Saturday, November 30, 2013


Welcome back from Thanksgiving break! I hope you all had a lovely chance to recharge with family and friends and are ready to power through the next three weeks before winter break! 

I was in an elementary classroom last week and in observing the teacher, I noted what a masterful kidwatcher he was. Kidwatching (Owocki & Goodman, 2002) has several key components:. (1) it involves noticing and taking note of what students know and can do, (2), it is the attempt to understand students' ways of constructing and expressing knowledge, and (3), it is the use of this data to inform instruction and assessment. We all know that students can be more or less successful in certain contexts, and understanding these contexts can help teachers plan for the most effective instruction for students.

In a classroom with an expert kidwatching teacher, you would see teachers interacting meaningfully with students in small groups and as individuals, taking notes on what s/he learns. They might have a note-taking form for whole class observation, such as the one below. The teacher would note students' academic work and social interactions throughout the day.






Teachers might also take notes on individual students, especially those that are in need of intervention instruction in a particular area. Teachers would note what they observe students doing in their individual work, in small group settings, and in whole-class activities. This information can be used to determine the best form of instruction for students, and give the teacher (and student) a better understanding of what the student knows and can do. Some of the questions a teacher might ask him/herself and take notes on could include:
  1. In which settings does the student appear comfortable?
  2. In which contexts does the student choose to work independently?
  3. With whom does the student prefer to work?
  4. Which activities does the student initiate?
  5. When does the student seem confused?
  6. In which settings does the student need additional support?
  7. What work is being attempted and/or completed by the student?
Answering these questions can help plan future instruction and inform parents about progress. These are general questions, but can be adapted to be more content-focused, depending on what you teach and/or what area you might be concerned about with a certain student or students.

If you aren't already, become a kidwatcher - you'll be impressed with what you learn!

Owocki, G. & Goodman, Y. (2002). Kidwatching: Documenting children's literacy development. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. [I highly recommend this book, especially for the forms in the back for kidwatching in literacy development]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

classroom management

You've made it through the first two months of school, and you're settling into the routine and the heart of the year for learning progress. Something I hear every time I talk with teachers is that they are looking for ways to better manage their classrooms. This can be such a challenging aspect of teaching, and knowing that all teachers have discipline problems at some point with some students can help keep your concerns in perspective.

Effective teachers match their strategies to suit the specific needs of their students and classroom routines. They know their students well, and understand their students' goals, both academically and behaviorally, and communicate that with students. Here are some suggestions if you find yourself needing to make some adjustments to your classroom management plan.
  • Greet students at the door, and have a positive interaction with students to start the class.
  • Have something meaningful for students to begin as soon as they enter the room. So much of classroom management concerns begin when students are not engaged in academic work. This work should be evaluated in some way, as students need to know this is meaningful work or they might not be motivated to do this work.
  • Asking for an observation for your management techniques can be a helpful thing to do at this point in the school year. It can be intimidating, having someone look for your use of and provide guidance for classroom management techniques. However, as new teachers, this is one of the top (if not THE top) concern and challenge - admitting you need some support is a great way to actually get support. See if an administrator or a trusted colleague can come sit in on their prep time and watch the way you manage the classroom. They might notice ways that your techniques are being undermined or provide ideas for additional ways to manage the classroom.
  • Provide a list of expectations to parents and students. Parents are your partners here, but only if they know the expecations and are communicated with regularly with concerns. Make sure they are consistent with district and building policies, and limit your rules to five so that they are not overwhelming. The rules should be posted in the classroom.
  • Something you might want to consider is whether you are using sarcasm as a method of connecting with or disciplining students. I wrote an entire post about sarcasm that might be interesting for you to read.          
  • And as difficult as this can be, try to let each student start each day with a clean slate. It's important for students to know their goals and to have help monitoring their progress, but it is important to try to allow students to show you that they are working on making progress.
There are several other posts about classroom management available on the blog. You can review them all here.

What are some classrsoom management techniques that have worked well for you?