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Posted by on in General

There is a question that I’m getting more and more at workshops and trainings and that is "how do I motivate my students to work?" I hate to break it to you, but there is no “magic bullet” solution to this. Every student is going to have their own solution to getting motivated.

However, there are some things you can ask yourself when a student feels “unmotivated” or is unwilling to put forth the effort to learn that you think they are capable of. Instead of assuming “they just won’t work”, ask yourself these questions: 

Question 1: Are They Engaged?

Engagement is one of the most powerful motivators when it comes to your students. Are the learning opportunities you're providing worthwhile to your students? Do they peak their interest? Are they varied enough to keep them interested?

This is probably one of the most common things I see when motivation declines in learners. Either the tasks are repetitive and monotonous (example: constant textbook work), or they are “worksheet” driven and don’t allow students to interact with the world around them.

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Posted by on in General

angry2.jpg

Oftentimes the most difficult part of an educator’s day is not the curriculum they teach or the long hours they work. For many educators, what keeps us up at night is trying to figure out how to best meet the social and emotional needs of their students. While this is an area in which I am learning everyday, I feel that I have learned some things that may help others find more success with students that seem to struggle to make it through the day.

Start Fresh Each Day

Students that show patters of misbehavior are accustomed to people treating them based on their worst behavior. Don’t be that person! Make it a point to give your students a chance to start each day over. With a smile on your face and a wide open heart.

Earlier this week I had a very difficult encounter with a young lady that I had to keep after school. She screamed at me, she yelled at me and she couldn’t wait to be out of my sight. But the next day I called her into my office. I told her it was a new day and that I loved her and then I gave her a hug.  Before leaving school today she made it a point to come up to me and give me a hug. All students deserve the opportunity to begin each day anew.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

As I was watching my favorite hockey team the other day, I noticed something that struck me during one of the brawls that (for whatever reason) still occur in the almost every game. I was amazed as the guy wearing the black and white striped shirt held two huge athletes at bay and got them to stop fighting without even being phased. He calmly talked to both players, they released their stranglehold on one another, and the game continued (after penalty minutes were distributed, of course). I immediately thought about so many issues that I've seen with classroom management, and how this guy might have the solution.

I know what you're thinking: "what does this have to do with me, my students, or my classroom?" 

Let me explain. The ref was able to calm down two extremely angry players, and continue the purpose of the event because he didn't get emotionally charged, maintained his expectations, and focused on getting the game going again. This is exactly how we as teachers need to address disruptions and management issues in our classrooms.

Before I get to far, I want to point out that there are systems, routines, procedures, and a myriad of other pieces that go into good management, such as building relationships. For right now though, I'd like to keep talk about re-focusing students and reducing the stress level of a situation that has gotten 'out of hand'.

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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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