Saturday, January 28, 2012

Julia G. Thompson: At this point in the school year, I always wonder...

Julia G. Thompson:
At this point in the school year, I always wonder...
: At this point in the school year, I always wonder if I am an effective teacher when it comes to classroom management. Even though I have w...

At this point in the school year, I always wonder if I am an effective teacher when it comes to classroom management. Even though I have written pages and pages about it, I still worry that my own classroom is not as well-managed as it should be and could be. Like other teachers, I want to make sure that every student becomes a self-disciplined success story. With that lofty goal in mind, I spend time each year when a grading period ends to review my efforts at making sure that my classroom management procedures and policies are as effective as I would like for them to be.

With that in mind, you may also want to take a mid-year moment to examine your own classroom management effectiveness. While there are many different approaches to solve discipline problems, some are simply more effective than others. As you take this quiz, ask yourself which of the answer choices would be the most effective way to handle a problem that you and your students may be experiencing.

1. Students take too long to get their materials arranged for a test.

a.         Remind them to hurry.
b.         Start the test and let the slow ones catch up.
c.         Tell them they can have one minute to get ready and then
            time them by pointedly watching the clock.

2. A student is lost in a daydream instead of finishing a reading assignment.

a.         Tell the student that if he or she doesn’t get to work, there
             will be more to do for homework.
b.         Stay at your desk and wait to see how long it takes the
             dreamer to get back to work.
c.         Move to stand near the student.

3. Students jokingly insult each other while waiting for class to begin.

a.         Ignore the horseplay. Class hasn’t started yet.
b.         Remind students of the procedure for starting class and the
            class rule about showing respect for others.
c.         Tell students to stop and to get to work at once.

4. A student always finishes assignments in a rush and then wants to spend the rest of class doing absolutely nothing.

 a.         As long as no one else is being bothered, there is no real  
b.          Design instruction so that one assignment will flow into
             the next. Students can use a checklist to keep on track.
c.         Give the student more work to do.

5. A few students show up day after day without completed homework assignments.

a.         Tell them that they are going to fail the class and that you 
             are going to call home.
b.         Ask them to write out the reason and then work with them
            to figure out a solution. Take a positive approach.
c.         Stop giving homework assignments. Focus on class time 
            learning instead.

6. Students ball up papers and toss them at the wastebasket while
you are giving directions about an assignment.

a.         Shake your head, frown, and move near them.
b.         Stop what you are saying and reprimand them.
c.         Finish your directions. Go to the students and quietly ask
            them about the class rule they violated.

7.  A student is constantly disorganized. A book bag full of
crumpled papers functions as a locker.

a.         Keep the student after class and straighten out the mess
            together. Work out a weekly organization goal.
b.         Call home and talk to a parent about helping the student
            get organized.
c.         Assign binder buddies to help the student find materials.

8. Students chat while you are explaining the homework assignment.

a.         Ignore it.
b.         Stop and wait for them to pay attention. Call them to order
            if needed.
c.         Tell them to stop talking and start paying attention.

9. A student lacks a textbook, pen, or paper.

a.         Share materials from the class storehouse.
b.         Don’t allow student to complete the work in class. He or
             she can do it at home. This will help all students remember
             to bring materials next time.
c.         Allow student to borrow from classmates.

10. Students talk back rudely when you have reprimanded them.

a.         Send them to the office.
b.         Reprimand them privately.
c.         Ignore it.

11. Students turn in sloppy or inaccurate work.

a.         Refuse to take it.
b.         Take it but give a lecture about work habits.
c.         Require that they redo the work whenever practical.

12. Students are tardy to class without a good reason.

a.         Enforce your rules regarding tardiness to class.
b.         Refuse to let them in.
c.         Meet them at the door and ask why they are tardy.

13. Some students ignore you when you call for the class to quiet down to work.

a.         Keep asking until they listen to you.
b.         Raise your voice until no one can ignore you.
c.         Give the signal that they recognize as a sign that they need
            to get quiet.

14. A student seems to take forever to dawdle over any assignment in class—tests, quizzes, and other written work.

a.         Give the student a timer to self-manage tasks.
b.         Call home to find out any reasons for the problem.
c.         Talk to the student to find out the reasons for the slow pace
            and to find ways to help the student stay focused and 

15. One student refuses to work with the rest of the students in a group.

a.         Make sure that everyone knows the reason for the
            assignment, has an appropriate role in the group, and has
            been taught teamwork skills.
b.         Ignore the situation as long as you can so that students can
            work it out for themselves.
c.         Take care to assign students to groups where they will be
            able to work with friends


1. c      6. a      11. c

2. c      7. a      12. a

3. b      8. b      13. c

4. b      9. a      14. c

5. b      10. b    15. a

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What Is Your Level of Classroom "Withitness?"

We've all seen them--those amazing teachers who can write on the board, direct a small-group reading circle, and gently redirect three off-task students at the same time. Their expertise is an inspiration for us all. As amazing and inspiring as it may be, however, no one is actually born with the trait of "withitness."

What is withitness? At all times a teacher knows what’s going on in class.

Teachers with withitness are said to have eyes in the back of their heads. But, since they never turn their backs on the class, this is not really necessary.

Here are some simple tips for cultivating your own classroom withitness:

1. Don’t ever turn your back on a class.
2. Be alert to signs and signals among your students
3. Be prepared so that you can focus on students instead of the lesson.
4. Develop your personal multitasking skills.
 5. Stay on your feet and monitor.
6. Arrange your class so that you can see and be seen.
7. Don’t distract students when they are working.
8. Pace lessons so that they flow in a businesslike manner.
9. Quietly correct off task behavior and then move on.

Here's a quick excerpt from the handouts that accompany the professional development DVD. Use it to determine just how you rate as a teacher who knows what is going on in class?


Use the list of strategies below to assess your level of withitness. Rank yourself on a scale of 1-3 with 3 being as successful as possible. Any strategy that you can’t rank yourself as a 3 should be one that you continue to work to improve.

1.  _____Don’t turn your back on a class.
2.  _____Be alert to signs and signals among your students.
3.  _____Know your students well.
4.  _____Greet students at the door at the start of class to scan for potential problems.
 5. _____Be prepared so that you can focus on students instead of the lesson.
6. _____Develop your personal multitasking skills.
7. _____Stay on your feet and monitor.
8._____Arrange your class so that you can see and be seen.
9._____Don’t distract students when they are working.
10._____Pace lessons so that they flow in a businesslike manner.
11. _____Quietly correct off task behavior and then move on.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Cope with An Overcrowded Classroom

My classes are overcrowded. Just like thousands of other educators, I teach in a school district struggling with tough choices when it comes to budget matters. The result? There are lots of student names on my rosters...lots and lots of names.
Too many students packed into a room designed for a much smaller class presents some serious challenges. Like other teachers, I struggle with managing the paperwork load. I work hard to figure out ways to return graded papers with meaningful comments in a timely fashion. I work hard to figure out ways to manage the traffic flow so that my students can work with their classmates and I don't have to leap over book bags in the aisles. I work hard at classroom management so no one gets lost in the crowd. I work hard to make sure that an overcrowded classroom is just a challenge and not a detriment. If you are in the same situation, here are some tips for managing an overcrowded class that I have found useful in my own practice.
An Excerpt from Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher
“In the recent past, many teachers have had to cope with classes that were just slightly above the recommended size for the grade and subject. However, today’s widespread and severe budget cuts have made critically overcrowded classrooms that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. As inevitable as overcrowded classes may be, the discipline problems associated with them are not. Overcrowded classes can be managed successfully by those teachers who meet the unique challenges they present.
Even though we know that smaller classes are the preferred option for our students, a positive discipline climate and a pleasant learning environment are possible in overcrowded classes. The following strategies can start you on the way to successfully managing the problems of overcrowded classes.

·  Even if you are not easily intimidated, confronting a large group of students who have been crammed into a classroom designed for a much smaller group can be more than a little discouraging. Unless you immediately assume a strong leadership role, you will be so outnumbered by your students that they will be in charge of the class, not you.

·         The room arrangement is very important in overcrowded classes. Make sure you have enough desks. Move all equipment that you don’t need to use right away to storage and do whatever else you can to further reduce the claustrophobic effects of clutter in the room.

·   Pay careful attention to traffic patterns and student movement. Try to reduce this as much as possible. Teach your students to dispose of trash at the end of class and to sharpen pencils only at the start of class.

·         An overcrowded class requires more monitoring than a smaller one. Teach your students that they are to place their book bags under their desks rather than in the aisle to make movement easier.

·   A seating chart is an absolute must in an overcrowded class if you want to reduce the amount of off-task behavior. A structured environment will reduce the number of problems you will face.

·         Prepare yourself for the noise level. A large class can be a noisy class if you don’t establish some guidelines early in the year with your students to help them control the noise level.

·   Be extremely organized and a model of efficiency for your students who could be tempted to use overcrowding as an excuse not to do their best. Keep your personal space in good order and insist that your students leave their area tidy at the end of class. Encourage them to check to make sure their classmates don’t leave personal belongings behind when class is over.

·  It is important for you to avoid confusion and the discipline problems caused by failure to return papers promptly. Although it takes longer to grade papers for a large class, your students may feel lost in the crowd if you allow papers to pile up before you give them the feedback that all students need in order to stay focused on learning during class.

·    Routines are very important in a large class. Establish and teach them early in the term. Students should be able to predict what they are supposed to do in your class even though there are many students in the room.

·  Allow no horseplay. Even though you may be inclined to allow students some leeway in playing around, this is not a good idea when there are too many students in the room. Horseplay in a crowd is wasted time as well as dangerous. Stop it at the first sign it is about to begin.

·         Be especially careful in a crowded class to prevent the cheating that can happen because students have to sit close together. Provide a cover sheet and monitor carefully to prevent problems.

·  Enlist your students in a sense of togetherness and encourage a spirit of cooperation in solving the problems caused by an overcrowded class. A sense of humor and a positive attitude on your part will set a pleasant tone for your students to model.

·  It is important for you to speak with every student each day. Greeting them at the door is a good beginning to solving the problems of having to keep in touch with many students. Make a point to let your students know that you are aware of them as people, not just as faces in a crowd.

·         Creating permanent teams of study buddies is a good way to give students a sense of togetherness and connectedness in the midst of the larger group. When students have a few partners to turn to for help and support, they will feel like a part of the class instead of being just one of many.

·  Courtesy to each other and to you is especially important in a large class. Teach the importance of courtesy to the students in a large class and insist that they treat everyone with politeness. A large courteous class is much better and easier to deal with than a small rude one.

·  Your attitude is the most important factor in coping successfully with the demands of a large class. It’s not the number of students occupying seats in the room, but the careful planning, interesting lessons, and sincere effort to connect with each student each day that will determine the success or failure of the discipline climate in a class.