Today was a great day. As part of some work I am doing, I got to go and observe some after-school tutoring sessions led by teachers in my district. There is just something about the energy of a school that makes the whole day better. It made me miss the classroom so much more...which led to the inevitable discussion of when I can go back. Despite feeling guilty (because it will be a cut in pay), I have decided I am going to start looking. I am just not passionate about this new position, and while the flexibility is great...it is time to be excited about going to work again.
That being said, my time observing reminded me of the importance of classroom management so that is the topic of today's post. My top five easy, pea-sy, lemon-squeezy tips for new teachers who are working on classroom management.
1. As they say in real estate- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It is tempting to call the kids over to squish together on the carpet...or to pull chairs over in front of the Smartboard. However, this is a prime spot for off task, out of control behavior unless you have some clearly established rules. My first year teaching that meant numbered tape spots on the floor that were spread far enough that no one was in any one else's space. I also had kids work in pairs vs. groups more often than not because it was easier to keep pairs on task vs. groups of 3 or 4. As I got better at managing, I was able to relax on some of these a bit, but they were really important at first.
2. If an activity requires your students to sit and get for more than 15 minutes, you need to think again...or take a break half-way through. Kids need to move. Either you can facilitate the movement at a time of your choosing, or they will wiggle, poke, pick, and play while you are trying to teach. Take your pick! For me it was as simple as having them stand up when they had an answer to guided math question...or wiggle their ears....or touch their toes. You get my drift. Incorporate movement, and your class will be a happier place.
3. Repeat,repeat, repeat....but not you! Give your directions then have someone else repeat them. A great deal of classroom management issues arise because the kids don't have any idea what they are supposed to be doing. Sometimes they will listen to their peers better than they will listen to you. Just in case they don't...you repeat and repeat again. By that I mean, ask them quick, rapid fire yes and no questions that make them think about your directions. For example, if the direction is to turn the paper into the basket on my desk after they finish, I might say, "So when I am done, I should shove my paper into the back of my desk never to be seen again, right?". The crazier you can make your ideas the more the kids will tune in. That gives you a chance to follow up with, "Then what should I do with my paper when I am done?"...you're repeating without repeating!
4. Watch for cues that you need to do something different. See that kid over there who is now counting the number of tiles on the ceiling? Maybe those two girls who are digging in their desks or coloring on their nails? They are your cue it is time to cut to the chase. Finish up your main points and move them into an activity...and next time, remember to plan the lesson into shorter chunks...along with this be reasonable! There is no reason you should be reviewing or introducing 20 new vocabulary words all at once in a full class format. Break students into groups to act them out...or play Pictionary (love this one!)...but please, PLEASE do not sit there for 45 minutes going through each word by asking what it means. YAWN!
5. Helpers! Got that kid who cannot sit still...or who likes to get his friends off-task with him? Give him a job to do. Have him pass out papers, collect papers, hand out pencils, go throw something away for you, point out something on the board. Really it doesn't matter what. Just get him away from the situation for a minute to reset the behavior before it escalates. This works as a double service...you can keep on talking and repeating (see #3) the directions while he moseys around handing out papers. If it takes him a bit, that is more review time!
And that's it! Five easy things a new teacher can try tomorrow. So, veteran teachers, what are your management tips for those new educators getting hit with spring fever?