Prior to my student teaching, the greatest fear I had regarding teaching was classroom management. While I took an entire course dedicated to management, the idea of keeping thirty-five students “in-line” for eighty minutes each day seemed an impossible task. To make matters worse, when I asked several of my mentor teachers what they did to manage their classrooms, I got a vast array of answers. Books on the subject presented the same problem. It seemed to me that every resource available to me on management had different ideas on how to accomplish the same goal. It wasn’t until I started teaching that I realized a very important concept: every teacher has their own method of managing a classroom. While these methods differ from teacher to teacher, they are each effective in their own way. I wanted to dedicate this post to explaining some of the things I do in my own classroom management. Although I have only been teaching for five weeks, I have had few problems in my classes.
One crucial element to my personal classroom management plan is the idea of choices. I love giving my students choices, and along with choices, I love giving my students the opportunity of experiencing the consequences of their choices. For example, last week, I had my students watch the most recent Republican Presidential Debate. I knew that most of my students would listen intently to the candidates’ debate. There was one class, however, that I was worried about. While this isn’t a bad class, the students often have trouble staying on task for activities that last longer than ten minutes. When I show any type of video, the students in this class usually lose focus and begin to find other things to do with their time, such as texting or talking loudly to their neighbor. To prevent that from happening, I presented a choice to these students at the start of the period, “You can either watch the Republican debate or you can read chapter 2 and 3 from the textbook and answer the subsequent questions.”
It doesn’t take a genius to know what choice my students decided. They quickly informed me that they would rather do anything than work out of the textbook. With this as their answer, I reminded these students of my expectations for their behavior during the video, and kindly informed them that I was happy to assign the book work if they found it difficult to comply with those expectations. However, I had few students who were off-task during the video.
Another element of my own personal management plan is idea of “busyness.” I try very hard to prevent my students from being idle in my class—especially during times when I lecture or give direct instruction. At the same time, I also believe that students should not be assigned “busy work” or assignments that simply kill time. All assignments should work to assess students learning. I came to the realization that I needed to find an assessment that kept students busy while at the same time assessed their learning. The answer to this came to me after much contemplation—guided notes!
Guided notes are notes that went along with my lesson plan. Students fill out their guided notes during my lessons, and I collect these notes after each period. Knowing these notes would be graded based on completion; most students spend the entire period on task. Those who fall asleep in class or chose to be off-task suffer the consequences of having incomplete notes, and consequently, a lower score. Additionally, when I grade these notes, I get immediate feedback on my students’ understanding. I know what material to reteach based on how accurate the students’ notes are.
While I have only been teaching for five weeks, I have had many good days and relatively few bad days when it comes to classroom management. Instead of focusing on supervision my students, I can spend my energies improving my instruction. I would love to hear from those who are either current student teachers, or those who are professional teachers. What are some of the aspects of your own personal management plan? Since classroom management is worry for many prospective teachers, your comments and ideas will be much appreciated!