a learning activity on their own? Are the lessons engaging and creative? Do students get to choose some tasks throughout the day? Have you set high expectations, and are lessons planned with the appropriate differentiation and scaffolding to meet those expectations? Easier said than done, of course, but this is a great opportunity for you to enlist the help of your grade-level or department team and/or an instructional coach at your school or district to help you plan lessons with a variety of instructional strategies that are engaging and active.

So let's say this is all in place and there are still some management issues that arise. What then? Elementary teachers use attention-getting strategies like "1-2-3, eyes on me; 1-2, eyes on you," clap and response of rhythms, say the first part of a common phrase (peanut...butter, hot fudge...sundae) and students say the second half, or songs to get attention. Secondary teachers might use a particular place in the room as the attention-getting spot,

C.M. Charles outlines several strategies for redirection in his book Building Classroom Discipline (now in its 10th edition):
  • Use signals directed to a student needing support.
  • Learn to catch students' eyes and use head shakes and hand signals.
  • Use physical proximity when signals are ineffective.
  • Show interest in student work. Ask cheerful questions or make favorable comments.
  • Sometimes provide a light challenge: "Can you complete five more before we stop?"
  • Restructure difficult work by changing the activity or providing help.
  • Give hints, clues, or suggestions to help students progress.
  • Inject humor into lessons that have become tiring. Students appreciate it.
  • Remove distractive objects such as toys, comics, notes, and the like. Return them later.
  • Acknowledge good behavior in appropriate ways and at appropriate times.
  • Use hints and suggestions as students begin to drift toward misbehavior.
  • Show that you recognize students' discomfort: ask for a few minutes more of focused work.
Some teachers use pocket or clip charts to identify when students need to reflect on their behavior.

Something like this:

Student names are placed on clothespins and everyone starts the day on "Ready to Learn," and are moved throughout the day depending on how things go. And when you use these, it's great to stay focused on the positive at the start of each lesson or before a transition, noting who is doing well and what it is that they are doing in order to be successful.

These kinds of charts aren't always successful, just like everything, but they can be a helpful tool in some classrooms for some teachers.

Some other common areas to reflect on that might help improve management issues:
  1. Lesson pacing - not too fast and not too slow
  2. Focused transition times
  3. Consistent application of rules and/or consequences
  4. Explicit purpose of a lesson is explained to students
  5. Students are given opportunities to work collaboratively and have some choices in their school day/curriculum
What are some of your favorite classroom management techniques??
Additional resources: