Friday, February 18, 2011

Classroom Management Strategies

Teachers can help to create a positive and motivating classroom environment by:

Being friendly

This does not mean being the "buddy" of students. It is important to keep the teacher-student relationship intact. Friendly means greeting students with a smile and handshake. It also means offering a pat on the back or a hug as needed. This does not mean that we should never use a firm tone of voice or reprimand our students. Instead, it is important to remember to have a pleasant outlook rather than a sour outlook throughout the day. There are times when you will need to show disapproval or disappointment in regards to student misbehavior. Yes, students may get mad at you for a little while, but it will go away. When they see that you can be friendly again once they change their behaviors, you will find that they appreciate that friendliness more.

Having a sense of humor

It is important to remember that your students are young and they are acting the way most young ones do. Rather than getting frustrated with some of their antics, take some time to enjoy them. When we can have a sense of humor about what our students do, our lives become less stressful. Sometimes children are just being children. Don't take everything quite so seriously and you'll find yourself having fun each day.

When enjoying a funny moment with students, be sure to make a clear transition back into the lesson or activity. It is very easy for students to take that fun moment and turn it into twenty minutes of chaos. Instead, when you feel that the "moment" is over, say something such as, "Well, that was fun. Okay, now it is time to focus back on our lesson. Everyone turn to page..." You'll get a bunch of "Aww's" and protests, but be firm and start back on the lesson. You'll want to find a way to transition that meshes with your personality. However, if you do not find a way to stop and re-focus students, they will find a way to stretch out a little bit of fun until it becomes no fun at all.

Having a good rapport with students

Get to know your students. Try to take a little bit of time each day to talk one-on-one with each of your students. Greet them at the door. Check their homework calendar at the start or end of class and use that time to say hello and find out how they are doing. Ask about their family, friends, pets, hobbies. If they are involved in sports, ask about the latest game. The more we get to know our students as people and treat them as such, the more our students will respect us as a person. It is very easy to get caught up in the day to day "teaching" and forget that we have a group of individuals with us. They each have their own history, their own stories, their own likes/dislikes, that are as important to them as ours are to us. Take some time to get to know those things about your students.

Effectively communicating our desires and expectations

Expectations are not just classroom rules. Don't forget about the life-skills you expect from your students each day. Do you expect honesty, integrity, cooperation, dedication, perseverance, personal best from your students? Make those expectations clear. Explain to your students exactly what it means to be dedicated or to have perseverance. What does this look like or sound like?

What kinds of work behaviors and attitudes do you expect from your students? Explain exactly what you want to see and hear from your students each and every day.

Procedures are another type of expectation. How do you expect students to enter the classroom, leave the classroom, do the reading workshop or writing workshop? Write these expectations out into clearly defined steps on procedures posters and hang them on your wall. This serves as an excellent reminder for everyone.

Understanding that students CANNOT read our minds

What are your pet peeves? What behaviors/things really annoy you? Often our students may hit upon one of our pet peeves and never even know it. These behaviors grate on our nerves and affect our attitude. This is not fair to our students. They cannot be expected to read our mind. Be sure to communicate clearly what is and is not tolerable in your classroom.

I do not advise saying, "______ is a pet peeve and it really irritates me when you do this." That just offers ammunition for those challenging students who are looking for ways to make you angry. Instead, word it so -- "I expect you to ___________." (for example, "I expect each and every person in my classroom to pick up any trash around their desk before they leave the classroom. Even if you did not make the mess, I want it picked up and thrown away.")

Being organized (that means never saying, "Now where did I put that lesson plan?)

Do you know where your lesson plans are? Can you find the handouts you copied for this class? The Day of the Week folders that we discussed in an earlier newsletter are an excellent way to keep all of these materials organized. When you know where everything is and what you are doing, your class will run smoother. Why? Well, you are not wasting time looking for supplies and plans. What do you think your students will be doing while you search for what you need? Playing around, of course. They will begin to talk, read, doodle, and mess around because they are bored. Then it takes another five minutes to get everyone calmed down and focused on the lesson/activity.

Being well prepared

Many of the strategies we offer in our newsletters are geared to help you be well-prepared. It is important to think through what you plan to do during each part of the day. When you know what you are doing, the students will follow along. When you are confused and unsure, the students will be confused and unsure as well. This is one of the reasons why we encourage teachers to plan in time increments. When you plan out for everything, including restroom breaks and walking down the hallway (elementary), you know what will be happening throughout the day.

Be sure to have all of your materials ready before you begin the lesson. This is a big part of being prepared. If you don't have enough copies or are not prepared for a lesson to go faster than you expected, what do you think will happen? You will get flustered and that will cause the students to get disruptive. Check, double-check, and triple-check to be sure you have everything you need at least a day or two before each lesson. If you can't remember, then schedule a time on your calendar.

Ex: Monday -- 4:00pm -- Read over lesson for Tuesday. Check to be sure materials are out and ready. Set up the board/overhead for Tuesday's lesson(s). Read over lesson for Wednesday. Check materials off of materials list for lesson. Make copies for lesson. Make transparencies for lesson.

Be as detailed as you need to be. You might even think about creating a checklist to be sure you have everything ready.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting Students to do Quality Work

How do you get kids to do quality work both in and out of the classroom?

I begin each year by taking time to talk to students my expectation that they each do their "personal best." Then I show a few examples of what personal best does and does not look like. We also talk about how each student has a different level of personal best. My big message to the class is that if I do not see a student's personal best effort on an assignment, I will not accept it. This means they will have to do it over. I always tell my students that it takes less time for them to focus on the job and do their very best the first time than to have to do the assignment 2 or 3 times until I find it acceptable.

It is also important to be consistent about expecting quality work products. I "Okay" each project before it is turned in. Students show me their work, and usually at a glance I can tell whether it is up to par or not. Each student has a different personal best, so I accept different levels of work depending on the student. I can also see who is actually putting in effort as I constantly walk around monitoring while students are working on the project. Between monitoring and giving my "okay" on an assignment, I can make sure that students are doing their personal best.

In the beginning children of all ages will test you, continuing to do quick and sloppy work. However, the more you send them back to do it over until they get it right (even if it becomes extra homework), the more they will start to do it correctly the first time.

It also helps to have an example prepared showing your expectations for the final product. Show students the quality of the picture. Point out the features and details you want to see in their product. Read the written part and again point out the specific details you want included in the content of their project. You might also put guidelines on the board or overhead. Example for a postcard activity with a reading assignment: "Postcard must include a detailed drawing of 2 characters including the type of clothes he or she would wear, and a place you might see this character from the story; colored pencils only (no crayons or markers); entire front of postcard must be filled with drawing and color" "Content must include at least: ____________, _________, and ____________." This gives students a checklist of sorts to look at while they are completing their project. It also provides more guidelines than just saying "Create a postcard about 2 characters from the story. I want a drawing on the front and character traits on the back."

Providing more guidelines for students on open-ended creative projects and assignments helps them to meet your criteria for the assignment. Guidelines also offer more structure to help students. This is especially important when you are just beginning to use these kinds of activities. Add in a reminder discussion about personal best, and do not accept work that is under par for the student. The combination of structure and high expectations should result in better end-products.

I follow this advice with my son at home when he completes homework. He has a tendency to work quickly in order to get it over with. However, he is not allowed to do any other activities (TV, playing, sports, etc.) until I check his homework and see that it is his personal best. If I do not think it is neat enough or done correctly, then he has to go back and do it again. Although it is frustrating to him, after a few weeks of listening to me say, "Do it again with your personal best effort," he completes his work as he should the first time around.