Teaching Between Desk: A Japanese Practice

I recently read an article that was assigned in my doctoral program called “Teaching Between Desks.” The article describe an interesting practice that educators in Japan do in their classrooms on a daily basis. After a little bit of research beyond this article and asking educators in America I realized that most people are unaware of this practice. Although I found some articles on the practice and observations conducted in Japan by Americans, this way of teaching is unknown in the U.S. I thought it would be a great idea to share what I have learned and recently implemented in my own classroom about this practice.

An Instructional Practice

In the article “Teaching Between Desks” the author introduced a successful strategy used by Japan educators. The practice was observed by U.S. citizens through several videos that highlighted a strategy that is highly used in their school system. The practice called kikan-shido, or “between desk instruction,” shows a teacher walking around the classroom monitoring students as they worked. “For decades, Japanese educators have used this practice to engage students in deeper thinking around challenging problems and tasks (Skoda, 1991).

downloadHow it works

Prior to giving students independent work the teacher teaches a lesson that involves modeling and paired exercises that challenges students. The questions asked to each student promote higher order thinking. Differentiate these questions to fit the needs of each student. The questions also challenge students who are mastering the material and encourage the students that need it. The Japanese educators took the time to plan out these between the desk instruction prior to teaching the lesson. The questions they are asking are a part of the overall lesson plan. The four principal functions of kikan-shido are:

    • Monitoring student activity: The teacher actively walks the room and between the desks to monitor student work.
    • Guiding student activity: The teacher prepares the lesson through modeling and paired exercises before giving students independent work.
    • Organizing materials and the physical set up: The teacher has a clipboard to take notes with the lesson plans in front of them on a tablet or printed paper.
    • Engaging students in social talk: Students are working independently to practice the skills taught while the teacher walks the room and ask questions.

Similar Best Practices

You may hear this strategy and think that it is similar to some of the best practices we use in the United States. However, the intent of the Japanese educator is quite different from the practices we are currently using. While the teacher is walking the classroom the intention is to focus on the students and the independent work they are completing. The teacher will look over the students shoulder and hold one-on-one discussion, ask questions and give praise. The teacher does not give the student their independent work after teaching the lesson and they complete it on their own. Instead, the teacher is still active with the students through monitoring and assisting them as they work.

The “Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) drives this practice. Instructional Framework: this framework is geared towards moving students towards independence. The gradual release is the responsibility of instruction from the teacher to the student. It typically takes place in a linear process but doesn’t have to. Educators can begin at any point in the framework, which reads as a triangle whose components are:

  • Focus lesson (I do it)
  • Guided instruction (We do it)
  • Collaborative (You do it together)
  • Independent (You do it alone)

Each student moves throughout the framework as they master skills being taught. At times they made need reinforcement of the skill. It is the teacher’s responsibility to move students along appropriately.

imagesThe Benefits

Decision makers of the American education system believe the between desk instruction can benefit the teachers in America. With a demand of increasing rigor and higher order thinking among students this strategy may be another stepping stone. The simplicity of this practice makes it easier to begin to implement into your classroom or school today.

Teachers may feel that things are being added to their plate. Though this may be true at times, I believe this practice would be worth adding. It will only involve a little bit more planning. For example, a teacher’s lesson plan is laid out with step-by-step instructions on what they will be teaching for each lesson. The teacher will have to add in some question sets that they can ask students at each level. Using a clipboard or IPAD to track student responses or taking notes on the process of their work will only benefit the teacher later on when they have to make decisions about assessments, lesson planning and mapping.

What can we learn?

The teacher can learn how to expand the thinking of their students by asking them questions. It is important for the teacher to construct a clear image of where they want to take their students. This image will help them determine what they want the lesson to look like. Planning ahead is a huge component to making this practice work in the classroom. The process of teaching this practice will not come overnight. “Findings from a case study conducted on teacher change showed that it took at least three semesters for teachers to adopt and effectively implement a new instructional approach to a high school science classroom” (Emerling 2014). With consistency and follow through from the teacher, administrators and the district, this strategy can prove to be a useful tool for everyone involved.

What practices do you currently use similar to this in your classroom? Comment below and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

 

Sources:

Ermeling, B., & Graff-Ermeling, G. (2014). Learning to learn from teaching: A first-hand account of lesson study in Japan. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 3(2), 170–192. Retrieved from http://independent .academia.edu/BradleyErmeling

Sakoda, K. (1991). Kikan-shido no gijutsu [The art of teaching between desks]. Tokyo: Meiji Tosho Shuppan Kabushikigaisha

 

The difference between heterogeneous and homogeneous groups

Grouping in the classroom can be a daunting task for some teachers. They may not be comfortable with classifying their students or managing the time during group activities. Creating groups in the classroom is not an easy task, it takes time, planning and effort to create effective groups. Before a teacher starts planning the groups they have to understand the two types of groups that can be used in the classroom; Heterogeneous and Homogeneous grouping.

imagesHeterogeneous grouping

These  groups are made up of  students at different learning levels. Heterogeneous groups are formed for a number of reasons; to push certain students, promote leaders or to simply have students learn from each other. Either way, there are some benefits to creating mixed groups in the classroom:

  • Struggling students can learn from students who understand the concepts.
  • Students who are working at a proficient or master level have the opportunity to build autonomy.
  • Groups can be engaging as students learn from each other.
  • Proficient or master level students often take on a leadership role.

Here are some disadvantages:

  • Struggling students may not have the opportunity to speak up.
  • Mastery students may begin to feel some resentment towards being in the group.
  • Struggling students may shy away from participating with the group.
  • Struggling students may expect the other students in the group to do all the work.

Homogeneous grouping

Homogeneous groups are the opposite of heterogeneous groups, instead they are made up of students working at the same comprehension level. Everyone in the group is capable of doing the task and mastering the skill at the same level. Some of the benefits for creating homogeneous groups are:

  • It is easier for the teacher to differentiate instruction among groups.
  • Students are collaborating and learning at the same level.
  • Promotes healthy discussion.
  • It is easier for the teacher to plan small group instructions for these type of groups.

Here are some disadvantages:

  • In the higher groups there may be too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
  • Struggling students may need more support from the teacher in order to complete the task.

imagesWhat grouping should you use?

Now that you understand the difference between heterogeneous and homogeneous groups you may be wondering what grouping to use. The answer will depend on the demographics of your classroom, student behaviors and the purpose of the groups.

  • Demographics: An effective teacher knows her students and their capabilities. You would need to look at the ability level of all of your students. You might have a classroom made of the majority of students working at a grade above what you are teaching. In this case you can use homogeneous groups to extend instruction and build autonomy among all your students. On the other hand, you might have a struggling classroom where students aren’t moving as fast as the curriculum suggests. This type of classroom can benefit from more support from the teacher. In this case you can use heterogeneous groups to balance out the ability levels in the classroom. As I stated before, you have to know your classroom and what would work best for your students.
  • Student behaviors: Some of the questions you can ask yourself are: Do my students work well with their peers? Do my students get along? Asking yourself questions such as these will help you determine the type of groups you will form in your classroom. At an early age we have to teach our students how to get along, how to work with others despite how we feel about them. It is important to teach them the importance of working together and treating each other with respect. During group activities student behavior needs to be on task in order for the group to run successfully.  If you are having a difficult time forming some of the groups because of behaviors it might be a good idea to restructure. They could have two groups running independently while the other students are receiving a mini-lesson. Maybe the reality of your classroom is that five groups can’t run at the same time- and that’s ok! Knowing your students and their behaviors will help you determine the best results.
  • Purpose of the groups: The overall goal of the group activities will determine the type of groups you form. If you want students to achieve a level of proficiency in a particular skill then you can form homogeneous groups. Having students working at the same level will help determine what they mastered and may have struggled with. On the other hand the goal may be to promote healthy discussion among students. The teacher might want to have students at different levels share their expertise in a particular area. This will require heterogeneous grouping because the groups will be mixed. Having a clear focus for your groups and the outcome you hope to achieve will make the process of forming groups easier.

Although there are many benefits to heterogeneous and homogeneous groups we have found that both styles have their disadvantages as well. Keep in mind that most of this information is subjective and will depend on your students. No one knows your students best, except for YOU. Therefore, it is important for teachers to make decisions based on what they know about their students, not solely on what someone else suggests.

What type of groups do you use most often in your classroom? Comment below and share your ideas. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Reading Workshop

The reading workshop model has been used for years in the classroom. This model functions to assist teachers in teaching students how to read text closely and independently. I have been using this model to teach reading skills for the past two years. Previously I experimented with daily 5, whole group instruction and centers. My model consists of a mixture of several different teaching methods. I have found that this way of teaching has worked best in my classroom.  It has given me the opportunity to teach small group instruction while the rest of the class works independently. Below I have outlined some of the main components to the system I use.

Modeling

Showing students “how to” do something is the meat of classroom instruction. Students do not learn from telling but showing. This strategy can be executed in various ways depending on the type of lesson you are teaching. If you were introducing a next concept in math, then the teacher would show students how to solve the problem step by step. In reading, the same concept can be applied when conducting a “think out loud.” The teacher would take time before diving into reading workshop to teach the skill to students, so they are able to apply it independently.

Partner activities

imagesOnce the skill has been introduced and taught then students must practice. Students are able to work in pairs with their peers; applying the new skill to a piece of text selected by the teacher. At this time the teacher is walking students through each step by giving clear instructions on the task. For example, students may be asked to read a paragraph with their partner then discuss and underline the central idea. Once students have completed this task in pairs, they will share their findings with the class. This discussion activity will give the teacher insight on student comprehension. The teacher can determine proficiency with the new skill and who needs further instruction.

Weekly learning targets

Now that modeling has taken place and students have practiced the skill in pairs, they are ready to receive their learning targets. The learning targets are the skills necessary to keep students moving forward. Differentiate these targets to fit the needs of each student. They consist of independent activities that will help each student apply the skills to a piece of literature. The amount of targets will vary depending on the student. Students who are struggling with the new concept will typically have less targets focused on the new skill, instead, the teacher focuses on previous skills taught. While students who are ready to apply the new concept will practice it independently.

The activities I use in my classroom vary depending on the skill that students are practicing. I like to use literature focused websites such as common lit, readworks, read theory and ereader to enhance student knowledge. Other activities may include gaming, task cards or classroom interactive games.

Working with the teacher

imagesThe most important part of the reading workshop model is working with the teacher. Now that the students have been set up to practice spiraled skills and the current skills on their own, the teacher has more time to dive into instruction. Small group instruction is where the teacher can fully assess student understanding. It’s important to keep these groups small, 3- 5 students at a time. The teacher will need to make a schedule so that they are able to meet with each group consistently during reading workshop. Some groups may need to be seen more than twice depending on their struggles. Due to the limited amount of time in my middle school classroom, I am able to meet with two groups for fifteen minutes a day, 4-5 days at a time. An elementary classroom with longer reading blocks may be able to accommodate meeting with 3-4 groups a day.

During this time students receive instruction on an unfamiliar text. Using something new will force students to read it closely as they are more likely to apply the new skill.  The groups that the teacher meets with are heterogeneous groups, students that learn at the same reading level. This small setting allows the teacher more individualized instruction time to get the students to where they need to be and moving forward.

Assess

The final piece to this workshop model in my classroom is the assessment. The final assessment will come once I am confident the majority of my students are ready to move on. Make this decision once 70% of your students have mastered the skill being taught. This data can come from exit slips, small group instruction or their independent practice work. The final assessment must focus on the skill that had been modeled and is differentiated to meet all student’s needs.

The reading workshop model is one way I instruct and measure student success in my classroom. It consists of various models and strategies to move my students forward. This has worked for me during my time in middle school. What has worked for you? How do you conduct small group instruction? Share your ideas below. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Groups in Middle School?

One of the main differences between middle school teachers and elementary school teachers is their mindset around forming groups. Groups are essential when it comes to our students learning how to collaborate with others. As the teacher, it is our job to teach them how to do this in a healthy way. Therefore, we need to create opportunities that will allow our students to actively discuss, justify and debate.

Group activity in the classroom does not have to be an elementary thing, but rather a teaching thing. Groups must be used in all grade levels across all content areas. Teachers typically shy away from groups for various reasons; the most common being behavior and structure. Activities that involve movement, talking and possible off task behaviors can be intimidating, especially for a new teacher. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be and the more you do it, not only will your students get better at it, so will you.

download

Make it work

Group activities, centers or discussion can be effective in any classroom setting. The teacher has to make it work for their classroom, so finding what works best for your class and classroom might take some trial and error. The first thing you need to get past is your mindset around forming groups and running groups in your classroom. When I started teaching middle school I heard several teachers complain that groups don’t work at that level because there is not enough time. I think that is an excuse and students shouldn’t suffer because of our lack of effort to make something work. Groups can work in any setting, in any time frame and content area. We have to make it work for us and our students. Which means we must put in some time to make it happen.

Assigning groups

One way to assign groups in the classroom is to look at the data, which I talked about extensively in a previous post. Another way to form groups is based on ability. You might create a group based on skills that students need to work on or groups based on multi-level ability. This means the group is made up of students at all learning levels. Or you can do random groups by having students choose popsicle sticks when they come into the room or colorful bracelets. Whatever method you choose to do, it is a good idea to keep it simple and ever-changing. You don’t want students to get complacent in working with one particular group all year. You want to give them the opportunity to expand and move into different groups throughout the year.

Group expectations/roles

Once students have been assigned their groups it is imperative that they understand the expectations. Have a system in place that will reinforce the responsibilities they have when working with their peers. I like to use a group poster in my classroom that breaks down the expectations. Repeating these rules and expectations consistently will remind students while they are working. Although it may become redundant, it will cut down on behavior issues and off task behavior.

Timer

Use a timer to keep students on track during group activities. Middle school students will be able to keep track of their own time while working. Assigning a specific time keeper to each group will be beneficial and engaging.

Rotations

One of the main complaints I hear at the middle school level is the amount of time students spend in the classroom. Teachers believe there isn’t any time to do rotations/centers in their classrooms. This is false. Rotations/centers can look different in every classroom because there are several ways to incorporate them. One way to run your rotations would be to have one rotation assigned to each group a day. For 15-20 minutes students will work in their groups and complete the activity for the day. This will give the teacher time to prepare students for rotations and reinforce the expectations before they begin. Another strategy could be to have students switch centers and they will have a specific amount of time to work at each station. This strategy will force students to stay focused as they complete their task in a shorter amount of time.

You may find that some of these tips work for your classroom ans some may not. Either way, group work/activities are possible in the middle school classroom. It will get your students moving and enhance their engagement in the classroom.

Do you have your middle school students work in centers? What has worked in your classroom? Share your ideas below. We could love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Creating Groups

Now that we have looked at how to manage groups, let’s discuss how to create effective grouping in the classroom. There are several reasons why you may want to create a group. You might want to conduct centers with your students, pull small groups for instruction or have discussion. Either way, it is important to have a strategy behind the way you structure your groups.

Using Data to Form Groups

The first step to forming groups is to look at the data. Your data can come from multiple sources. Some of these sources can include NWEA testing, standardized testing, Dibbles, Fontes and Pinnell, classwork or a test you administered yourself. When students complete testing, analyze the data to determine your grouping. I initially use my data from the NWEA to form my reading groups at the beginning of the year. Once I get to know my students I can make adjustments from there.

Your groups can also be skill based. If the majority of your class have mastered the main idea skill but a small group of students are still struggling, then pull those students to work with. Keep in mind that groups do not have to be final and are not static. As the teacher you have the freedom to change your groups at any time to make them more dynamic.

Two Types of Groups

Home groups

The home groups in my classroom are based on student performance. These are called homogeneous groups because students work with others at the same ability level. Therefore, all students in the group are expected to complete the same task effectively. I like to use my home groups to differentiate small group instruction or even activities. This makes it easier to give students material that they will be able to master. It also gives the teacher the opportunity to focus on the challenged group of students while the higher-level groups work independently.

Away groups

The away groups in my classroom include a mixture of ability level. This is called heterogeneous grouping because students perform at different levels. This type of grouping is most effective during group discussions. Students are able to challenge each other’s thinking while justifying their ideas. Away groups can also be used for jigsaw activities. Each student in the group will have a different task to complete, like a piece of the puzzle, everyone in the group will work together to put the pieces together.

imagesI have found that groups in the classroom should be dynamic; constantly changing. This will increase student engagement and invite rich discussion. Data is used to help teachers determine the type of grouping they should have in their classroom. It is a valuable tool that should be analyzed on a consistent basis. Just as the groups are changing, so does the data because your students are expanding their knowledge and should always be moving forward. It is our job to meet them where they are and then challenge them from there.

What challenges are you facing when it comes to groups? Do you have effective strategies that work for you in your classroom? Comment below to share. We would love to hear from you!

Zsnel

Classroom Management: Groups

Groups can be an effective way to enhance instruction in your classroom.  The management of groups in the classroom is an important factor in engaging learners. Students interact with their peers in a small setting while completing a task with a common goal. Typically, there are more than one group taking place at one time. This fact alone can be intimidating to a new teacher, or a teacher who is new to doing group work. Most teachers struggle with student behavior during this time and keeping students on task. To avoid these challenges, there a few things you need to do to ensure the group activities in your classroom will run smoothly.

Management of Expectations

IMG_5556The first thing that needs to be established in your classroom are the expectations. Students need to be aware of their behavior during group activities. There needs to be a clear understanding of “what it looks like, feels like and sounds like.” Keep in mind, these expectations are different from your overall classroom rules and it is important students understand the difference. For example, I use an acronym:

G: Get Along

R: Respect

O: On Task

U: Use Quiet Voices

P: Participate

S: Stay in Your Group

Any time I am moving my students into group activities I refer to my “group expectations.” I find that reinforcing these rules before my students move into their groups. No matter how repetitive it becomes, I still go over the rules every time because students need to be reminded of the expectations. Their attention spans are short and they are forgetful, so they need constant reminders. It’s not enough to have the poster on the wall in the room, the rules need to be read it every time. Although it may become redundant it cuts down on behavior during the activity.

Written and Verbal Directions

It does not matter what age group you teach, giving students written and verbal directions will set them up for success. I have found that my middle school students need to hear the directions just as much as my previous elementary students did. This is simply because kids don’t read the directions on their paper. If they do read it, they still may have questions because they don’t understand. It is imperative that you go over the directions with students before moving them into group activities. I like to have my directions posted on the smart board, written on their paper and I verbally go over them before we begin. This cuts down on confusion, off task behavior and disruption.

Count Down

imagesIt is imperative that a system is in place to let students know when to begin and end discussion. A count down system has been most effective in my classroom. The teacher will tell students “You may begin working when I count down to zero.” Then the teacher counts 3, 2, 1, 0. When the teacher gets to zero than students will begin collaborating in their groups. If the teacher wants to get the students’ attention then the count down is repeated. Students will recognize the command and the room will become silent.

The count down system can also be used during “Turn and Talk” time or partner work. To make this system effective in the classroom, establish it at the beginning of the school year. It will take some time for it to be perfect but you have to stick with it because it is important to have concrete rules in place. If the expectations are not clear, then you are opening the door for off task behavior and disruptions.

Management of Time

Set a timer to keep students on task. If you are doing group roles then you may have a time-keeper or have a website like “Kid Timer” displayed on your smart board.  Make it clear that they need to have their activity completed once the timer goes off. If students know that they have a specific amount of time to get the work done, then they are more likely to stay on task.

Chunk the Task

To cut down on confusion, disrupting behavior and students working off task give them the directions in chunks. Group activity does not mean you throw everything at students all at once. Students are more effective with getting the work done when they must complete the task in chunks. For example, if students are required to read a passage together and then answer the questions you can break the two parts up. The first day can be used to read the passage and annotate it as a group. The second day can be used to dive into the text and answer the questions. Since the task was expanded out to two days it may take 15 minutes to complete each day rather than a full 30 minutes. When students have too much time and too many directions then they may start to get antsy and off task.

While it may take some time to teach your students how to effectively work in groups, the final results will be well worth it.

Are you struggling with managing groups in your classroom? Do you have trouble with creating an effective experience for your students? Try some of these tips out and let me know what worked! We would love to hear from you.

Zsnel

 

 

Giving Your Students Consequences

 

downloadGiving students consequences can be a taunting task. Last Friday I returned back to work after a day off, it wasn’t a sick day but a personal day. I needed the day to decompress, take the day slow and take time for myself. If you are like me then you never take your personal days because you hate to spend time away from your students. If your days keeping piling up each year, I am urging you to take just one day. At this point in the year we as teachers are beginning to prep for upcoming testing, our students are very comfortable with their friends and the flow of the day and you might find that behavior issues are beginning to increase. Behavior problems may start to develop in students you never had problems with. Students may begin to form cliques that cause certain behaviors to happen.

I have found that all of these things were starting to happen among several of my students before the Christmas break but it hadn’t been a problem in my classroom yet. I took my personal day on a Thursday and returned to school on a Friday. You would think I was well rested and would be less likely to be irritated or quick to react to students make the wrong choice. I was so wrong; the moment I walked into my classroom I had a pile of notes for me from my substitute! Please note, this was not the first day I have had a sub all year; I have been out for PD’s and two days for a birthday trip in October. I never had a problem with my substitutes during this time.

Welcome Back

My mood quickly changed as I read through notes about each of my class periods; there were at least five students reported in three of my classes out of a total of 5. This news really bothered me to the point that I was ready to hand out punishment after punishment. The icing on the cake was four boys getting detentions from one of my team teachers for writing and passing around an inappropriate note during my third period class.

imagesIn the past I would have yelled at each of my classes as they walked into my room and had a long talk about behavior and my disappointment. I chose not to do that this time. Instead, I carried on with my lesson plans and taught for the day. I decided to speak with each student at the end of the class period. I told them that I would be taking away their “flamin Hots” that afternoon.

Flamin hots is a school fundraiser that we have each month where the students get a class period at the end of the day to buy candy, Flamin hot chips, cheese and juices for a reduced price. Students look forward to this day every month as they bring in $10 to $20 to spend on junk food. I know it’s not helping with the obesity problem in America but it earns our school money towards field trips and fun days.

Laying Down the Law

I was feeling good about my consequence; I had spoken to each student, set up arrangements for my home room kids who were participating to go to another teachers room and I had a two-hour plan period to de-stress before the end of the day. Then it was flamin hots time; the students excitedly jumped in line to buy goodies.

My room was silent, it was still, it was full of anger and resentment as I piled in 15 students to face their consequence. I have to be honest, it didn’t feel good. They had to sit down and work on homework or read during this long 40 minute period. It took too much energy out of me to keep them on task, while we could hear shouting and playful behavior coming from the hallway. 20 minutes in, I had a headache; I had to start off the class period yelling for students to sit down, something I never like to do. They were complaining about why they were in there. I had to threaten to give out detentions in order to get them to settle down the whole period. By the time it was over I realized the punishment had literally drained my energy, thank goodness it was Friday!

Lesson learned

downloadI realized I used up more energy to discipline 15 students during a 40 minute period than I had to do all week. This is mainly because my students are well-behaved in class and follow along with the expectations each day. I have minimum behavior issues when it comes to my everyday teaching style.

Yes, I have to be firm with some students but my energy is not zapped on a daily basis. I love my job and get excited to go to work each morning. When there are days like the day I had today, it doesn’t feel good. So, I decided to make some changes. Next time I receive notes from a sub about student behavior, such as talking or playing around during class. I will speak to each of those student individually and give them a warning. I will not use my energy to discipline students the next day for something that happened when I wasn’t there. It is impossible to know how the sub interacted with my students or what the circumstances in my classroom were when the behavior took place.

I have learned a valuable lesson  and I hope this article has given you some insight. You may handle things differently the next time you have a substitute, I sure will.

Zsnel

How I manage behavior in my classroom

Classroom management is essential when it comes to effective teaching. Therefore, it’s important to establish your classroom expectations to your students before you jump into teaching. There are several different ways to execute the behavior management system in our classrooms. In elementary school there is the stop light system, the clip chart and Class Dojo. In the past I used most of the systems I just named in my elementary classroom, now that I teach middle school I found that those systems no longer worked for me or the students I was teaching. So, I established a new way to manage my classroom but using my same teaching style.

Below are some things that I do in my classroom to manage the behavior of my students:

Establish expectations

 I like to set the expectations for my classroom at the beginning of the year! Before we do any learning and I do any teaching I make sure my students know what is expected of them on a daily basis. The beginning of the year is the time to establish these ground rules that will last the whole school year.

Be consistent

When clear expectations are set at the beginning of the year and students are aware, the next step is to be consistent with your expectations. This means reinforcing them on a daily basis and reminding students what they need to do. For example, before my students move into groups I remind them of the expectations for group activity which is different from the overall classroom expectations.

Although this may become repetitive it is vital that I remind my students so that they won’t forget and it ensures that group activity will run more smoothly. Also, the expectations that are set in the classroom are meant for all students at all times. If you give a consequence to a student and another student does the same thing you have to provide the same consequence. Being fair to all students is vital because they talk to each other and they are watching you at all times. You have to remember that you are a model.

Follow through

Once the expectations have been established in my classroom, follow through is important to making sure it sticks. When I say I’m going to do something then I do it! There is no slacking or letting students slide, the follow through has to be consistent. For example, if a student comes to class unprepared or late I have to write them up for it. If I let it slide then the student will come to class the next day with the same behavior. When students see that I mean business and I’m going to do what I say then they typically change the behavior.

Build relationships with parents and students

 The relationship I have with my students and parents is very important when it comes to classroom behavior. My students know that everything I do is for them and to set them up for success. I make this very clear at the beginning of the year and give them constant reminders throughout. The things they are learning in my room will set them up for success through the school year and the future.

If I find that a student is having a difficult time following the expectations in the classroom then I will pull that student aside and talk to them about the behavior that needs to change. It is better to pull students aside and speak to them about their behavior one on one. I have found that this strategy has been more effective. Reaching out to parents on a weekly basis through Remind (an app), telephone and personal email is important. I am honest with my parents and communicate to them that I want to provide their child with the tools they need for success. Once they know this they are willing to listen and advocate for me when I need them. This is only because I have developed a relationship with them and their child.

What are some things that you do in your classroom? We would love for you to share your ideas.

Zsnel

Managing Classroom Behavior

When we think about managing behavior in our classrooms it can become a daunting topic. There are several teachers that are comfortable with managing their classrooms and there are some teachers that still struggle with the managing of behavior. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been teaching, it is vital that you have a management system in your classroom that is clearly recognized by each student. I really don’t think it has much to do with gender, race, socioeconomic status or parental involvement. Yes, all of these things are important but as teachers we cannot let those factors measure the success in our classrooms. Instead we need a system that will manage our students in a way that will benefit our teaching style and will optimize the learning that needs to take place.

Here are some tips that can get you started on thinking about how you can manage the behavior of your students:

Make a list of the things that you use to manage behavior

It’s important to be aware of the systems that you are using in your classroom. You can also do research and make a list of things you want to try.

From that list, look at the things that are working and not working

Begin to cross out the things that have not worked for you this current year or past school years. Then circle the things that have worked. Hopefully there are more things that work than didn’t work.

Look at the things that did work

I want you to really take a moment to reflect on the circled items on your list. Ask yourself, “Why did this work?” “What did it look like?” and “What can I do to make this work for me right now?” Write your answers down next to each of your circled items and reread what you wrote.

Pick one

Once you have done some reflection, pick one thing that you can start doing now. You don’t need three different behavior management systems in your classroom in order to keep everything running smoothly. All you need is one thing that is going to work for you and your students.

Make a plan 

Once you have picked your one behavior management system then you can start to make a plan. “How is this new system or old system going to look in your classroom?” Visualize how you want your well-managed classroom to look like. What are your student’s doing? How is the classroom running? How are your redirecting their behavior using your new tool?

Once you have visualized what the system is going to look like then think about this; “How will you introduce it to your students?” What are you going to say? Will you produce an anchor chart? Will you lead them into creating an anchor chart together and make them think they made this system up? (LOL) or will you simply tell them this is what it is going to look like, feel like and sound like? Either way, having a clear plan will set you up for successful execution of it.

Be consistent

 This is the most important tip on the list-consistency. You have to be consistent in what you say and do at all times. Our students are very smart and observant. They know everything! If we are not careful with our words and actions towards all students then we may have a system that fails. The behavior management system has to be for everyone and it has to apply to everyone at all times! I know some days you may be in a really good mood and you are a little more soft on the kids and you let some things slide. We are only human so I get it, BUT, you have to find a way to be soft and fuzzy and still be firm about your expectations.

I hope these tips help you and you find the time to really think about how you are managing your classroom.

Zsnel