Class Management

(Knock on wood…) Generally, I have few classroom management issues on a day to day basis. Most of my students want to be in my class – it was their choice – and I have learned over the last 15 years of teaching that I have to pick my battles. Some things just aren’t worth the fight.

The biggest, most common management issues I do have are 1) the use of cellphones and/or the distraction of cellphones during instruction; 2) the copying of other students’ work and/or using Google Translate; and 3) playing video games or watching YouTube videos during class. At least two of these should be ameliorated this year when I use the interpersonal rubric and related “Fear the DEA!” rules (idea adapted from John Piazza and Lance Piantaggini; rules adapted from Ben Slavic) to clarify my expectations. This is the first year I’m using rubrics to grade behavior, in a manner of speaking, since listening behavior is a big component of receiving CI. It is my hope that using the rubric will not only make the behavior, but the why of the behavior and its effect on learning, more clear to the students and parents. I’m going to start strong and be consistent — THIS IS MY FIRST GOAL FOR THIS NEW YEAR! For the copying/cheating, considering how I’m changing up my assessments, I’m not too worried about it continuing to be an issue.

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But, and this is a big BUT, I have always relied on encouraging my students to answer all questions loudly, as a class, without a lot of thinking before answering. I like it when students yell out responses. It sounds and appears a lot like pure chaos and I’ve been questioned more than once about why I permit it. I don’t use it all that often, to be honest, unless we were doing grammar stuff, as that was the basis of my assessments. Basically, until this year, I use those first-thought, loud, free-for-all answering to work as a informal assessment of my students’ knowledge:

  • If a student rarely answers any questions, I speak with the student privately about why – is it fear of being wrong, confusion about the material, etc. I then offer help and advice as necessary.
  • If every answer is wrong, as well as the follow-up answers when the first round is declared incorrect, I’m pretty sure whatever we just went over was way beyond their ability or I was incredibly unclear and I need to review the material again.
  • If a student/students hesitantly guesses the correct answer, I know something clicked, but a detail is missing or instead of a review, the class needs more practice. I can also follow-up with more specific questions to determine what is known and what still needs some clarification.
  • If students all answer loudly, confidently, and correctly, we are good to move on.

While this kind of answering and assessing will still work in a CI-class, based on everything I’ve read, what I understand, and how I want class to go, I am going to need to change things up a bit.

Without this change, I fully expect the every-day, nearly every-second communication-focus of a CI-class to erupt into chaos and shouting matches – students wanting and needing to be heard, over-powering shy students, and students forgetting that listening is a two-way street – and a huge, NEW, classroom management issue for me, which before hadn’t been a problem. I don’t want more management issues, I want less (really, what teacher wants problem after problem rearing its ugly head day after day).

I am not going to encourage students to answer in one very specific manner, but ask them to adjust their answering behavior based on the type of questions I am asking and how I need responses to assess my comprehensibility via them. So, with this in mind, I’ve created some visual reminders for students. My plan: stick these along the front of my podium and point as I ask or before I ask a question. This way, students know the expectations I have for how they should answer. I want the freedom to be able to ask a single student a question to determine comprehensibility, the freedom to encourage students to freely offer responses all together, and the freedom to assess with whiteboards, as well as differentiation. I also want to teach students the importance of think-time as a part of learning and responding.

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This is a new step for me and I’m going to have to remember to be diligent about pointing, waiting, and then holding students responsible for adjusting their behavior as necessary. I have faith… they and I can DO THIS!

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