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.