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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Without a doubt the first few days of school are the most critical ones in helping to create the foundation of good human relationships with your students. Even the most skilled teacher in the pedagogical sciences of education will be less than effective if the kids don't "like" them, yes, I said, "like them". Now I am not talking about making lots of young friends but I am talking about creating a relationship with your students that is built on mutual respect and a kinship, a kinship that forms your stove of learning. So here are six tips, teachertips, to build a strong, effective stove of learning for your classroom. 

1. Please don't go over the syllabus on day one. I know, it's expected, and that is exactly the reason I strongly advise against doing it. Your first impression, is just that, your first and only first impression, you get no do-overs, so make it magnificent. I am not here to tell you what to do on day one, you can go google that, but if you see your first day as the first blind date into a forced marriage, it takes on a more powerful significance. I used to start a video project on day one, a DV quilt, where all the students were responsible for coming up with a finish to the sentence, "America is __________" and one visual. We then patched them together for a class film that we could analyze and use to springboard ourselves into a discussion of the nation. It wasn't the tech or the fancy final product that made them want to come back for more, it was the engagement. So ENGAGE them, make them want to be in the forced marriage, otherwise you may be on the road to a difficult and long, painful divorce. If you are interested in developing your own DV quilt, check out the tutorial below to start marinating. 

 

2. Use the magic word. What is the magic word? It's their name of course! I understand it's a difficult task, especially if you teach secondary, there literally could be 150 names or more. But the point is not to memorize all of their names quickly, it's to convey the message to your kids, that their name is important, it's important to you. Make it a point in the beginning of the year that you are on a mission to learn their names, I would make a bet that if I didn't know their name in two weeks I would give them a point on their next test. It was this act, this act of good faith, that I believe, earned the respect from my students. You may make mistakes, no, you will make mistakes, but make no mistake about it, one's own name is truly the most magical word in the human language. So learn them and use them to make magic in your classroom of learning. 

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

Ding dongs

How do we deal with the ding dongs? We all know that without a solid classroom management foundation there is little chance for success in the classroom, but even with a good plan every educator is destined to find themselves face to face with a ding dong in their classroom. A ding dong is that kid, who, for whatever reason, has an itch to disrupt, be a goofball, ask silly questions or engage in what many would see as attention seeking behavior. In a perfect scenario that behavior would be eliminated with enforcing "the rules" but as we all know, none of us live in a perfect world. All of my advice assumes you have steady rules, good mojo with your kids, and most importantly, LIKE KIDS (but not in a creepy way). With that in mind, here are five strategies to deal with that everlasting ding dong.

1. Be subtle. Ding dongs want to disrupt your flow and want to be scolded, in fact, they expect it. So rule number one, is never give them the expected attention they seek. Use your body, use your face, use your tone to send a subtle message that their behavior has been recognized. Try not to stop the class mojo. If you are lecturing, try sliding in your behavior modification, "So when we study the elastic clause we can see that it empowers Congress to use the powers of the Constitution to pass all laws necessary and proper in order to calm Johnny down and give him the power to pay attention". Hopefully Johnny will get the point and your class will get a giggle. Use humor, come up with canned lines for scenarios.... phones out, ask them for their number so you can text them to put the phone away..... John Renn on Twitter has a great comeback for silly questions designed to get you off track; when Johnny asks, "Isn't it true that George Washington smoked pot" respond with, "Perhaps, but did you know that ice cream doesn't have bones?" Curse words? If they say "sh**", you say, "Please put that word back where it belong, because it's nasty in your mouth". You can come up with the rest.

2. Be daring. If you really want to convert a ding dong you need to form a human relationship with them and that probably needs to occur outside the classroom. Find ways to cross paths with the kid. Follow them in the hall and talk to yourself so they can hear you, as you mumble "I love teaching and if I could only find a way to reach Johnny'... wait for him to turn around and nod and walk away.  I used to resort to bringing my lunch to the cafeteria when a kid was being annoying, I would sit next to them and eat as I explained this would happen every time they disrupted the class, then I would lecture about history. Find out what the kid likes and make an effort; you showing up to their basketball game may have a bigger effect than any ten point action plan.

3. The pullout. Now I know many of us may do this. We take the kid into the hall and give them the riot act. Sadly, this does not work that often, and if it does, it does not last. So try pulling them out and connecting with the kid, recognize their power, their intellect, their humor and try to win them back. I used to offer them stress balls in the hall or give them permission to doodle, if it was about the content. Sometimes I would just bring them out and explain that I had to, and if we could just walk in like I yelled at them, I was cool. This in many cases made the kid an ally. 

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

megaphone girl

You've probably been there before. A student, frustrated with their hand in the air decides it's all of a sudden ok to yell across the room "Hey Teacher!" (they might use your name, but you get the point). There's a good chance this isn't a rare occurrence in your classroom. You're awesome, so you probably manage your classroom well and when this happens, you reinforce your expectations and model appropriate behavior.

And that's good. That's what you should do. But I'd like to take thisa step further and look at what causes this type of disturbance to happen in your classroom.

The Classroom Management 'Play By Play'

Step 1: Bobby raises his hand across the room, silently, as they are supposed to. They can't continue working without assistance. And because you are helping Katie at the moment, and your back is to Bobby, you don't see him raise his hand.

Step 2: You finishing assisting Katie and move on to Jake, who is close by and just raised his hand. Now, you don't know this, but Jake actually has a much less urgent question than Bobby, but because Jake was closer, you noticed him first. This frustrates Bobby, because he raised his hand first. He now feels  like he is being ignored.

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Last modified on

Posted by on in Early Childhood

thinking

This list may seem obvious, but it is surprising how many teachers can become oblivious, in the midst of life in the classroom. Let’s take time to think about some of these things we should probably stop doing immediately…

repeating

1. Repeating Yourself. Getting into the habit of expecting a response or reaction after a first request is critical to classroom management. This ties into consistency, so children will quickly learn that when you say something the first time, there will only be a first time. A second time will mean some sort of natural consequence. It only takes your smart children a short time to learn your MO and to respond accordingly. I know. Taking the time to follow through every single time is difficult, especially when we’re busy. But trust me... The effort put forth is far easier than what will undoubtedly happen as a result of slacking here. Many times one of those results is #2…

listening

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

pablo-34.png

 

This was the week I retook control of all aspects of my life. Things would be different this week. Everything would turn around and become better this week. Instead, I wasn't good enough this week and my students did not hesitate to let me know.

This week I started waking up a half hour earlier (3:45AM!) to start my morning workouts. This week I managed to start going to bed earlier. This week I refocused my eating habits to reflect my fitness goals (Elite Spartan Beast on 4/29) . This week was the start of a journey that required me to conduct 17 formal teacher observations in 8 days (12 days including post-observation conferences). This week the lessons for my 3 daily classes were absolutely on-point. Everything was going so well for me this week, until...

Then my students informed me that I am a grumpy teacher. One of my students coined the term "Grumpy T" (T for Thom) to describe me. This started a class-wide discussion in one period where the class agreed that I had been grumpy and different all week. This shocked me and I felt incredulous when I heard this. My body felt great from the workouts, I was getting more sleep than before, I was eating much healthier, and I was loving all the observations and genuine conversations I was having with teachers. How could I possibly be grumpy?

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