This is week three of the Sunday Funday blogging initiative. It's never too late to join in! You can read more about the challenge here if you like. This week's challenge is to write about classroom management.
I'm about to start my 14th year in the classroom and classroom management is something that I still strive to improve. When I first started teaching I felt the need to have lots of rules and procedures along with consequences, all in writing. My go to resources were Harry Wong's The First Days of School and Lee Canter's Assertive Discipline.
Both books have some great ideas for new teachers, but you need to wade through other ideas that won't work for you to find the ones that will. I even took Sarah Carter's idea of using a few of Harry's quotes to put up in my room. Unfortunately, my kids just laughed at his name :(
Within a few years, I found that the many rules and consequences were not really one size fits all. I also found that the better my lessons and relationships were, the less I needed the rules and consequences. I soon found Love and Logic which is a much better fit for me. Again, I had to search through the ideas to find the ones that work for me. The pitfall of Love and Logic is that it can come off as sarcastic if you are not careful to use the ideas that are a good fit for your style. I wrote extensively about Love and Logic last year in this post. Now, my only classroom rule is "Feel free to do anything you like that does not negatively impact anyone else in any way." It's a great catch all because pretty any much any old rule that I could think of would fall into this category. My consequences are now personalized. When possible, I try to take a Restorative Justice approach. There is actually a graduate school near me that offers a master's degree in restorative justice in education. It it on my long list of things that I'd like to do at one point. Basically restorative justice focuses on the idea of making things right when you have done something to cause harm.
So there are my general thoughts on classroom management: Focus on relationship building and respect, design engaging lessons, have one overarching rule, and personalize consequences. Now, here are some of the specific prompts for this week and how I might address the issues.
1. Sometimes, we do pick the right task, and are doing the right things, when something goes wrong. How do you handle that?
If the problem is with the lesson, I fess-up to students. I think they are surprised the first time that I stop a bombing lesson. I take responsibility for misguided intentions and regroup. Sometimes I'll fall back on direct instruction at this point, especially if I've burned half a period on a lesson that was not working. If there is no way to salvage the lesson, I might have students work on a long term assignment. I always try to have some sort of project or even just spiraling practice that students can work on at any time. That way, the entire class period is not a loss.
2. What are your policies that help your class run smoothly?
First and foremost, you must explicitly teach routines. For several years, I have taught in a station rotation model. I taught each station separately including resources for when students get stuck both academically and with technology issues. Then we also practiced transitions like moving from one station to the next. I loved music cues for this. This year, I am switching up the station model a bit to allow for more small group instruction. There will be less teaching needed for this model, but I'll still take the time to practice transitions with students.
3. What are your go-tos?
This year I'm excited to use visual random grouping for group work and the equivalent for selecting students to share solutions and participate in class discussion. I'll use Alice Keeler's group maker add-on to create groups. And I'll use a random number generator to call on students. I think this will help with classroom management by teaching students that they are always expected to participate and make an effort. They are also expected to work well with anyone in the class.
I'm also trying CPM's team roles this year. I have never had much luck with group roles in the past because I have not enforced them. I'm going to make more of an effort to make sure that my group work is effective this year. I may try Mindset Kit's participation quiz as a way to help with this. I found this rubric that I may use for this.
4. How do we engage the student that doesn’t like our class, or is disrespectful?
I struggle with this one. Especially because I am so non-traditional. I have quite a few students that beg me to lecture, especially at the start of the year. They opt out of independent and group work, hoping that I will jump in and save them with lecture. I find that persistence is the key. I wish I had a better solution, and I'm open to suggestions. I know that I'm doing the right thing by requiring students to take responsibility for their learning, but I have trouble communicating this. I try to explain it like learning to ride a bike. A lecture will not help, you need to get on the bike and feel the balance for yourself.
5. When do we contact parents and what do we say to them?
I contact home often during the first few weeks via mass email. I send out information on class routines, grading policies (modified standards based grading), required materials, and reminders about upcoming quizzes. I back off after that and just send reminders at mid-marking period and at the end of the marking period. This opens the doors for communication. Later when I need to contact home for academic or behavior issues, things are a bit easier. I also invite parents to observe since they are unfamiliar with station based learning.
6. What resources have helped you that others could turn to?
Here are a few more books that I have pulled some ideas from in terms of my daily routines.
David R Johnson's books: Motivation Counts, Every Minute Counts, and Making Minutes Count
Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion
That's all for now, don't forget to read other Sunday Funday posts :)