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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A Simple and Effective Student Engagement Strategy: Praise, Prompt, and Leave

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 20, 2014 9:54:09 AM

student_engagement-3 

All teachers strive to empower students and push them to take ownership of their learning experience, but achieving this can be a challenge, especially when it comes to “needier” students. Fred Jones, author of Tools for Teaching, refers to these kinds of students as “helpless handraisers.” I think this is a fairly accurate description, but the question is, how do we wean these students off their neediness? And more specifically, how do we help them quickly and effectively without reinforcing helplessness and losing control of the rest of the class?

Jones’s Praise, Prompt, and Leave strategy is one that is particularly useful in these situations. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say that the class is working independently on a math problem. After only a few seconds, you see a hand go up. It’s Jessie. Again. “How could he possibly need help already?” you think. Rather than ignoring Jessie, or becoming frustrated with him, give Jones’s three-part strategy a shot.

Praise the Student
When you look at Jessie’s math problem, you will see two things: what he did right, and where he went wrong. Whether you want to or not, chances are that you’ll see the part that is wrong first. Rather than beginning with what Jessie didn’t do,

  • First, take a breath. Give yourself a second to refocus not on the mistakes, but on what Jessie did right.
  • Second, praise what Jessie has done well.

Keep in mind that praise is not necessarily synonymous with “nice.” Just comment on one or two aspects of the student’s performance in simple, declarative sentences.

Prompt the Student
Before prompting the student, think about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. You want to avoid beginning your prompt with “But,” “However,” or “Instead of.” Language like this actually undermines your praise, turning it into a “back-handed” compliment!

Beginning your prompt with something like, “The next thing you might want to do is…” will work much better.

Leave the Student
After you’ve given a prompt, your instinct may tell you to check for understanding before you leave. Whether or not you do this is up to you, but as Jones suggests, “‘helpless handraisers’ constantly exploit corrective feedback for attention rather than learning.” For these kinds of students, you may do better to leave before you see the student carry out the prompt.

A Note About Corrective Feedback
Beware of beginning corrective feedback with a question. Why?

  • They produce verbosity: The best way to guarantee that you talk for three minutes is to talk for one minute! Meanwhile, the rest of your class is going off the rails.
  • They enable helpless handraising: While some dialogue with struggling students may produce a rich dialogue, you run the danger of further enabling your needy students.

Rather than begin your prompt with a question, you might do better to initiate a request: “John I’d like to see you do such and such right here.” “Kelly, take a look at step number four.” Why? Requests are “emotionally safe” because they do not imply judgment.


Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, student engagement, Challenging Students,

Better Classroom Communication: Honing Your Non-Verbal Communication Skills

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 19, 2014 2:46:00 PM

I spend a lot of time reading articles and books about classroom management and have noticed something: Very little of it mentions non-verbal classroom communication. This is interesting, especially when we take into account what Albert Mehrabian, an Emeritus Professor of Psychology at UCLA, reported after years of studying how humans communicate: In his studies, he found that when a listener is “unsure about what is being said,” or there is “incongruence” in conversation, s/he will “default” to reading body language or voice tones.

Let’s be more specific. Mehrabian argues that 55 percent of the messages we transmit to each other come from body movements, 38 percent from the voice—inflection, intonation, volume—and 7 percent from words.

55 percent of the messages we transmit to one another come not from what we say, but how we use our bodies! That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

With the help of Richard Churches’ book, Effective Classroom Communication Pocketbook, I’d like to delve into this topic and share a few tips to help teachers hone their non-verbal communication skills.

Classroom_communication_1The Blaming Posture looks exactly like the picture you see to the left. It’s accusatory, hierarchical, intimidating, and does little to build rapport with students. Of course, teachers aren’t the only ones who resort the Blaming Posture. In fact, many of us only use it in response to a student who is pointing or accusing us!

Should you find yourself in a situation where a student is using this posture, Churches suggests that we use Placater Posture instead.

 

 

 

classroom_communication_2In the Placating Posture, your palms face upwards while you calmly, yet assertively tell the student what you want. This is not a form of posture you want to overuse, but it is a useful on rare occasions with students who are aggressive, angry, or making accusations. You may also find it useful if you are giving feedback or transmitting complicated information.

If you’ve used the Placater to make a difficult point to someone, end the sentence with the Leveller (the next, more assertive pattern).

 

 

 

 

classroom_communication_3When using the Leveller Posture, stand in a centered way with your palms down and hands slightly in front of you. This posture is ideal for when you want to be assertive or explain rules. It’s a non-threatening gesture that suggests to the listener that what you are saying is sincere and on his or her level. This position is very effective when you want to hold people’s attention.

As with all of these postures, you don’t need to exaggerate your body movement. Even slight posture adjustments will send a clear message.

 

 


Classroom_Communication_4Whenever I think about the Computing Posture, I’m reminded of a teacher I had in graduate school. The class was seminar-style, which meant that it was, for the most part, discussion-based and student-led. The professor would only chime in to maintain order or facilitate when we got stuck. When this happened, she would sit back in her chair, put her fist under her chin and her other arm below her elbow; then she would either look down at the floor, or stare off into the distance without saying anything.

This sent a very clear message to us: that we needed to stop talking for a minute and think. This posture was also an effective way to spark our curiosity. We wanted to know what our professor was thinking and what she might say after she had successfully computed her idea.

 

Classroom CommunicationThe Distracter is a posture that we should really avoid—unless we are joking around with students or presenting an aside.

When people use the Distracter, they move between different postures, appearing inconsistent. Distracting often occurs with new teachers when they start to feel nervous. In these situations, train yourself to adopt the Leveller more often and you will come across as more assertive and in control.

 

 

 

 

classroom_communication_6Sequencing is useful when you are teaching a lesson that includes stages in a process or steps in a journey. As you speak, allow your hand to move sideways, back and forth across your body. You can also do the same gesture moving away from you and towards the other person.

Another way to use the gesture is to start with your hand out in front and move it back towards you. This says, “Let’s back track from where we currently are”; it is also useful to reinforce points.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Words of Wisdom: Advice from Veteran Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 16, 2014 4:03:00 AM

veteran_teachersLast week, I wrote a blog about five things I wish I would have known before setting foot into my first classroom. This is a conversation I’d like to continue, but instead of doling out my own advice, I decided to reach out to all of the teachers who regularly post on Edmodo. Here was my question: If you could give a new teacher one piece of advice, something you wish you'd have known when you started, what would it be?

Below are their responses:

Be flexible, always have a Plan B, be able to immediately recognize when your lesson plan is failing, and be willing to toss it, then and there.
-Ms. Butchikas

Establish a silent signal to get your students' attention. Yelling is not necessary in typical circumstances.
-Mr. Swaney

Bring a lot of laughter to your classroom lessons; it will make it easier for you and the students to learn and time will fly! I use YouTube videos in my class daily. They are a great resource for both educational videos and mental breaks.
-Ms. Montoya

Establish, build, and nurture relationships with students, teachers, staff, parents, everyone you can think of. Don't hesitate to give or ask for help—but remember, there is no one "magic" way of doing things. Figure out what kind of teacher you will be and work toward becoming that teacher.
-Mr. Gibson

Know that the perfect plans usually end up not so perfect...and that is ok! Capture the hearts of your kids and they will do amazing things for you.
-Mr. Topliff

Keep your focus and curriculum consistent; students will follow the rules if they are established and followed through to the end. Change is good, but setting the tone from the beginning goes a long way!
-Mr. Solorzano

Mark one day every week to leave at the end of your contracted hours and take NOTHING home. It takes some pre-planning, but a weekday break sure makes things easier!
-Mrs. Fizer

I have two. First of all, it is ok to say "I don't know" to a student's question and turn a search for the answer into a class activity. Second, be fair and consistent in your classroom policies.
-Ms. Pilkington

Don't see your inexperience as a weakness, see it as a strength. You are coming in with new perspectives, new insight, fresh enthusiasm, and you’re full of energy—have confidence in yourself and never apologize for being a new teacher!
-Mrs. Hals

Be flexible and go backwards or forwards depending on where the students are at that moment. 
-Ms. Craft

Remember if it is not fun for you, it is not fun for the students.
-Mrs. Foreman

Ask your students what's working for them and why. Adjust what's not working for them. Continue to shape and polish curriculum perennially and don't force what's not working.
-Mr. McLearan

Photo credit: Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, student engagement, first year teacher, veteran teacher

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 Simple and Effective Time-Savers for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 19, 2014 9:28:21 AM

time_savers_for_teachersAlways start on time
Some of us have a habit of starting late because we’re busy putting final touches on the lesson, writing on the board, or simply waiting around for the rest of the students to show up after the bell rings.

Always start class on time and do not wait for tardy students. Those who show up on time shouldn’t have to wait for those that don’t. As an incentive to get your students to class on time, begin your lessons with something they won’t want to miss.

Be more efficient about taking attendance
There are a couple ways to streamline your attendance-taking procedures.

One way is to have a sign-in sheet ready every day. Instead of taking attendance yourself, have students sign themselves in. Another idea: Stand outside the door and check off names as students trickle into the room. We like doing this not only because it saves us time, but also because it gives us the opportunity to greet each student as s/he enters the room.

Use technology to get organized
There are lots of useful apps for teachers out there, but Teacher Kit has, by far, saved us the most time. This app helps us create seating charts, take attendance, track student behavior, record grades, and import all of our data to our computer.

To get a better sense of how Teacher Kit works, check out the tutorial video below:

Set up a system for makeup work
With increasing class sizes, chances are that one or two students will be absent every week. Unless you have some sort of system in place, you’re probably spending valuable class time explaining what these students missed once they return. There are a couple reasons you should stop doing this! First, it’s unfair to those students who came to class. Second, it keeps students from taking responsibility for their own learning experience.

Instead of spending class time explaining what these students missed, have them email or call you on the day they are absent to receive updates. While you won’t be able to recreate the classroom experience over the phone or computer, you can ensure that they have all of the materials to successfully complete the work.

Make the most of classroom interruptions
Although we have yet to find a way to eliminate interruptions (special deliveries of forgotten lunches, notes from the office, or incoming calls on the classroom phone), we do make the most of them.

Some interruptions take ten seconds, others may take ten minutes, but one thing is for sure: If you add those seconds and minutes up over the course of the week, you get a lot of wasted time.

One way to take advantage of these interruptions is by teaching your students to get out their books as soon as an interruption occurs. Teach your students that a knock on the door or a ring from the classroom telephone isn’t a signal for them to chat; it’s a signal for them to reach into their desks, grab their book and start reading. If you start this procedure right away, your students will quickly internalize it.

Photo credit: H is for Home / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

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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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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, stress management, social learning skills

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

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

The Best of the Week: Volume 1

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on Mar 7, 2014 9:46:00 AM

best of the weekThere’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Classroom Management


Reading and Language Arts


Technology in the Classroom


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Tags: reading comprehension, classroom management, apps for educators, classroom procedures, reading strategies, reading instruction, apps for teachers, Classroom Reading Strategies, Best of the Week, classroom technology, classroom organization

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