Classroom Management

Managing a classroom–keeping students on task, listening, participating–is a whole different ballgame in K-12 than it is at the college level.  I have issues with classroom management, mostly at the Middle School level.  I teach in a computer lab–with spinny chairs.  I have a couple of classes that are really big.  The room has been reconfigured so that I can see all but a couple of the computer screens, but it’s still a hard room to manage.  I’m determined this year, though, to manage it, and to still create an atmosphere of independent work, of not relying on me entirely for help.

I started reading Teach Like a Champion over the weekend, a book that promises practical strategies for becoming a better teacher.  The suggestion at the beginning of the book is to work on your strengths first and make them better, but I really want to improve this one weakness.  It causes me some stress, and more importantly, I feel it does a disservice to my students.  It allows some of them to get away without working, evidenced last year by having a few students each trimester who did not complete some project.  That cannot happen this year.

One thing I think I am good at is lesson planning, so I’m connecting that strength with this weakness.  I’m going to add into my lesson plans the strategies for keeping students on task.  Adding to this challenge is the fact that I’ve flipped my Middle School classes, so that my students have some work to do between classes (the idea being that they can get right to work when they come to class instead of waiting for me to explain something).  So, tomorrow is my first chance to tackle this, and here’s my plan.  Tomorrow, in my 7th grade class, they’ve created plans for a “Choose Your Own Adventure Story.”  They’ve watched a video that details the programming techniques they need to use to begin programming their story.  Here’s what I’m thinking will be on the screen when they enter the classroom:

1. Take a seat.

2. Log into your computer.

3. Log into Haiku.

4. Write down (or type) any questions you have about the video.

5. Listen to answers to questions.

6. Begin work on your story.

7. When I say, save your story in a safe and accessible place.

I may add homework to that list.  I can’t remember off the top of my head whether they have homework.  I think not (but if they did, I’d have that be number 4 and bump the rest down one).  6th and 8th grade classes will look the same. What do you all think?  Suggestions are welcome.

One thing I’m hoping is that keeping the classroom somewhat sane will allow students to work more deeply and learn more. I don’t mind a little loosey goosey, but when there are 22 students at 22 computers, loosey goosey is not going to cut it.

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5 Replies to “Classroom Management”

  1. I am a Junior Business major here at Guilford College. I wanted to give you insight about the things that help me concentrate more here at college. It might assist you in strengthening your ability as a teacher to keep the focus of the kids. Before I came to college I had issues with staying focus and participating in class. Over the years here at Guilford I have really warmed up to the idea of participating in class discussions. I think I like most the fact that when students share their thought processes in class, it is just giving everyone under that voice another way of learning or understanding what the topic is. Class discussion is usually what drives most classes here at Guilford and our talking skills have improved as we participate and elaborate our thoughts more in in front of a crowd. Also the deep down fear of talking in front of groups of people begin to fade.

    What I am suggesting to you is to bring more discussion opportunities into the class. I don’t know how well how effectively you could make this happen because your classroom is a computer Lab, but class discussion helps me retain my information a little better as well as better my public speaking.

  2. First off, I hope the class went well!

    Second, I think your plan is pretty good. However, I agree with smoke4423 in that you should try bringing in discussion opportunities for the classroom. Not every class needs to have such–else you might lose time for whatever you wish for your students to accomplish–but perhaps after every major hurdle (such as getting halfway through a project or completing numerous pieces of classwork)? You can discuss with your students what they found to be the hardest part, what part they liked the most, what they learned, et cetera.

    Additionally, if the class periods are long (say, forty-five minutes or longer), perhaps schedule in a small break time? As someone who has taken classes that have ranged from one hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half, I’ve found that I become less focused after roughly forty-five minutes. Programming also seems like a draining subject, and given the age range of your students, making them work for a good period of time might be a bit too much. If you gave them five-ten minutes to rest their brains, use the restroom, get a drink, and maybe even eat a small snack, it might help them get through the class and focus on their work better.

  3. Smoke, I’m a big fan of discussion in my classes and in my high school level classes, there is way more discussion. I’m most concerned right now about my middle school classes, where students don’t really have the skills yet to carry on an in-depth discussion. I do make the class as interactive as possible, asking questions of the students, having them explain and elaborate on answers given by other students, etc. I’m trying to build those discussion skills. Most of the class is actually hands-on work on project. My biggest concern is that kids know how to proceed on their project work. If they’re being crazy and uncontrolled, they’ll miss key directions. The first five items on that list should take around 5 minutes out of a 40 minute class, ideally. 🙂 I really appreciate your feedback. It’s extremely helpful to hear from students!

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