To function smoothly, classrooms need to be run like a democratic government. As a teacher, I will be the designated leader who runs the classroom and directs its instruction. I will enable my students to influence the workings of the classroom by assigning class jobs, providing leadership opportunities, giving them choices regarding instruction and activities, acknowledging and respecting their voice in the classroom, and encouraging civility and self-governing behavior. Because my students will be the beneficiaries of my instruction, their participation in classroom affairs is essential.
Classroom jobs will be one way for my students to participate. Through class jobs I will teach them several valuable life skills. As they take ownership of various classroom duties, my students will learn the value of responsibility. Beth Lewis, in an article about classroom jobs in elementary school classrooms, said, “If we want to teach children to be responsible, we have to trust them with responsibilities. Classroom jobs are an effective way to enlist students in the duties of running a classroom.” The classroom cannot function without the help and participation of each member. Its success depends upon each student diligently completing his or her assigned tasks, which teaches them that part of being responsible is being dependable. Class jobs will also help my students more deeply appreciate their educational experience because working for their education will build their satisfaction of it. Hard work is another valuable skill my students will develop through class jobs. Because the flow of the classroom depends upon each member faithfully fulfilling his or her responsibilities, my students will learn that working hard is very important.
They will also learn that hard work is a key ingredient in the recipe for effective leadership, which is another important aspect of a democratically-run classroom. I will teach my students that true leaders are hard workers. We will study historical accounts, watch movie clips, and read stories about powerful leaders who exemplify a strong work ethic. I will also teach my students that true leadership requires leading by example. I will assign students to be group leaders when we have activity centers or participate in other class activities. They will be expected to model appropriate behavior at the centers and will encourage group members to follow instructions. Inspiring their peers to behave appropriately may be challenging at times, but these group leaders will learn that they cannot inspire change in others without being an example first.
Effective leaders also respect agency and the voice of each individual, which are two closely connected elements in classroom democracy. Each is essential for students to have a meaningful educational experience, and there are several ways I plan to provide them. I will provide a variety of classroom activities for my students to choose from. Students learn and perform in different ways, so they need freedom to choose activities that reflect what they know and can do. It is also important to me that I know what my students are interested in. I will start the year off by having them fill out a short information sheet where they can record their interests, and I will use their responses to plan future classroom activities. This will show students that their voice is being heard and that it influences their choices in the classroom. I will also have brief class meetings periodically where my students and I can discuss their thoughts and feelings about our classroom environment. They can tell me what they like and what they think should be different. This will show my students that I consider their interests in the choices I give them. Continue reading “Classroom Democracy”
Teaching Strategy #2
Give each student 1-3 plastic chips (or checkers). During a small group discussion, a student puts a chip in the middle of the circle when they get a turn to talk. Everyone must get rid of one chip before another can be used by anyone.
– Every student gets a chance to talk
– Students learn from each other
– Keeps them on-topic
– Small groups create a safe environment for students to add to the discussion/project (especially good for English-language learners)
– Pre- or post-assessment
Any topic can be discussed using this strategy. Some topic ideas include:
– phases of the moon
– group book discussions
– geographic locations
– The teacher can listen in and see what students still need to learn and where to guide instruction.
-OR- Continue reading “Talking Chips”
Every elementary school teacher struggles with that one student. You know the type-I’m talking about that stinky kid who picks his nose and flicks his boogers. That kid who seems constantly more interested in the happenings outside the window than that cute song you made up to help your class memorize the state capitals. This is the same kid who always has some sort of contraband on his person and seems to exist just to turn your hair gray. I am talking about that no-good, trouble-making, nuisance that administration put in your class as some form of sick punishment for being late to last year’s faculty meetings.
But what you probably don’t understand is that you and stinky kid both want exactly the same thing: out of the situation. You see, stinky kid has never liked school. Unlike your idyllic grade-school experience where you were teacher’s pet and mom’s little angel, stinky kid has never received much positive attention. He may come from a dysfunctional home that struggles to make ends meet. He was essentially raised by the television set and never got a kiss goodnight. Unlike your grade school posse with matching lunch pails, stinky kid sits alone at lunch.
You see, despite your initial mutual dislike of each other, you know that you can make a difference. What stinky kid doesn’t realize is that you have decided to change his life for the better. Your disgust turns to compassion as you work to build a friendship with him. It’s not easy at first, but with time you grow to like stinky kid. You come to understand that he is exceptionally good at mathematics. Each day you focus on his strengths and provide opportunities for him to learn in a safe and loving environment. Slowly stinky kid begins to feel comfortable in school. All your hard work is mirrored through stinky kid’s willingness to work. Although not the brightest of his class, he begins to pay attention and participate. You start telling your husband about this student named Chris who has finally reached grade level in reading. At the end of the year, you realize you will actually miss Chris. You know exactly what to do when you get another stinky kid next year, because you know what it really means to teach. You see, teaching isn’t just about cute songs and gold star stickers, it’s about loving and being a hero to those who have none.
New Blogger Introduction
Hey everybody! I’m the new blogger Annie. I am a junior in Elementary Education. A little bit about myself, I am a Montana native with a passion for potatoes in all of their forms. I married my best friend over christmas break. And now, we live in a comically small apartment that is full of practically every piece of sporting equipment known to man (Yes, we even own bowling shoes). I love BYU and I am so excited to be a part of this blog.
My first grade teacher was Mrs. Ragsdale. The thing I remember most about her class was her classroom behavior policy, particularly the disciplinary aspect. At the start of each week, students were given a zip-lock bag containing four laminated smiley faces. Whenever a student misbehaved, he or she had to place one of the precious smiles in a plastic bowl on her desk. At the end of the week, students were rewarded based on how many smileys they still had left in their bag. Students with two or fewer smiles received nothing, those with three were given a certificate, and those with four were awarded with a certificate and a piece of candy. I remember once losing three smiley faces in one day (oh the shame!), but most of the time I was an all-star because I usually had all four of my smiling friends safely stored in my baggy.
Mrs. Ragsdale had a nice system going in her classroom. Her students understood what kind of behavior was expected of them, and the consequences students were given for their behavior came as no surprise. Thinking back on my elementary school adventures in the context of classroom management, I realize that my personal beliefs about management most closely align with methods of medium teacher control. I believe there should be a balance of teacher control and student independence in the classroom. There are important skills, abilities, and attitudes each teacher and student must develop to establish an effective learning environment.
First of all, teachers must establish clear rules regarding behavior in the classroom, as well as clear consequences. We learn in the scriptures that “if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, for [it] would have no claim upon the creature” (Alma 42:20-2). The same principle is true of behavior in the classroom. If clear boundaries are not set for appropriate behavior, what could stop students from behaving however they pleased? What right would a teacher have to discipline students for misbehaving if there was no guideline for their behavior in the first place? When teachers establish clear guidelines for behavior, students have the freedom to make their own choices but can expect specific consequences for their actions. President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “You are free to choose, but you are not free to alter the consequences of your decision.” Learning to follow rules and accept consequences are important life skills and will teach students to be responsible for their own behavior.
While it’s essential to have order in the classroom, students also need a level of freedom to make choices regarding their own learning. This freedom makes room for creativity and variety in classroom instruction. Giving students a voice in the classroom will enable teachers to make the learning process more fun by tailoring it to the interests of the students. William Glasser, a classroom management theorist, believes that in addition to control in the classroom, students need freedom and fun. In fact, he goes so far as to say that “without attention to those needs, students are bound to fail.” Continue reading “Keys to Effective Classroom Management”