Last year my school had new teacher meetings where the teachers could ask to go over specific topics. One of the topics the teachers wanted to know more about was classroom management. The admin in charge of the meetings asked the teachers to come up with a list of questions they would like to ask veteran teachers. The admin then asked people she thought had good classroom management to answer said questions in a panel discussion. I was one of the people they asked (although I still think I have a long way to go before I have the behavior I want in the classroom). I am not good at speaking in front of adults, so I wrote down my answers to give to the teachers in a handout. I thought that you guys might be interested in some of the questions/answers.
Q and A:
Question: How do you set an expectation for student cooperation and behavior when you have a substitute?
a. Having a detailed seating chart
b. Having the times of each class detailed and what should be accomplished at each time period. I leave a list of classroom procedures and routines as well.
c. If possible, I write the agenda/expectations for the day on my board so that the sub can just refer students to the board.
d. Leaving an OVER abundance of work. I make sure that it is something that we have covered as a class before and can be completed with little assistance from the sub. I also make sure that is not just a throw away assignment and something that I will actually take a grade for.
e. Telling the students the expectations ahead of time. I let my students know that I have left a seating chart, and that I am asking the sub for specific behavior notes both positive and negative. I also surprise the students on certain absences with having small treats for those students that were noted as having exemplary behavior or who did not have any negative notes. Students who the sub noted as having negative behavior will receive silent lunch.
f. I also include a list of two students in every class who are trustworthy that the sub can call on for help or questions.
Question: How do you help students develop self-control/responsibility to stay on task when you are not standing over/watching them? During group work, when I turn my attention to one group, other groups seem to drift off, stop working, and socialize. Any tips/strategies?
A couple of different strategies that I use:
- I keep 5 Popsicle sticks in a bucket at a group each day. I use this in two different way:
o If I have to remove a popsicle stick it is 20% of their group’s participation grade.
o If all the popsicle sticks have to be taken away then the group gets silent lunch. I generally believe that they are a group and must influence each other as such. However, if I have a particularly difficult student, I give that student 3 popsicle sticks of his/her own independent from the group.
- Each person in the group should have a specific role within the group. I have a supply person, paper runner, and group leader. The group leader is charged with keeping the group on task.
- One method that I have used in previous years is that I hang a string from the ceiling down to the middle of each group’s desk. At the top of the string is a smiley face, in the middle of the string is a circle that can slide up and down, and at the bottom is a frowning face. If the circle has to be moved all the way down to the frowning face there is a consequence (Silent lunch, call home, etc…)
- I also have clearly posted classroom rules within my classroom. I have four boxes taped off on my board. If a student breaks a rule, I write their name, the number of the rule they broke, and the date on a post-it note in the “Warning box” If they break that rule they move through the boxes to “Silent lunch” to “Parent contact” to “Referral” If a student goes an entire week without breaking the same rule, they can take their post it off of the board (or move it back one box).
Question: If I am teaching or leading a discussion and a student will not stop talking or disrupting class, how can I handle the problem without having to pause the entire discussion (and provide opportunity for the rest of the class to get off track) to take a step outside or without “making a scene” and calling unnecessary attention to the child in question. I would like some suggestions of effective ways to do this, so that the problem can be addressed and handled, but I can also continue with my lesson to complete it within the bounds of class time
- Having a nonverbal way of letting students know their behavior is not acceptable has been a saving grace for me (ie. The popsicle stick approach from #3).
- If the nonverbal approach doesn’t work, one of the best and most important lessons that I learned from a seasoned teacher was, “It is not an argument!” If a student is talking/talking back you should only have ask them to stop once. If they try to argue back (ie. “I wasn’t talking”) my only response is the words, “It’s not an argument” and then I move on. I do not take the time at that moment to engage any further because 9 out of 10 times the student is looking to distract the class purposefully.
- If refusing to engage and ignoring the behavior is not working, I will place a note on the student’s desk asking them to step into the hall (directly in front of the door and no further) and wait for me to come speak to them when a have a free moment. I write the note and place it on the student’s desk so as not to create a spectacle and embarrass the student in front of his peers, which generally leads to an even BIGGER spectacle.
Question: How do you motivate/engage students all the time? How do you reach the students who lack self-motivation? How do you handle students who are not motivated by sports, grades, or parent contacts?
· I will be honest that this is something that I struggle with myself. The things that I do are to make sure that the students don’t have the chance to just sit in class and opt out, by placing the students in groups, calling on EVERY student in class often, calling home often, and trying to have personal conversations with these particular students between classes. Having my reward punch card system has been helpful with many of these students also.
Question: What is your homework policy?
What do you do when students do not bring in homework?
· I currently have nightly homework that was given to students 2 months worth at a time. I did so much at one time in case of inclement weather. Each page has the date on which the homework should be completed regardless of inclement weather. The first night of homework was to have the homework packet signed by a parent. When it came back I collected those sheets to have a record. If one did not come back signed, I made a parent contact to make sure they were aware of the expectations. Homework is checked and gone over each and every day and has become part of the classroom routine. If a student misses 3 homework assignments I make another parent contact. After students got the hang of the routine and the fact that their parents WOULD be contacted I have very few students not completing homework.
If you ever have more questions or even just need/want to chat or vent feel free to email me!
I would also like to do another blog post answering more questions (They don't have to be strictly classroom management related) so send your questions also!