Posts from the ‘Classroom Management’ Category

Management vs. Engagement

Over the course of my 15 years of teaching in the classroom, there has been a continual debate over management vs. engagement. The argument is that if you create an engaging lesson, then management issues will fade away like a bad stain in the washing machine. The opposite has also been stated, if you have good management then “engagement” (which has been confused with compliance, in this instance), also increases. We need to look beyond the either/or to the both/and.

A classroom should have good student management in place, but it should also include lessons/activities that are engaging. It is very difficult to have one without the other. You can spend hours creating an amazing lesson, but if your students don’t pay attention, then they will not be successful or find value in your plan. If you create your lessons with only you in mind, then the likelihood of students finding it engaging also decreases. In this scenario, you won’t necessarily have open rebellion, after all, your class is well managed, but you also won’t see student ownership of learning, that sparkle that lights up their eyes when they are excited about what they get to work on. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

The Management Side:

It has been my stance for years that each teacher must decide for themselves what type of management system they want to have in their classroom. This does not mean, however, that you should have NO management system in place. That will lead to big problems down the road. Students crave structure. They need to know what they can and can’t do in your class – what’s O.K. and what’s not O.K., and they need to know where the lines are. That is only fair. We all have lines laid down for us in our lives, places that it is acceptable to go or talk about, and others where it isn’t. Students, however, need to have it explicitly stated. Depending upon the grade level you teach, they are developing their reasoning function, their ability to tie action and reaction together. We need to help them function in our classrooms in a manner that is appropriate. Don’t hide your expectations – let them know ahead of time. No surprises. I’ve talked to many students over the years who have gotten in trouble in a class. For many, the answer to the question, “what did you do to get in trouble?” is met with, “I don’t know. I did what I always do and the teacher just blew up at me.” With no guidelines laid down ahead of time, a teacher will reach their boiling point and explode. The student is left standing there with mud on their face, not sure what just happened. A management system that is thought out ahead of time and communicated to students and parents, will mitigate much of this issue.

One final thought on management – there are many different ideas on what classroom management could and should look like (some educators create management plans in partnership with their students), but always make sure it is something that works for you and that you can live with. Taking someone else’s management ideas or style and just copying them can also cause problems. Make sure it is something that you are committed to.

For those of you that are curious, I have a couple of podcasts of my management plan. The first is here: and the second is here:

The Engagement Side:

When we create lessons for our students, we need to purposefully plan for engaging activities. Don’t let it be an accident. You should consider the following questions to determine engagement opportunities: How do I want students to interact with my information? How deep do I want their understanding to be? How often will they need to process my information? What types of products do I want them to create that will show me that they have reached the level of understanding that I desire?

The answers to these questions will help guide your lesson planning. Engagement, as with management, can take on various forms. It might include individual projects or learning opportunities, cooperative learning, a novel experience, or experiential learning, to name a few. Some teachers begin lessons with exposing students to a new idea, experiment, video – something that causes the eyes to widen and questions to come pouring into the brains and out of their mouths. Others allow students to independently showcase their learning in individual ways. Still others allow create structures in their classrooms that allow students to productively engage with the other learners in the class to make the new learning more meaningful. All of these ideas are ways to increase engagement in classrooms.

But, for a bigger picture of motivation (and engagement first begins with a motivation to do something), I would refer you to Daniel Pink’s Drive. It is an amazing book on what motivates people and can be directly tied into a classroom. I’ve embedded a short video that outlines the book graphically for you (and wouldn’t this be an engaging project for your visual/artistic learners to do?).

As with all learning, make it meaningful, make it student owned and centered. That will start you on the path toward engagement.

Together in Harmony

Imagine a well organized and engaged classroom. A place where students feel safe, comfortable, and are willing to take chances. A place that they are excited to be in and hate leaving. It’s not a utopian vision, it can, to a large extent, happen. But it only happens with lots of planning, forethought, instruction, and monitoring. It will also not usually happen for 100% of your students, no matter how you try and tweak and alter and change. As with everything, you will also find higher levels of management and engagement during certain activities or lessons. Your job is to analyze the causal factors of both to help determine how to better replicate the highs and eliminate many of the lows.

It’s a big task and it isn’t easy. But it sure is rewarding…

Coming Soon…In the next week or so, I will write several blog posts specifically on engagement. Topics will include: How do you set it up? What are some good structures? How do you manage a student independent classroom? If there are specific questions you would like for me to address, please leave a comment on this post.

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Social Studies Stations

I had the opportunity to team teach a lesson in a 6th grade Social Studies class today.  The teacher and I decided to use stations for the structure.  The material was not new (ancient Egypt) so we didn’t have to worry about presenting new information.  We wanted to give the students the opportunity to “play” with the content and review what they knew.

We developed three different station activities with four actual stations.  One of the activities was longer and needed a little more time to complete.

The activities were a 9 square game, decoding hieroglyphs, and creating a foldable using Egyptian cartoons.  Each group would have about 11 minutes to complete a station based on the amount of time in the class.

9 square answer key and student copy

9 square answer key and student copy

Student attempt at answering 9 square puzzle.

Student attempt at answering 9 square puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decoding Hieroglyphs

Decoding Hieroglyphs

Creating foldable for Egyptian cartoons.

Creating foldable for Egyptian cartoons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the students came into the classroom, I had four steps written on the board.  The teacher wanted them to copy down the lesson objective and I wanted them to get out a blank sheet of paper.  I learned a couple of new brain based strategies at the NMSA conference this past week.  One of them that struck me was that we can hold about 10 things in our short term memory at a time.  The speaker (Dr. Kagan) suggested that instead of a warm-up we have students write down everything that is going on in their brain when they first come into class (all the things that are bothering them, what they just learned, what they need to do after school, what they need to remember, ect).  Sort of clear out the short term memory.  I explained to the students why we were doing this and how I would not want the paper.  I gave them one minute to write, but had to extend it as they kept making their list for over two minutes.  I was amazed about how serious they took this activity.  When they finished, I began explaining the stations and they seemed more focused.  I will definitely use this activity again.  I am thinking about having my students do this every day before class.

I then began explaining the various stations.  When I am explaining various activities, I explicitly state what they will and will not do.  I show them the actual materials that they will use to complete the activities.  I make sure that I have an example for them to follow at each station.  I then took them out to their table in the pod area.

Pod area set up for stations

Pod area set up for stations

They immediately began working.  We made sure that we checked in with each station at the beginning of each rotation to make sure that they understood exactly what they needed to do.  The level of engaged conversation was really incredible.  The 9 square game was by far the most difficult activity, but students also had to work hard to find the information from the cartoons and decode the hieroglyphs.  Out of two classes and almost 50 students, I had one student in one class that was not engaged.  It turned out he just didn’t understand exactly what he needed to do and hadn’t asked another group member or a teacher.

Students working in stations.

Students working in stations.

Another view

Another view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the class period, I had students return to the classroom and write one thing they learned and one question that they still had on the back of their foldable and turn it in.  This was an exit card and a way for us to assess what they knew and what they were still struggling with.  The foldable can also be used as a review for an assessment.

As an additional exit ticket, I asked each student as they left to tell me one thing they learned.

Overall, we were really pleased with the activity.  The students were engaged in meaningful dialog about the topic and were focused for the entire 45 minutes.  This activity just reminded me how much I like stations.  There is a lot of prep work, but when that is finished, you just facilitate during class periods.  It is a great way to teach.

Newspapers – Day 2

I was very happy with the performance of my students both in finding the text features and working in groups.  I wanted to have them discuss their frequency charts as a follow up to the previous activity.  But first, I wanted to see what new information they had learned about text features.  I decided to have them use the same paper for the first “brain dump” to add any new information that they had learned.  I had them draw a line under their first writing and add any new information that they had learned.  I then had them share their new understandings.

I wanted each student to share an answer, so I borrowed some marbles from another teacher and placed a plastic plate in the middle of each table.

Each student selected three marbles of the same color.  Every time they answered a question, they placed a marble in the plate.  It was an easy way for me to see who has shared.  I discovered, however, that marbles (or anything else that rolls), is not the way to go.  I will be purchasing some colored chips to use in the future.  The marbles struggled to stay in the plate and they rolled across the table too easy.

 

I had my overhead set up in the pod area and I had one complete copy of the newspaper on each table.  I had students move into the area and sit in groups. I displayed one question at a time and had the groups discuss the answer.  After every person had answered, I asked one person to tell me what another group member had said.  I discovered that they struggled with really listening to their group members.  It allowed me to assess their listening and retelling skill levels.

I need to work on group sharing and listening in my future activities.

Classroom Management & Discipline Part 2

Below is the continuation of our Classroom management & discipline series.

Classroom Management & Discipline Part 1

Classroom management and discipline are an essential element of the English language learner classroom. Below is part 1 of 2 Classroom Management & Discipline.