MAT Blog

4 More Effective Classroom Management Apps for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 31, 2013 6:00:00 AM

A new school year calls for a new set of effective classroom management apps. While it’s hard to compete with favorites like Class Dojo and Too Noisy, we liked these four effective classroom management apps enough to share them with you.

effective classroom management appsStop Go (free)
If you need to time classroom activities or want to let students know that you’re ready to move on to the next order of business, Stop Go may be the app to help you do it. Stop Go is basically a digital traffic light you can set to a timer. Each light can be set for as little as 5 seconds and as long as 99 minutes and 55 seconds.

effective classroom management apps 2Traffic Light (free)
If you’re picky about your traffic lights and need more variety than Stop Go offers, look no more. In addition to the standard red-amber-green light, you also get:
- Red/amber/green/blue lights
- Crossing lights
- Bicycle crossing lights
- DON'T WALK, WALK lights
- Racing start lights
- Drag racing lights
- Sirens (blue, red, green, orange)
- Police sirens (blue/red, blue, red, green, orange)

effective classroom management apps 3Instant Classroom (free)
“But you always call on me!” or “I had my hand up the whole time!” Does this sound familiar? If so, you may need Instant Classroom. This app will not only randomly select students’ names, it will also create classroom and small-group seating charts.


effective classroom management apps 4Seating Chart ($4.99)
In addition to creating a snazzy looking seating chart, this app also allows you to view, export, and print a spreadsheet of class attendance records for a range of dates that you select (up to one year).

Here are some more specifics:

  • Load student names via email attachment, by typing them in, or by copying and pasting
  • Drag and drop students to change seating arrangements
  • Choose how you want your seating chart to look: show student nicknames, full names, or photos plus nickname
  • Export and print PDF seating charts
  • Record attendance by simply tapping on the student to mark Absent, Tardy, or Excused.
  • Use the "flashcard" feature to quickly learn your students’ names
  • Tap on a student to access attendance history, notes, and to load a photo using your mobile device's photo album or camera
  • Use the classroom layout screen to change the number of rows and columns by panning up/down and left/right
If you’re looking for more classroom management apps, check out two of our recent blogs, 5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teacher Needs to Know About and 5 More Indispensable Classroom Management Apps.

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Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, classroom procedures, behavior

5 Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 15, 2013 10:03:00 AM

relationship driven classroomMost of us have a story about a life-changing teacher. In fact, even decades later many of us can still recall the assignment, perhaps even the exact wording of what the teacher said or did to leave his or her imprint on our lives. No doubt, extraordinary teachers are masters of their subject matter; they know how to engage, challenge, and inspire us. But equally—perhaps even more—important, master teachers are connoisseurs of the heart: They care about students and know how to nurture relationships with them.

Few of us doubt the impact positive teacher-student relationships have on students, but we may have underestimated it. Research suggests that when we nurture relationships with students, we actually:  

  • Contribute to the academic achievement and motivation of our students (Elias, 1997)

  • Decrease the likelihood of a student dropping out (Thurlow, Christenson, Sinclair, Evelo, & Thornton, 1995)

  • Help prevent and reduce bullying (Olweus, 1999)

  • Help prevent substance abuse (Resnick et al., 1997), and violence (Dwyer, Osher, & Warger, 1998)

Now that we’ve made a case for strengthening relationships with our students, we’d like to offer five ways to do it. The following have been adapted from Allen Mendler’s book, Connecting with Students.


5 Ways to Build a Relationship-Driven Classroom


Believe that your challenging students have something to teach you
Most of us encounter students who somehow manage to turn off nearly every adult they meet. Indeed, the most challenging and disconnected students test the limits of our patience, our compassion and tolerance. But as Mendler suggests, “It is hard for students to stay disconnected when caring, persistent adults reach out to them in ways that convey an eagerness to learn.” Truly investing in these students means accepting them for who they are, not trying to make them into something they are not.

In addition to this, it means evaluating—and being willing to change—our own behavior. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it help or hurt when I lose my temper with this student?
  • Does lecturing this student about missing work or lack of engagement help or hurt him/her?
  • What message do I implicitly convey through my body language when I interact with this student?

Above all, though, we must ask ourselves, what does this student have to teach me about him/herself? About myself? About patience, compassion and tolerance?

Reject the Zero-Tolerance Approach
Nothing is more important than our school’s safety; therefore, we need to have “strong and effective policies” in place to protect our students. Nonetheless, Mendler cautions us against taking a blanket approach to discipline and suggests that we “evaluate each situation based on its own special circumstances.”

When we fail to examine behavior on a case-by-case basis, we run the risk of further “alienat[ing] already disenfranchised youth.” Mendler explains that connecting with students means using “knowledge and intuition to penetrate to the deeper issues affecting student behavior” and rejecting formulaic disciplinary actions that homogenize them.

Build on Strengths Instead of Trying to Fix Deficits
Using negative language to describe challenging behavior often distorts the way we see it. Here’s what Mendler has to say:  

“If we label a student who gives us a hard time as ‘stubborn’ or ‘disobedient,’ then our reaction will invariably be negative, and we are likely to regularly butt heads with this student. However, if we view that same student as ‘determined’ or ‘persistent,’ we are more apt to convey respect; most adults admire children who project these qualities.”

Using positive language “enables us to avoid a likely power struggle or a battle of wills while allowing us to acknowledge the student’s assertiveness as a strength that might even be redirected.”

Physical Danger and Embarrassment
Generally speaking, Americans are a sarcastic bunch of folks. Pop culture is rife with sarcastic banter and for good reason: it’s funny. But sarcasm in the classroom can be harmful, especially when it’s at a student’s expense. The classroom must be safe, both physically and verbally. As Mendler aptly suggests, “Fear of harm or embarrassment creates a threat which shuts down learning and increases defensiveness, anxiety, and posturing.”

Does sarcasm have a place in the classroom? Most definitely—but it is best to use it at our own expense, not the students’.

Greeting Students and Saying Hello
Saying “Good morning” to every student you pass in the hall is a simple gesture that takes no time, little effort, and can yield big results. Make eye contact, smile and offer a warm greeting. If a student ignores you, don’t take it personally. Instead, say something like,

I said hello and I didn’t know if you heard me or not. Either way, I hope that you have a great day.

We included this in a previous blog, but we thought it was worth mentioning again:

Make a big deal out of greeting students on the first day—and every day thereafter
Call us vain, but whenever we fly, we always appreciate the fact that the pilot and flight attendants stand in a row at the entrance, smile and say hello in a tone that suggests we are all long-lost friends. When we exit, we also appreciate the fact that they thank us for flying with them and wait to exit until the passengers have made their exit first. Sure, it’s their job to do this, but we appreciate the gesture: it shows class and makes us feel like we’re in good hands and appreciated.

Think of yourselves as pilots. It’s your job to help students reach their destination and keep them safe through the turbulence. But it’s also your job to make them feel appreciated. Greet your students every day—show them that you’re ready to and eager to explore a day of learning with them. Help them to feel that they are in a safe, fun environment.

For example, say “hello, how are you?” to every student. If someone was absent the day before, say, “Hi, Johnny. I’m glad to have you back. We missed having you yesterday. I like that tie, I like that new haircut…” It won’t take long for you to notice how this simple gesture impacts your relationship with students.


15 Ways to Kick Start the First Day of School

Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, behavior

Catching Z’s: Why are our students sleeping in class?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on May 1, 2013 3:51:00 PM

sleeping in classThough there were a number of cardinal offenses when we were students, none—perhaps with the exception of cheating—was greater than to be caught sleeping in class. Now that we’re educators, we get it: It’s frustrating to find students napping through important lectures or in-class discussions. What’s making students so “tired?” Does it have to do with boredom, laziness, stress, health issues, all of the above?

Catching Z’s: Why are our students sleeping in class?

According to Russell Foster
, a neuroscientist and director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at University of Oxford, sleeping in class actually has more to with natural fluctuations in “the biology of human sleep timing.” Let’s explain.

Forster’s research suggests that the biology of human sleep timing changes as we age. Once we hit puberty, bedtimes and waking times get later, a trend that continues until 19.5 years in women and 21 in men. Then it reverses. At 55 we wake at about the time we woke prior to puberty. On average this is two hours earlier than adolescents. This means that for a teenager, a 7 a.m. alarm call is the equivalent of a 5 a.m. start for people in their 50s.

Why does this happen?
Foster isn’t entirely sure, but the shifts do correspond to hormonal fluctuations that increase when we hit puberty and decline as we age. Of course, biology is only partially to blame. The proliferation of technology, cultural disregard for the importance of sleep and relaxed bedtime schedules only complicates things.

What do we do with this information?
A half decade ago, many who attended Foster’s conferences scoffed at his suggestion that administrators rethink school start times. More recently, however, educators have started to accept and structure the academic day around adolescent sleep patterns—and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

In the U.K., Mokkseaton High School instituted a 10 a.m. start time and found “an uptick in academic performance.” Studies of American students revealed similar results: academic performance and attendance improved; sleeping in class and self-reported depression declined.

Whether or not educators decide to push back start times, Foster does caution our disregard for the importance of sleep. Here are a few reasons our students should start taking sleep more seriously:

  • Research has shown that blood-glucose regulation was greatly impaired in young men who slept only four hours on six consecutive nights, with their insulin levels comparable to the early stages of diabetes
  • Long-term sleep deprivation might be an important factor in predisposing people to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension
  • Tiredness also increases the likelihood of taking up smoking.

If you are interested in learning more about Foster’s research on sleep, he has written a book called Sleep: A Very Short Introduction.


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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules, instructional strategies, sleeping in class

The Lottery of Birth: Teaching Geography & Introspection

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 22, 2013 12:01:00 PM

teaching geographyWhat would our students’ lives have been like had they been born elsewhere? Would they be the same persons they are? Would they have been given the same choices? Of course we’ll never know just how different their lives would have been elsewhere, but If It Were My Home is a free, interactive tool that will help your students reflect on these questions.

The Lottery of Birth: Teaching Geography & Introspection

What is it?
If It Were My home
is a “country-comparison” tool that allows users to compare living conditions in one country to those in another. The site also gives you the ability to visualize the impact of natural disasters. Right now users can only view the BP Oil Spill or the Pakistan Flood, but we presume that this portion of the site is still a work in progress.   

How does it work?  teaching geography2
Select a country and watch it overlay onto your own region. This is useful for visualizing the relative size of another country in comparison to your own.

You’ll also gain a better sense of how life compares in that country to your own. For example, if you live in the United States and “relocated” to Taiwan, you’ll find that you would:

  • Consume 44.67% less oil
  • Spend 74.03% less money on health care
  • Have 36.56% more chance at being employed
  • Make 35.78% less money
  • Have 35.14% less babies
  • Use 20.05% less electricity
  • Have 14.33% less chance of dying in infancy
  • Die 0.089999999999989 years sooner

If you want to know specifically how much more oil the United States consumes than Taiwan (in gallons), click on the drop down menu and find out.

And if you’re looking for more substantive information about your selected country, simply scroll down to the bottom of the page and browse their recommended reading list.

There are endless possibilities for how you might incorporate this website into the classroom. Kelly Tenkely from iLearn Technology suggests using it as a creative writing tool. Have your students imagine that they are relocating to a new country. Based on the information they glean from the site, they could create a fictional account of what life would be like in that country. Tenkely has also used the site’s statistical data for some real world mathematical comparison between countries.  For example, if Rwanda has a 10.7 times higher chance of dying in infancy, how many infant deaths does it expect on average per year?  If Rwandans make 98.06% less than Americans, what would you expect an average salary to be?

If It Were My Home is only one of many interactive map applications out there. And as luck would have it, we’ve written about 5 other Interactive Map Generator apps we think are worth checking out!


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Tags: Best Apps for Educators, behavior, Geography, teaching empathy

Disciplining with Dignity: 5 Classroom Management Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 31, 2013 9:21:00 AM

Classroom ManagementIn one of her recent articles published in Education Weekly, Tracey Garrett describes a hypothetical interview scenario between a recent graduate pursuing a 4th grade teaching position and the principal. Inevitably, classroom management came up. “How will you manage your classroom?” the principal asked. The teacher’s response: “I’ve developed a point system that rewards good behavior with tickets. At the end of the week, these tickets are placed into a raffle for a chance to win prizes.” This is a common response and a common classroom management system, but it is one that Garrett, not to mention a slew of other well-respected behavior-management experts like Richard L. Curwin and Allen and Brian Mendler, take issue with.

In his book, Discipline with Dignity, Curwin refers to a study conducted by Tyre, Scelfo and Kantrowitz who found that children expect to nag their parents nine times before getting what they want. “If you do such and such, I’ll give you such and such” has become something of a cultural attitude—one that many teachers unintentionally reinforce “through the proliferation of reward and bribe systems in which stickers, stars, and points become substitutes for doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do,” argues Curwin.

This is not to say that extrinsic or reward-based systems should be blacklisted entirely, but we echo Curvin’s belief that “they should not be the foundation of a teacher’s classroom management plan.” If not rewards, then what should be the crux of a teacher’s classroom management system?

Disciplining with Dignity: 5 Classroom Management Tips

Engage Students in a How-Can-I-Help-You? Approach
When your students aren’t focusing on what they are reading or when they submit careless work it is bothersome—but many of us are bothered for the wrong reasons. We’re bothered because we’ve taken it personally; we’re bothered because WE wouldn’t have done it that way.

When you engage your students in a how-can-I-help-you approach, your frustration manifests through care and respect. Next time your student disrupts class or fails to turn in assignments, catch the student on the way to lunch and say, “Hey, I’m worried about X. Am I seeing this correctly? I want to do everything I can to help you. Do you have any ideas?”

Ask Your Students What They Expect of You
Generally speaking, we spend a lot of time telling our students what we expect of them and very little asking them what they expect of us. What if that changed?

describe the imageHere’s an idea we borrowed from Angela Bunyi, a teacher who, as she puts it, “puts herself into the mix.” If you take a look at the picture to the left, you’ll notice a list of expectations she has for her students. But on the right column, she has asked students to make a list of their expectations for her. It bothers her students that she has a habit of checking her email and talking loudly to other teachers, so they’ve asked her to change her behavior—and she gladly obliges.

Try Using Incident Reports
This is another idea we snagged from Mrs. Bunyi. Do your students love telling you about how student X is bothering student Y? Do they do this during transition times or when you are in the middle of something important? Because you care about your students (and their safety), more than likely it’s your instinct to drop everything and investigate what’s really going on.

So that you can give each “incident” the attention it deserves, have your students fill out an incident report where they provide dates, witnesses, the location of the incident, what they did, and how they believe the situation should be handled.

Playtime Isn’t Just for Kids
When it's your turn for recess duty, consider participating in a game rather than standing on the sidelines. If you're teaching at the secondary level, try running to grab a ball that has been thrown out of bounds on the lunchtime basketball courts, or visit a colleague's P.E. class during your prep. Playing with students is a great way to honor them and nurture relationships with them.

The playground is also a perfect location to have a conversation with that student you read about in Jane’s incident report. Don’t take recess away from students who have misbehaved; use the change of scenery to your advantage. It’s much easier to talk to a student about what was going on inside the classroom when you are outside of it.  

Create Partnerships with Parents
Often the first time we speak to a parent is when we are at our wits end with their son or daughter. Not the best way to initiate a relationship, is it? If you’ve developed a relationship with parents and shown them that you truly care about their child, chances are that you’re going to have more buy-in when you need their help.

Why not give them a call when their child does something well, just to let them know? Or why not move your classroom parties to the evening hour, but keep the time brief to honor parents’ schedules? Or here’s another idea: Send home regular invitations for parents to come in as “guest readers” or classroom assistants.


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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, classroom rules

5 More Indispensable Classroom Management Apps

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 29, 2013 9:44:00 AM

Last week, we shared 5 of our favorite classroom management apps, but like you, we’re always looking to find the best possible tools we can—and why wouldn’t we, especially when there are so many free resources at our fingertips? If you’re looking to reduce your paper trail, keep parents in the loop and find more efficient ways to manage your students’ behavior, we’ve got 5 more apps you might want to add to your classroom management arsenal.

5 More Indispensable Classroom Management Apps

classroom management apps1Three Ring
Want to ditch the notebooks and archaic filing system once and for all? Want to capture Jimmy’s first presentation or Greg’s behavioral, ahem, challenges so you can better articulate yourself during parent-teacher conferences? Now you can.

Simply snap a photo or record a video or audio clip and file away.  And if you are so inclined, email your “classroom artifact” to students and parents so that they can stay up to date and even comment on their file. 

Smart Seatclassroom management apps2
This app’s simple drag-and-drop feature allows you to create random or customizable seating charts. But there’s more: Smart Seat gives you the ability to record and export attendance, choose random students for class participation, jot down student notes, and store student photos all in one place.

Taking a day off? Generate a PDF version or email your seating charts (with photos) to the substitute teacher. If that wasn’t enough, Smart Seat even has a built-in "flashcard" feature that allows you to upload pictures of your students so that you can quickly learn their names.

classroom management apps3Remind 101
We know how important it is to nurture relationships with parents and keep them involved, but how do we do it? Remind 101 is a website that provides teachers with a secure way to text or email students and parents with updates and reminders. Here’s how it works:

Teachers set up classes on the Remind 101 site which generates a unique code they can share with students and parents. Once students or parents send a text message with the code, they become “subscribers.” If you have concerns about sharing your personal phone number, rest easy. Teachers will never be able to see their students’ phone numbers and students will never be able to see theirs’ either.  

Stick Picclassroom management apps4.jpgk
If you’ve ever had a student protest that you’ve called on him or her too many times or favor so and so, take yourself out of the equation and blame it on Stick Pick. Shake your phone or tap the screen to pick a student.

That’s not all. Stick Pick even offers a variety of question starters (based on Bloom’s taxonomy)and records how well students respond during classroom discussions. Let’s say that Jenny consistently scores high on the questions; simply change the difficulty of the questions to ensure that she stays challenged and engaged. 

Teacher KitTeacher Kit
It’s no stretch to say that teachers are a lot like Macgyver: They’ve got to work with what they’ve got and often improvise on the fly. But what would Macgyver be without his trusty Swiss Army knife? Teacher Kit is the self-proclaimed “Swiss Army knife” of apps that will help you organize, monitor your students’ behavior, and keep track of grades. Here’s a video tutorial that will walk you through every nook and cranny of the app. (Mullet not included).


If you're like us, you're constantly on the lookout for new ways to enhance your curriculum and better manage your classroom. That's why we're suggesting that you check out one of our recent blogs, 5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teachers Needs to Know About or download our FREE guide, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No-Fluff Websites and Apps for Educators.


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Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, classroom procedures, apps for teachers, behavior, classroom rules

5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teacher Needs to Know About

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 15, 2013 9:19:00 AM

classroom management appsThe more students there are in a classroom, the more time teachers are going to spend on classroom management. So it makes sense that teachers need to have as many classroom management tips - and tricks - at their disposal as possible in order to get the focus away from problem students and back to the lesson at hand. Thankfully, increased numbers of students in the classroom can be tempered with increased classroom technology; classroom management apps provide a way for teachers to work on keeping their students engaged and their classrooms under control.

5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teacher Needs to Know About

  1. It's Too Noisy in here. Sometimes, the collective classroom volume rises so incrementally that you don't even realize it until you're screaming to be heard. If your active listening strategies don’t work out, give Too Noisy a shot. This app pairs a colorful and fun graphic with a digital noise meter to let teachers - and students - know when the noise level has exceeded acceptable levels. Teachers set the "appropriate" noise level and then the Too Noisy graphics will provide a reading which will ring out when your students are in the red zone. Consider varying levels for Reading Time versus Collaborative Learning Time. Students will enjoy helping you determine which levels are too loud.

  2. Is it Class DoJo Time? When things get crazy, set students up against one another in Karate matches. Just kidding. Class DoJo is actually a student behavior tracking app which allows you to instantly track good and bad behavior and store the data. You create an icon for each student and then tap on the icon to note what is going on. You can send alerts directly to the student, "Thanks for not talking during presentations" + 2 points. The analytics can be sent directly to administrators and/or parents with one click.

  3. Keep your Teacher Kit at the ready. If you want a classroom management app which takes it one step further, you might prefer Teacher Kit. This is a great app for secondary teachers because it allows you to organize multiple classrooms and students. Teacher Kit offers multiple features such as seating charts, attendance records, behavior tracking, a gradebook, and more. You can hold your Teacher Kit in the palm of your hand as you walk around the class (one of the best classroom management tricks) and import the data to your classroom computer to sync with your school system when convenient.

  4.  Are you a Class Behavior Pro? When you use Teacher’s Class BEHAVIOR PRO, you can organize your students by individual classes and you can create categories for recurring behaviors, e.g. talking, tardy, physical disruptions, bullying, passing notes, etc. This makes it super simple to tap on a student and attach the behavior in just a second or two. You can also track positive behavior which keeps your behavior incentives/consequences fair and balanced.

  5. What about those Random Students? This is a fun app to use and your students will think so too. Once you input the student names in each class, you can do typical things, like track behavior, but you can also track things like the number of correct/incorrect answers a student gives when called upon. You can use the Random Student feature and have the app speak the students' names so that it's truly random. It can also assign random groups from 2-6 students to take the load off you!

These five Classroom Management Apps have just made your world a whole lot easier. Try to use them all and see which works best for you. Your students will enjoy your technologically hip take on classroom control and you will enjoy a computer taking care of it for you.

Download our free guide, 25 Classroom Management Tips for Teachers, to learn about new and creative ways to engage your students.

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Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, classroom procedures, apps for teachers, behavior, classroom rules

2 Active Listening Activities for Elementary Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Dec 6, 2012 1:29:00 PM

active listening in the classroom 2We’ve seen the documentaries and heard the buzzword enough to know that bullying is a problem—despite the fact that it isn’t a problem in our school. Confident as we may be, scholarship from Alan E. Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale University, suggests something to the contrary.

According to him, administrators witness a mere 4 percent of bullying incidents. Now couple Kazdin’s findings with the results of another recent survey of 40,000 high school students: Nearly 50 percent of these students admitted to bullying and 47 percent of the students said they had likewise been bullied.  

Perhaps our schools need more work than we originally thought.

But how does it happen? How do we wipe out bullying? Giving a single answer would grossly oversimplify the issue and we’re not prepared to do this. What we do know is this:

Kindness, empathy, respectful listening and general politeness are learned behaviors—behaviors we have to teach and model for our students if we are truly serious about creating a compassionate environment where bullying cannot thrive.

A few weeks ago, we talked about creating a “Get-Along Classroom,” an idea we gleaned from Naomi Drew’s book, No Kidding About Bullying. We’d like to share two more of her ideas.

Two Active Listening Activities for Elementary Teachers

Activity 1: Teaching Respectful and Active Listening in the Classroom
Gather your students in a group and ask a student to come to the center of the circle next to you. This is going to be a role-playing exercise, but don’t let your students know what you are doing.

Now ask your student a question: “Tell me a few of your favorite things you did last weekend.” As the student talks, start looking around the room, fidgeting your hands and shifting your feet while you say, “Yes, uh-huh, I got you.”

Once you finish, the student can go back to his seat. Now you’ll want to ask your students to tell you what they saw during the role-play. What were you doing? What was the student doing? Make a list on the board and have them describe the implications of your body language. What did it seem to suggest?

Now try the role play again with another student. This time, model respectful listening: Make eye contact; ask the student questions and prompt her to give you more details about events; nod your head when you understand and stop the student when you need clarification.

Again, have the student return to the group and ask everyone what they saw. How did it make them feel about the conversation you were having with the student? Now make a list and have students add their own suggestions for what respectful listening might look like.

Now it’s their turn. Divide the class up into groups of two and ask them to take turns talking about something they are passionate about. The object, of course, is for them to practice respectful listening, so have them refer to “respectful listening” behaviors they helped you compile on the board.

When you are done, you might collaborate with your students to create a Respectful Listening Poster that you can display in the classroom.

Activity 2: Identifying active listening in our own lives
To help students engage with the previous activity in a more critical way, you might consider giving them a short writing assignment where they engage with the following questions:

  • Why do you think respectful listening is important?
  • Who is a great listener in your life?
  • Why do you consider this person to be a great listener? Show your reader what this person does when s/he is listening to you.
  • How does it make you feel when this person listens to you? Be specific.
  • Think back on our Respectful Listening poster. Which things on the list are you good at? Which could you work on?

If you found this article helpful, check out our Bucket Filling guide where you'll find more creative ways to nurture kindness and respect in your students and your classroom!

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Tags: classroom management, behavior, Bucket Fillers, bullying, anti-bullying

3 Indispensable Classroom Management Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 29, 2012 3:44:00 PM

When I first started teaching in my own classroom, I kept waiting for the “real” teacher to show up. I mean, who was going to set up the schedule, create files on the students, begin early year assessment and who on earth was going to set up the rules and routines of the classroom?  It was a shock to realize it was all up to me.

I believe a lot of teachers approach classroom management through a trial and error process. And I do too. But I used some advice my grandma gave me about relationships to start my classroom off right: You need to establish trust, cooperation and clearly defined roles between you and the person (or people) in the relationship with you.

You have a responsibility to your students and they have a responsibility to you. Both are happiest with this arrangement.

Make training sessions short. Provide positive feedback immediately.  Repeat training as needed.

After ten years of teaching, I would add a few pointers.
I’ve learned to motivate my students by sharing my interests. I love murder mysteries and I share that with them through read alouds (Two Minute Mysteries by Donald Sobel and You be the Jury by Marvin Miller are two of the books I use). I love to sew. Sewing involves measuring, creativity, problem solving, and constructing. It is a lot like engineering in that way. So I tell my students about that. Many begin to find interests of their own in areas that are academically-based but are not directly related to the curriculum. I also love all animals. Caring for, and about, animals builds empathy and community. In my class, we tell animal stories, read news articles about animals and I assign a weekly advice column for the students to advise others on animals.

Second, I would emphasize that creating a community is paramount to teaching. Students must belong to the group in order to explore their own academic interests. Creating and maintaining that community is the responsibility of the teacher. A great way to build good will is through “good news” notes, where you award one or two notes each day for random kind acts. Students bring these notes home to be congratulated again.

Third, be fair. A survey published within my school board a few years ago showed that the most appreciated teacher trait was fairness. That was defined overwhelmingly as not playing favourites. Later, at in-service, we were asked to recall the traits of our favourite teacher. And the teacher I admired most was very fair – no favourites. As a teacher, I know that this can be difficult to do, some students are better helpers than others, some things need to be done readily and I like to have a dependable student to call on. But I keep a list and tick off that name when I call on a student to volunteer. It may not be perfect but it definitely gives every student a chance. Be vigilant about being fair, everyone will thank you for it.

From the manual: Make training sessions short. Provide positive feedback immediately.  Repeat training as needed

Learned through experience: Share your interests. Create a community. Maintain a fair and unbiased protocol.

A question for the teacherNothy Lane is a currently a teacher in Toronto and has taught across North America. She is a reading specialist, a special education specialist and a math specialist in Ontario. She has a Masters in Science in Education from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and is a doctoral candidate in Disability Studies at Brock University in St Catharine's Ontario. She has taught across North America for the last twelve years, including New York, Georgia, Florida, California and Mexico City. She believes there is no job better than teaching: each day is different, and working with children is both a challenge and the highest privilege.

Stop by her site, A Question for the Teacher, to read more of her insightful posts and useful lesson plan ideas.

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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules

"The get-along classroom," an environment where no bully can thrive

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 1, 2012 11:03:00 AM

No BullyIt’s funny…so much of an educator’s most important work literally has nothing to do with books. Think about it this way: We can teach our students to write a grammatically perfect sentence, but if that sentence and the writer behind it lack compassion, empathy and respect for others, it matters very little if the subject and the verb agree.

It’s easy to forget that kindness, respectful listening and general politeness are learned behaviors—behaviors we have to teach and model for our students if we are truly serious about creating a compassionate classroom where no bully can thrive. All teachers want this, but how do they accomplish it? We’ve been reading Naomi Drew’s book, No Kidding About Bullying, a practical, no-nonsense guide that offers readers 125 activities to help teachers collaborate with students to build a bully-free environment. We like her ideas so much that we’d like to share one of them with you:

Introducing the Concept of a “Get-Along” Classroom
This activity is an ideal one to start off the school year with, but you could also introduce it once students return from Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter break—or at any time during the year when you and your students need a “fresh start.”

The idea is to have students collaborate to identify qualities of a “get-along” classroom—that is, one that is safe, supportive and best suited for learning. Once your students have identified these qualities and everyone agrees to them, draft a get-along constitution, have each student sign it and display it in your classroom. This will be a useful teaching tool in the future: Rules won’t seem arbitrary to students, especially when you can remind them that they not only helped create the constitution, but they also agreed to it.

What you’ll need
students gather in a circleDrew recommends that teachers purchase a soft globe, something that you can pass around or lightly toss without anyone getting hurt. Globes are a useful “talking object” you can pass around; they are also useful for reminding students that they are a part of the global community, that what they do impacts the world around them.

You’ll want to document and collaborate with your students to review their ideas, so you should have a white board or chalk board on hand. You’ll also need a large piece of poster board and perhaps an easel to display it. If you don’t have one, the tray on the chalk/white board will work just as well.

What you’ll do

Step 1
Gather your students in a circle and ask each of them to say what their hope is for the rest of the school year. After each student has contributed, hold up the globe and remind them that their classroom is connected to the global community. Next, ask them, “What kind of world would you like to grow up in?” Write their responses on the board.

Step 2
Next, ask them to close their eyes and take a minute to reflect on what kind of classroom they want to be a part of. Ask them, “What does it look like?” While your students are reflecting, draw a line down the center of the board to create two columns. Then write “Qualities of a Get-Along Classroom” at the top of one column. After a minute or two, toss one of your students the globe and ask her to share her reflections. Write these on the board. Now ask the student to say the name of one of her peers and lightly toss the ball. Continue this until each student has shared.

Step 3
Now have your student look at the list they’ve compiled and ask them, “How can we make this possible? In other words, how do we create a get-along classroom?” Again, have them close their eyes and reflect on this. As they reflect, write “Our Agreements for the Get-Along Classroom” above the second column on the board. Repeat the activity by passing the globe around and documenting each student’s answer.

You may need to ask your students to be more specific. Don’t settle for generic responses like, “Be nicer to my peers.” Instead, prompt them to be more specific; ask them how they can be nicer to their peers.

Step 4
Once you’ve compiled your students’ answers, rewrite them on the poster board and have each student sign it. Writing on the chalk/white board first will allow you and your students to further refine their constitution before committing it to paper.

Following up activities
To reinforce the qualities of a get-along classroom, draft a short letter to your students’ parents. In it, describe the activity and list all of the qualities the students came up with. Ask the parents to help remind their child of these qualities. You might even include a picture of the get-along constitution to help illustrate the point.

If you found this article helpful, check out our Bucket Filling guide where you'll find more creative ways to nurture kindness and respect in your students and your classroom!


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Tags: classroom management, behavior, Bucket Fillers, bullying, anti-bullying

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