Proactive Classroom Management

“I want to be better at classroom management.”

A familiar thought for many teachers at the start of each school year (including myself). So, what does it take? Rather than being reactive, classroom management systems must be proactive. They exist in order to teach students how to function within the classroom space. Why? Children thrive in more structured environments where the expectations are appropriate and clear.

Here are three ways you can be more proactive in planning your classroom management systems:  

Convenience Is Key

When setting up one of my first classrooms, I found an idea on Pinterest – designing a magnet board to know when students were “present,” “absent,” or had gone “out of the classroom.” I even allowed students to customize their own magnet. I was all for this new system… for about a week. Why didn’t the excitement last? The system didn’t work because my students walked into the room with an armful of materials to put away (folder, homework, snack, water, the list goes on), and moving their magnet just wasn’t convenient for them.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that when setting up your classroom and establishing routines, everything should be convenient and simple. My magnet board was quickly replaced with an attendance routine that utilized the free app, ClassDojo. Not only were students able to use the app to check in and out every morning, but the information was saved at the end of the school day.

While the Pinterest ideas may be charming –you must ask yourself – do they really work for my students?

 

Investment Is Worth It

I visited a kindergarten classroom recently where the students were just beginning to use iPads. Pulling the teacher aside, I asked if the students were responding well and if they were able to use the technology effectively. She reminded me of the deliberate sequence of lessons that it took to prepare them for such an activity, and I couldn’t help but smirk. I have always admired her calm approach to teaching such a young age group so I stuck around to watch some of the rollout for myself.

Understanding the value of establishing good routines, the teacher was in no rush to move onto the next lesson. Instead, she took the time to break steps of the routine down to their absolute smallest parts. For example, rather than simply telling the students where to access their headphones, the teacher modeled proper handling and care. She consistently reinforces these procedures and her students have become increasingly independent.

An “expert board” identifies students who are particularly skilled in a certain area so they can support their peers.

 

Independence Is Possible

Just as a plant will grow in the proper conditions, so too, will a student. Established routines should include opportunities for students to become independent leaders. Why not try instituting an “expert board” to identify students who are particularly skilled in a certain area? In the picture to the right, the teacher identifies “expert” students who could offer support to their peers in need. As students begin organically working together, the classroom runs more seamlessly. Not only does this promote leadership among students, but it also allows them to lean on each other for support – a skill they must possess in the real world.

 

 

Is your classroom running as smoothly as it could be? If not, it’s never too late to examine your own classroom systems. Strong classroom management doesn’t happen by accident. It is a result of thoughtful procedures that are convenient, consistently reinforced, and dependent on students. Take the time now to be proactive and start thinking, I am better at classroom management.”

What else is required to build more proactive classroom management systems? Add your ideas in the comments or on Twitter via @EducateLLC!

3 Ways Tech Can Create an Authentic Audience for Students

Authentic learning is an instructional approach that gives students opportunities to explore real-world challenges with projects that are tangible and relevant to the learner. These experiences allow students to see the purpose in their work and have been shown to increase student engagement. This type of learning should also provide students with an authentic audience, giving them a chance to have someone – outside of their teachers and parents – show practical interest in their work.

Create a diorama for a book report. Design a poster board for a science fair project. Write a creative short story that you submit directly to your teacher. Complete worksheet after worksheet on a math skill.

What do all of these things have in common? All of us in the adult world probably remember doing similar projects when we were in school. While they may be memorable learning experiences, they are not authentic learning experiences.

Last year, I took a new approach to a classic creative writing assignment and told my students they would publish their completed short stories on Wattpad, a story sharing website. From the onset of the project, my students were significantly more enthusiastic knowing their work would be seen by real people outside the classroom. They were meticulous in their writing and eagerly sought feedback from their peers and teachers.

Real-world tasks and audiences can enliven any assignment. Here are 3 twists on classic projects that provide students with both:

3 Projects with Authentic Audiences

Reinvigorate the research paper by turning it into a research blog.

Researching is an incredibly important skill. Now, more than ever, it is critical for students to be able to determine the reliability of sources, analyze conflicting arguments, and develop their own opinions based on research. But let’s be honest here, aren’t most research papers are only read by a few people, usually just the student and teacher?

Giving students the opportunity to turn their research paper into a blog post expands their audience dramatically. It’s hard to overestimate the impact a larger audience has on a student’s writing. If they know that their relatives, friends and other members of the school community will read their writing, they work more carefully and thoughtfully. You can even build student excitement by hosting a publishing party to celebrate the date that their writing goes live!

A blog post also allows students to practice important technical skills like how to incorporate pictures and digital media in their writing and how to cite sources digitally.

Consider using Blogger, WordPress, or another blog platform to expand your students’ authentic audience and deepen their investment in writing.

 

Reconsider the geometry worksheet by turning it into a design project.

Have you ever heard a student in math class ask, “When am I going to use this in real life?” It can be a fair question since much of math work is abstract. If students are only practicing math within the pages of a workbook, it can be hard for them to see its relevance.

One possibility for bringing math to life is having the students design something and present their mock-ups to peers, teachers, or the principal. Students could use geometry and algebra to design a school garden or a playground. They could even use their newfound skills to solve real-world problems, like redesigning a classroom or the cafeteria set up to create better traffic flows.

Consider using Google Drawings or even free 3D design software like Tinkercad to aid your students in creating designs that use real-life math work, which they can present to an authentic audience.

 

Refresh the book report by turning it into a digital book review.

Book reports allow students to practice valuable skills: summarizing, critiquing, analyzing, and synthesizing.  These reports have reemerged in modern life as book reviews on Amazon and other sites. Consider allowing your students to practice these skills by posting their review online so other interested readers can learn about the story.

Good platforms for this include:  GoodReads for older students as well as Spaghetti Book Reviews and Share What You’re Reading on Scholastic for younger students.

 

These are just a few ways to turn traditional classroom projects into more authentic experience. When trying these new ideas, be aware of your school’s privacy and Internet policies to ensure the safety of your students. If you’re questioning something, you should run it by your school technology lead or principal.

Do you have other ideas for revamping classic assignments and connecting students with authentic audiences? Add your ideas in the comments or on Twitter via @EducateLLC!

Written by George Ganzenmuller, @EdTechGeorge