MAT Blog

Dos and Don'ts of a Classroom Management Plan: 25 Tips from Edutopia

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 28, 2014 10:55:00 AM

Our classroom management plan may work for a while, but eventually, even the most effective procedures satiate or stop working entirely. We’re always on the lookout for classroom management advice from veteran teachers, so we were happy to come across Edutopia’s most recent e-guide, The Dos and Don'ts of Classroom Management: Your 25 Best Tips.

These tips were contributed by educators from Edutopia’s community in response to a discussion by blogger Larry Ferlazzo asking users to share their most valuable classroom management advice. 

To view the free classroom management plan, click on the image below.


classroom management plan



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Free Student Motivation Resources from Larry Ferlazzo Now Available

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 21, 2014 10:18:42 AM

I refer to Larry Ferlazzo’s website on a regular basis, but for good reason. In addition to teaching English, social studies, and international baccalaureate classes to English language learners, Larry has written five books and is a weekly teacher advice columnist for Education Week Teacher and The New York Times! When does the man sleep? I have no idea.

This morning I found out from Richard Byrne—another one of my favorite bloggers—that Larry has made every student hand-out from two of his books on student motivation available for free download.

If you’re interested, check out Larry’s resources here.





Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: intrinsic motivation, classroom management, Classroom Climate, Challenging Students,

5 Do’s and Don’ts of an Effective Classroom Management Plan

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 14, 2014 12:20:00 PM

effective classroom management plan

Don’t make idle threats
When students are disruptive, it’s tempting to say things like, “Unless you quiet down, I am going to give the entire class a zero on the test.” But this is neither fair, nor is it something you could ever follow through with in good conscience.

Fairness and consistency are both critical to your effective classroom management plan. Never make idle and arbitrary threats, or issue blanket forms of discipline.

Do get your rules straight
I’ve heard many teachers proudly proclaim that they only have one rule in their classrooms: “Always be respectful.” This sounds nice, but what in the world does “always be respectful mean?” And how can you enforce something so general? You can’t.

Definitions of what it means to be “respectful” often vary from one person to the next. Students might disagree that texting during class is disrespectful; teachers, on the other hand, would argue the exact opposite. Rather than debate the nature of “respect,” circumvent the issue altogether by creating rules that are specific and enforceable.

Don’t take things personally
Disciplining yourself not to take things personally is essential to any effective classroom management plan.

It irks us when students fail to turn assignments in on time, when they talk through our lecture, when they goof off during an in-class exercise, and so on. But most of us are bothered by these things for the wrong reasons: because we take it personally, because a missing assignment is something else for us to keep track of, because we spent a lot of time putting together our lecture, because these things are important to us.

Taking things personally will only burn you out. Take yourself completely out of the situation and first understand why your students didn’t make the investment you asked for.

Do create a late-work policy
I have enforced no-late-work policies with college students, but in hindsight, I can see that this was a mistake.

Like any teacher, I want my students to take responsibility for their learning experience. In my opinion, taking responsibility means submitting work on time. On the other hand, I know that in the professional world, deadlines are often negotiated. The freelance writer and the client, for example, often negotiate a deadline that is conducive to both parties. That is not to say that the writer will not suffer the consequences when she misses her deadline. I’m simply suggesting that the “real world” often gives us an opportunity to negotiate, make good, and receive extensions—especially when we have a reputation for upholding our end of the bargain, consistently making deadlines, and turning in excellent work.

As someone who has tried (and failed) with the no-late-work policy, I would suggest setting a policy that maximizes student learning while emphasizing timely work completion. To illustrate what I mean, checkout Reed Gillespie’s approach by clicking here.

Don’t worry about your students liking you
You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and even if you haven’t, you know from experience that love and intimacy are basic human needs. We all want to love and be loved—but look, you’re going to do a lot of damage when you try to earn your students’affection by letting your classroom management slip.

It can feel unnatural, especially for young teachers, to be “uptight” or “nerdy,” but keep in mind that freedom is easier to give than take away.Your students already have friends—and let’s be frank, you’ll never be as cool as they are. You are an authority figure and a leader. Act like one.

If you're looking for more information on how to create an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, Pedagogy with a Personality. Inside, you'll find 20 ways to engage challenging students and create an effective classroom management plan.

Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, student engagement, effective classroom management plan

5 Apps to Enhance Students’ Social Learning Skills

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 30, 2014 9:29:00 AM

Enhance Students’ Social Learning Skills resized 600The ability to successfully monitor and distinguish between emotions—both our own and the emotions of others—is one of the most important aspects of our development. Yet many of our students lack the social, personal, and emotional competencies that allow them to be socially and academically successful.

Although it might seem counter-intuitive for educators to turn to apps and online gaming to enhance students’ social learning skills, we believe that when used in tandem with personalized instruction and an engaging curriculum, social learning games can be incredibly useful.

5 Apps to Enhance Students’ Social Learning Skills

social learning skillsIF... is the brainchild of Trip Hawkins, the video game pioneer who brought us classics like Madden NFL, Medal of Honor, Desert Strike and the list goes on and on.

To create If…, Hawkins paired up with counselors and educators to create a world in which children explore their own emotions by role-playing social situations with their characters.

The game unfolds in Greenberry, a world run by cats and canines who just can’t seem to get along. Part of the gamer’s challenge is to change that. As students play, they’ll take part in a virtual counseling session with a community leader who teaches students deep breathing exercises and has a dialogue about feelings of loss.

social learning skillsThe Social Express features a series of animated episodes that model real-world social situations. If you’re concerned about students passively absorbing scenes, think again. The Social Express asks students to make choices, help characters navigate common social interactions, follow social cues, and make the appropriate decisions so that they can transfer these skills into their daily lives.

social learning skillsWay is definitely one of our favorite social learning games. Students play in pairs and take turns guiding each other through each level using gesture and non-verbal cues. This helps students experience what it is like to trust and be trusted.

social learning skillsSocial Skill Builder focuses on building friendships, problem solving, critical thinking, and perspective taking by asking students to work through video sequences and answer multiple-choice questions.



social learning skillsMisunderstood Minds is an excellent PBS documentary series that tells the stories of five families as, together with experts, they try to solve the mysteries of their children's learning difficulties. We like coupling this series with our lessons on empathy.

Even if you don’t end up screening the documentary, we suggest stopping by the website where you’ll find interactive activities that help students explore what it’s like to struggle with attention, reading, writing, and mathematics.



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Write on the Classroom Windows: A Simple Student Engagement Strategy

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 8, 2014 12:34:00 PM

student engagementI bookmarked Eric Berngen’s blog back in February, but like a lot of sites I add to my visual bookmarking tool, I forgot to repost it!

As Eric aptly points out in his post, capturing the hearts and attention of our students often requires us to take an unconventional route. Here’s how Berngen put a new spin on one of his tried and true activities:

During one lesson in particular, I asked the students a question and they responded in their journals. When it was time to share, instead of me writing their responses on the board, I walked over to the window instead. I pulled out an expo (whiteboard marker) and began writing frivolously, to the students shock and awe. Mouths began to drop and shortly thereafter, all eyes were on me as I was discussing their responses. One student muttered questioningly, “You can do that?”  I responded, “Why not?”

Shortly thereafter I gave the students another question—except this time they were to work in groups and write their responses on the window. All students were thoroughly engaged and loved the opportunity.  Afterwards, we did a gallery walk and all students got to share out their responses from the group.

It’s a simple idea, but I never would have thought of it on my own. If you decide to give this activity a try, let me know how it goes with your students!


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15 of Our Favorite Brain Breaks for Students

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Apr 1, 2014 9:37:00 AM

brain breaksIf you’re not familiar with them, brain breaks are short activities that offer students a reprieve from routine learning activities. Not only are brain breaks fun, they’re a simple way to refocus students’ energy and get them back on track.

We shared a collection of brain breaks back in December, but thanks to Liz over at The Happy Teacher our list has grown considerably. 

1. Crab Walk around the Room: Put on a song and have students walk in the crab position around the room. At some point, have students go in reverse. 

2. Doodle Time: Give students some blank paper and markers and let them doodle and talk for five minutes. 

3. Dance Party: Turn on the radio and let students dance until the song ends.

4. Tic-Tac-Toe: Give students some blank paper to play tic-tac-toe with a friend. It’s a simple game that won’t cause a mess or a distraction for your neighbors! 

5. 50 Jumping Jacks: Get students’ heart rates up with this quick physical exercise. 

6. Heads Up, 7-Up: Another classic that is easy and exciting for students!

7. Stretching: Choose a student to come up and lead a minute of stretching.  Most students know various stretches from gym class and will enjoy leading their peers!

8. Pantomime: Choose a student to act out an activity without talking.  The class must mimic the leader and then guess what the activity is (swimming, flying, sleeping, laughing, jogging, singing, etc.).

9. Mirror-Mirror: Have students pair up and mirror the actions of their partner. Students will get a kick out of this activity!

10. Thumb Wrestling: Have students choose a partner and participate in some old-fashioned thumb wrestling. Be sure to establish your expectations before this little brain break.  

11. Rock, Paper, Scissors: Have students partner up for five rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The winners get a high five from their partner.

12. Sky Writing: Have students “sky write” their ABCs, sight words, spelling words, or a secret message to their friend.  

13. Air Band:  Choose an "air" instrument and "rock out!"  Drums, guitar, and saxophone are my personal favorites.

14.  Silent Yoga:  Strike a yoga pose and see how long your students can hold it. Google "Kid Yoga" for some easy examples. 

15. Desk Switch: Give your students 10 seconds to grab their materials and find another desk to sit in. They will remain in this desk until the end of the lesson. There are two reasons we do this: First, it gets them moving; second, being in a different location often helps them see the environment in a new way.

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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, student engagement, extrinsic motivation, brain breaks

Do You Hear Me Now? An Active Listening Exercise for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 18, 2014 10:05:00 AM

active listening exercisesListening well—actively and deeply—is a skill that requires both attention and intention. It starts with our ears (making sense of words as well as the speaker’s tone) but also involves our eyes (body language says a lot). In a world increasingly cluttered with information, getting students to listen mindfully is a challenge. Julian Treasure suggests in a TED Talk that we are actually “losing our listening.” Teaching students to listen better will help them to succeed in your classes, as well as to engage more deeply with the world.

When you want your students to explore a specific topic or question, here’s a small group strategy to use that encourages active listening (along with offering all the advantages of collaborative learning).

Before starting this activity, review the following guidelines with your students:

First, you must listen with openness: suspend your judgments and biases and listen for those things with which you agree as well as those you might challenge.

Second, listen with curiosity: engage your desire to learn and understand, rather than to try to fix anything or simply offer your own point of view.

Third, listen respectfully: listen without asking questions that interrupt the speaker; jot these down and save them for later.

Fourth, listen schematically: listen for patterns, trends, and for what is not being said.

Fifth, listen intentionally: decide what you intend to do with the information you’ll learn.

There are only two rules:

  1. Each person in the group must speak once before anyone can speak a second or third time.
  2. If someone asks a question, someone else must answer it before another comment can be made.

Step One: Break the students into small groups of four or five.

Step Two: Give them the topic or question that you would like them to discuss.

Step Three: Each group should identify or appoint a group leader who will make sure the rules are followed and time is observed.

Step Four: One person begins by saying something about the topic or starting point question; the others listen using the guidelines noted above.

Step Five: Another student asks a follow-up question or comments about what has just been said.

Step Six: Repeat Steps Four and Five until everyone has spoken at least twice, or for a specific amount of time.

Step Seven: The group leader, with help from the group, summarizes the conversation and identifies any patterns or insights that emerged or developed.

Step Eight: Report out to the class.

You could follow this activity with a reflective journal entry, asking students what surprised them (it may be the difficulty of listening actively) and what new or interesting points/ideas they learned.

The first few times you try this, you may need to float around the room, encouraging students to stay on task. Once they get the hang of it, you’ll find this activity combines active listening, active learning, collaborative learning, and writing, all strategies that help students to probe and reflect on their own learning.

Additional Resources:

Artze-Vega, Isis. “Active Listening: Seven Ways to Help Students Listen, Not Just Hear.” Faculty Focus: Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications. 10/1/2012.

Mankell, Henning. “The Art of Listening.” The New York Times. Opinion. 12.10.2011.

Thanks to Lisa Dresdner, Ph.D., Norwalk Community College, and to Dr. Judith Ableser, director of the Oakland University Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, for this tip.


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Tags: active listening exercises, mindfulness in the classroom, classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, classroom discussion

Walk and Talk: A Simple & Effective Student Engagement Strategy

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 14, 2014 12:34:00 PM

student engagementWhile there are countless ways we can nurture relationships and better engage our students, we’d like to talk about a specific student engagement strategy called the Walk and Talk.

In his essay, “The Power of the Walk-and-Talk Technique,” Jim Peterson asks us to consider some of the “scenes of aggression” we’ve witnessed in the animal programs we see on the Animal Planet and National Geographic channels. Other than hunting scenes, most acts of aggression begin with animals facing one another. It’s not very likely that the violence would be preceded by two animals traveling side by side.

Peterson suggests that when “higher-level organisms travel together, and in the same direction, rapport seems to build and there appears to be a progression towards harmony.”  

Walking and talking helps sync our body language
In addition to walking side by side, another technique for building rapport between individuals is what Peterson calls “body mirroring.”

In body mirroring, the ideas is to have your posture subtly reflect that of the person with whom you’re communicating. Mirroring the body language of a student while sitting across from him or her can feel awkward, contrived and even insulting. That’s why Peterson suggests walking and talking. When teachers walk next to their students, they both adopt similar postures without any conscious effort.

Walking and talking takes eye contact out of the equation
Some students do not feel comfortable making eye contact. It is also worth noting that in some cultures it is a sign of disrespect for the student to look you, the teacher, in the eye. 

Walking with a student takes the question of whether or not to make eye contact out of the equation. It feels perfectly natural to have a conversation with someone and not make eye contact if you are walking alongside each other.     

We let off steam when we walk
Sometime, when you’re feeling irritated or angry, try walking 100 yards. At the end of that distance, note how you feel compared to when you began the walk. Chances are that you’re not going to feel gregarious, but you will have progressed from feeling bad towards feeling better.

When you walk with a student who is frustrated or upset, the student experiences a progression towards a better-feeling state.  Peterson suggests that on a subconscious level, the student associates this positive feeling with your presence and contribution to it, the same way the person you delivered the bad news to made an association between you and the bad news. In the case of the walk-and-talk, however, this positive association is yet another element in the process that builds a positive relationship.           

Peterson outlines an eleven-step process for conducting a successful walk and talk. Instead of reproducing all three pages of the procedure here, you can read it by clicking here.

Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, student engagement, extrinsic motivation

10 Ways for Teachers to Keep the Fire Burning

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 7, 2014 11:12:00 AM

teacher burnoutLeaving work at work is truly an art form—especially when you’re a teacher.

It gets easier with time and experience, but I’ll be the first to admit that  I’ve spent restless nights and early mornings replaying the day’s events, recalling the conversations I had, the cringe-worthy lessons I gave, and all the things I didn’t say—but should’ve said— to my students.

If you haven’t experienced these feelings, I’d like to know your secret to success—but my gut tells me that most teachers, particularly those new to the profession, often feel like they’re hanging on by a thread. In times like this, I reach for one of my favorite resources: a book by Neila Connons called If You Don’t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students. Below you’ll find 10 of her tips to help teachers keep the fire burning.

10 Ways for Teachers to Keep the Fire Burning

Make “me-time” a part of the job
Your students are important, but they cannot—and should not—be your sole priority. Beating yourself up at night and working through the weekend are both counter-productive activities. Your students need you to be at your best…how can you possibly be your best if you are exhausted?

You-time is a part of the job. You owe it to yourself to pursue healthy relationships, hobbies and life outside of work. 

View problems as challenges
You can waste a lot of time and energy talking about what’s wrong, but healthy people spend 5 percent of their time discussing problems and 95 percent looking for solutions. They enforce this philosophy in every aspect of their lives.

Don’t be a finger-pointer
This is an extension of the point we made above: Blame has never accomplished anything. Instead of spending time trying to figure out who is at fault, use the time to make things better.

Analyze your stresses and frustrations
Know what sets you off and avoid it when you can.

Set personal goals that are not associated with vices
Too often we associate resolutions and goal-setting with vices. We know we should stop smoking, start exercising more, eat less red meat, and so on. While the aforementioned goals are certainly worthy of our pursuit, it is important to also set goals that relate to our passions. What have you always wanted to do? Making it happen may not occur overnight; it may take a lot of work, but you owe it to yourself to pursue your passions.  

Do not vegetate, procrastinate or complain
Be active, organized, and positive. Get involved and be a part of the accomplishment. Healthy people are doers.

Have positive role models and mentors
Teachers are surrounded by lots of brilliant and resourceful people. Swallow your pride and learn to depend on them. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff
When challenges occur, ask yourself if this will make any difference tomorrow, next week or next month. Take your job seriously; take yourself lightly.

Be proud and confident
Even on the days you don’t feel your best, fake it ‘till you make it. A walk of confidence and pride definitely adds to the positive climate of a building.

Don’t ever stop playing and laughing
A day without laughter is also a day not fully lived. There is so much to smile about in our business; and we know that we don’t stop playing because we grow old—we grow old because we stop playing.

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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management, teacher burnout

4 of the Great Myths About Teaching

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Feb 6, 2014 9:19:00 AM

myths about teachingThere are a number of ancient misnomers about teaching, but today we’d like to take on four of the most common myths about the profession.

My students are resistant
Sure, some students resist, a few my act like they couldn’t care less, but often those we label “resistant” are simply unsure of our expectations.

For example, when we ask students to “try harder to pay attention in class,” we think we’re issuing a straightforward request. In actuality, this request is vague, lacks specific instructions and does not give the student a clear picture of what we expect from him or her.

Instead of asking students to try harder to pay attention, say something like this: “During class, I want you to keep your head off the desk, keep your eyes open and on me, and have all of your materials out on the desk.”

Always give your students concrete steps for making the investment.

Teachers shouldn’t smile until Christmas
This is one of the most ubiquitous teaching myths. Although we disagree with this adage, we see the line of reasoning: “It’s better to be feared,” as Machiavelli says in The Prince, “than it is to be loved.” Rule by fear may be appropriate for a dictator-prince, but we’ve never believed dictator-princes to be very effective teachers.

Most students begin the school year enthusiastically: they are quiet, attentive and respectful. From the outset, students need to know that they can trust us; they also need a reason to invest in the journey they’re about to embark upon. If you want them to set sail with you, make the first day—and every day thereafter—a celebration. Smiling doesn’t make you a pushover.

Teachers have to be the smartest person in the room
Give yourself permission to be human and admit it when you make mistakes or don’t know the answer. Students respect teachers who admit their mistakes and take steps to correct them. Why? Because it lets them know that the classroom is a safe place—a space where both students and teacher are free to make blunders, take risks and learn from them.

Students don’t read anymore
It’s funny how many of our students vehemently claim that they don’t like reading. Teachers reinforce this fallacy when they echo their students’ claims.

Students read. In fact, they read all the time. Ask your students if they text. Ask them if they update their Facebook account or read and write comments on their friends’ walls. Do they send email? Do they read magazines, comic books or celebrity gossip blogs? You bet they do.

Like it or not, if we want to nurture a love of reading in our students, we must acknowledge that these are legitimate forms of reading. Believe and reinforce this.

Photo credit: Tilemahos Efthimiadis

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