MAT Blog

“Making America…”: Teaching Student Leadership and Responsibility

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 4, 2017 12:10:46 PM

As a “teacher of teachers” at Marygrove College, I am always on the lookout for a good school story.  Don Aslett tells the story of two schools in the same U.S. city.  The first had a lunchroom strewn with trash which took hours to clean every day.  The second school’s janitor needed just 15 minutes.  The schools were as identical as two schools can be, except for different principals.  At the second, the principal required students to clean up their own places.  “Anything you mess up, you clean up,” was the fair, simple rule which “unquestionably taught and reinforced the most important ingredient of greatness: responsibility.”

The recent slogan “Make American Great Again,” made me think.  The last time America was great was when responsibility was something taught at home and school, and the principle of “For the Common Good” was held in mind when leaders of government and industry made decisions, when we said “our children,” rather than “those children” regardless of how well they tested.  So, how about it?  Let’s clean up our own messes and demonstrate to the world that we understand the most important ingredient of greatness: responsibility.  I’ll make you a deal – I’ll teach our teachers how to help our children learn this amazing skill if you will do your part by addressing all forms of inequality at home and abroad.  Deal?

diane_brown.jpgDiane S. Brown, Ph.D., IHM, was appointed the Coordinator for the Academic Department of Marygrove College’s Master in the Art of Teaching program in 2007 and the Director in 2010. She is currently the Chair of Education. Brown’s research interests include student-teacher interactions in the online environment and the use of Currere as a method to retain experienced teachers in the profession.

Tags: student leadership, effective classroom management

Better Engagement: 5 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 12, 2014 12:09:00 PM


As much as we may care about our challenging students, sometimes caring alone is not enough to reach them. Below you will find a few classroom management strategies to help you connect with students and better negotiate their behavior.

Effective Classroom Management Strategy 1:
The 2 X 10

Think of a student you clash with or find challenging. Now make a commitment to devote two minutes of uninterrupted, undivided attention to that student for 10 consecutive days. During this allotted time, you will avoid doing or saying anything related to that student’s behavior or “misconduct.” Focus instead on relationship-building.

You may find that the student is skeptical of your intentions, so don’t expect smooth sailing right away. Just be patient and chances are that you’ll notice a change in the student’s behavior and attitude.

Effective Classroom Management Strategy 2:
The 4H method

Start by jotting down the names of the students you know the least. After compiling your list, commit to greeting these students with one of the four welcoming “H’s”:

  • Handshake
  • High five
  • “How are you?”
  • Hello

You can take this strategy a step further by personalizing your greeting. Say one of your students was absent for a few days. Greet this student and say, “Hi, Joe. I’m glad to have you back in class. We missed having you last week!” If you attend after-school events, you might take this as an opportunity to congratulate a student on his or her performance on the baseball field, or on the stage of the school theatre.

Effective Classroom Management Strategy 3:
Understand why certain behavior irks you

When students act out or disrupt, many of us react to this behavior without really understanding why it bothers us so much. To better understand why these students test your patience, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How often do I think about this challenging student? What does s/he do, or not do, that bothers me so much?
  • Who does this student remind me of? Someone that I had trouble with in the past?
  • How am I reacting to this student? What is the result?
  • How would I like to have students react when I approach them? What might I do to reach this goal?

Effective Classroom Management Strategy 4:
Allow students to lead conferences

Research continues to find that students with engaged parents not only score higher on tests and miss less school, but that they also have better social skills, improved behavior, and adapt well to school. There are myriad ways we can engage parents, but we’d like to focus specifically on conducting student-led conferences. These are beneficial for a couple reasons: First, when students lead conferences, parents are more likely to come. Second, student-led conferences give students the opportunity to share portfolio highlights, identify what they do well, set new goals, and outline the ways in which they will achieve these goals.

Classroom Management Strategy 5:
Reinvent your “exit ticket” assignment

An exit ticket is the students’ response to a question or series of questions. Their “ticket” is their way to leave the classroom at the end of the day. You can do this as often as you like, but we usually save this writing activity for Fridays. Here are some of the questions you might like to include in the assignment:

  • How can I help you be more successful in class?
  • What did you like most/least about this week in class?
  • What could I do to make this class more interesting next week?
  • What are your goals for next week? How will you achieve them?

The success of this assignment is contingent upon the teacher taking the responses seriously. In other words, don’t elicit feedback if you aren’t willing to change your own behavior and take your students’ suggestions into consideration.

These effective classroom management tips have been adapted from Allen Mendler’s book, Connecting with Students.

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Tags: student engagement, effective classroom management

Press Pause: A Simple and Effective Classroom Management Strategy

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 22, 2014 9:39:00 AM

effective classroom management

Whether we’re out on a first date, or interacting with new acquaintances at a party, most of us tend to dread silence and awkward pauses in conversation. While we may not welcome silence in social situations, Rob Barnes, author of The Practical Guide to Primary Classroom Management, would argue that silence, when used deliberately and strategically, can be one of a teacher’s most effective classroom management tools. So what is Barnes’s Dramatic Pause Approach, and how do we put this effective classroom management strategy into play?

Press Pause: How to Put This Effective Classroom Strategy Into Play

The critical feature of the dramatic pause strategy is to use a deliberately-placed stop immediately followinga strong attention signal (this could be a clap, a bell, a sharp rap on your desk top). The idea is to maintain your pause and silently insist by using eye contact until all chatter and fidgeting stops.

If chattering persists, say—and repeat—something like, “I can’t see everyone’s eyes.” Now pause, repeat the phrase with slight surprise in your voice, and insist.

A note about your signal: Let’s say your strong signal is to clap your hands…in this case, always be sure that the pace of your clap is slow and dramatic. Otherwise, your three loud claps will really seem like one. Clap your hands at a pace of one loud sound per second, followed by a one or two-second pause before instructions. If the pause seems uncomfortably long, you’re probably executing the strategy just right!

A common error some beginning teachers make is getting sucked into responding to student questions after they issue their strong signal. The key is to ignore these questions and keep strictly focused. If you want to add a gesture, make a non-verbal “stop” or “pause” signal with your hand so that the student sees it. You’re not being rude, you’re simply saying, “Not now.” The last thing you want to do is encourage students to gain your attention when you’re trying to gain theirs!You need full attention, nothing else.

Remember, if you put up with chatter and speak loudly over your students, they will eventually conclude that you are willing to compete with them. Some teachers actually pause for extra effect once they have got attention. They also stretch a mid-sentence pause as long as they can. This is only acting, but it has a strong controlling effect on a class.

If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!

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An Effective Classroom Management Strategy: Turn Questions into Statements

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jul 18, 2014 9:58:00 AM

effective classroom management

Although the effect teachers have on student behavior is crystal clear, the way in which teachers elicit the kind of behavior they want from students often appears elusive—especially to those entering the classroom for the first time.

Why asking subtle, open-ended questions is not an effective classroom management strategy

Most teachers strive to be positive and polite, so very often they use subtle, open-ended questions in hopes that students will get the hint and change their behavior. Here are a few examples from Rob Barnes’s book The Practical Guide to Primary Classroom Management to help illustrate what I mean:
  • A beginning teacher who wants a student to take out her books might say, “Julie, would you like to get your books out, please?” to which the student might reply, “Nope. I’d rather read this comic book right now.”
  • A beginning teacher who wants a student to stop standing on his chair might say, “James, are you sitting properly? To which James might reply, “Yes, actually. I am.”

Turning questions into statements is a much more effective classroom management strategy

Eliciting the type of behavior we want our students to engage in starts by turning questions into statements. Notice how easy it is for students to skirt or respond sarcastically to open-ended questions:
  • “Would you like to get your books out?” (No, not really!)
  • “Are we all ready?” (No!)
  • “Can you sit properly?” (No! Yes! Probably!)
  • “Would you like to sit somewhere else?” (No!)
  • “Can you make less noise?” (No!)

Turning questions into statements of need is more effective:

  • “Bethany. Sit with both feet on the floor, please”
  • “Be thinking of a question about this when you quietly go back to your seats”
  • “Think of what you need to do to be ready to sit on the carpet”
  • “I’ll be asking questions, so think about what you’ve just heard as you quietly make a start”
  • I’m looking for a quality start, so think about this work with mouths closed”
  • “Maximum concentration on silent footsteps before you move quietly to the carpet”
Whenever you use a statement, you have a much better chance of receiving the desired outcome. As Barnes points out, “Classes quickly realize a rhetorical question because experienced teachers do not use them—or if they do, the class knows better than to shout in chorus.” You also begin to demonstrate that you know what you want.

If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!

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No More Interruptions: 8 Effective Classroom Management Tips

Posted by Ryan O'Rourke on May 21, 2014 4:48:00 PM

effective classroom managementConstant interruptions are not only distracting, they’re wearisome. While most of our students outgrow their impulse to interject seemingly random thoughts during lessons or classroom activities, we’ve probably all encountered students who constantly vie for our attention. In lieu of  “calling out” these students in front of their peers—which only further disrupts the flow of your lesson and embarrasses the disruptive student—give a few of these simple, but effective classroom management tricks a shot.

  • Many students disrupt because they need to move around. If you can, find simple tasks or ways for these students to assist you with your lesson. If you are using a Power Point presentation, for example, give these students the opportunity to control the slides. 

    Another way to empower these students and re-channel their energy is by allowing them to be the “official writer on the board.” Instead of writing reminders and notes on the board yourself, have one of your energetic students take on this responsibility. 

  • In lieu of long lectures, provide opportunities for students to talk to one another and work in groups to solve problems. Provide each group with a detailed set of instructions and appoint those energetic students to be the “official secretary” for their groups. The secretary will be responsible for documenting the group’s conclusions and sharing them with the class once you come back together as a group to discuss the activity.

  • Provide energetic students with a notebook in which they can write down thoughts, questions, or anything that is unrelated to the lesson. At the end of the day, review the notebook and discuss with the student.

  • Provide students with “question tokens” (you can use anything from Monopoly money to Post-It notes) and explain that they have X-amount of tokens for the day. If students ask an unrelated question, they have to give up one of their tokens. 

  • Teach sign language symbols to all your students that reflect a question, comment, answer, restroom, water, wait a minute, etc. As long as you continue to stop and focus on the behavior you want changed, it won't. Consistency and patience with yourself and your students, along with positive reinforcement will help them to know how to get acknowledgement.

  • Set aside time each day where students can talk about or ask any question they want. Another thing you can do is set aside question time that is related to the topic you’re teaching. By doing this, you won’t have to deny students the chance to ask questions; instead, you can simply remind him or her to save the question for question time.

  • Take note of your students’ questions: Do you pick up any common threads? Do these questions give you more insight into what students are interested in? We bet they do. Use these questions to help you further develop your lesson plans or find books these students would enjoy reading on their own.

  • Try the “Parking-Lot” strategy. If students have something off-topic to share, they can write it on a Post-It and stick it up on the parking lot bulletin board. After the lesson, grab the Post-Its and take some time to answer the questions.

    If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!
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5 Effective Classroom Management Tips: Working Around “I Don’t Know.”

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 11, 2014 6:00:00 AM

effective classroom management“I don’t know” isn’t a four-letter word, but to most teachers, it might as well be.

While there are effective classroom management strategies we can use to engage students who say “I don’t know,” educational technologist and blogger Jeff Dunn may have the ultimate workaround:

He’s outlawed “I don’t know” entirely and provided students with a few alternative responses. 

Instead of “I don’t know,” students may respond with the following choices:

  • May I please have some more information?
  • May I have some time to think about this?
  • Would you please repeat the question?
  • Where could I find more information about that?
  • May I ask a friend for help?

All five of these questions provoke engagement and let students know that no one gets off the hook.

Jeff is a regular blogger over at Edudemic, so be sure to stop by and check out his collection of articles.

If you're looking for more ways to develop an effective classroom management plan, check out our guide, 15 Effective Classroom Management Apps for Educators!

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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, extrinsic motivation, classroom discussion, effective classroom management, effective classroom management plan

Order Without Fear: 4 Tenets of Effective Classroom Management

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 5, 2013 10:58:00 AM

effective classroom management planWhy do you think a Google search for “Effective Classroom Management” yields some 79,100,000 key-word related results? We have a couple of guesses.

First, because teachers know that out-of-control classrooms don’t work. Learning cannot take place in chaos.

Second, because we know that teachers who cannot manage their classrooms usually don't last.

Fear of losing control has led too many talented teachers to rule by fear. No doubt, structure and order are critical to our success in the classroom, but as Rafe Esquith suggests in his book Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire, there are simple ways teachers can “ensure the class remains a place of academic excellence without resorting to fear.”

Effective Classroom Management Means Replacing Fear with Trust

Our classroom is built on trust. Of course, these words sound good to students, but they are vague. To better illustrate the point, Esquith uses the following example:

Most of us have participated in the trust exercise in which one person falls back and is caught by a peer. Even if the catch is made a hundred times in a row, the trust is broken forever if the friend lets you fall the next time as a joke. Even if he swears he is sorry and will never let you fall again, you can never fall back without a seed of doubt.

What is the lesson? Broken trust is nearly irreparable. Everything else can be fixed. Students may forget their assignment; they may break something in the class; they may disrupt a lecture or activity. No problem, all of these things can be fixed, but when trust is broken, the rules change. The relationship will be okay, of course, but it will never, ever be what it was.

Most students are proud of this trust and they’ll do everything in their power to keep it.

Effective Classroom Management Means that Teachers are Dependable

Too often adults make promises to children and don’t keep them. Here’s an example Esquith uses to illustrate the importance of fulfilling promises.

There was a well-respected teacher who once told her class on the first day of school, that at the end of the year she would take them on an exciting trip. Practically every day, kids who misbehaved were threatened with the punishment of not going on the special trip. Many students even did extra work to make sure they would be included. During the last week of school, the teacher announced that she was moving and would not be able to take them on the trip. This betrayal not only ruined anything good she had done with the kids that year, but soured many of them on school and adults in general.

Trust goes both ways. When you tell your students you are going to do something, do it, even if it is inconvenient and seems trivial.

Effective Classroom Management Means Fair Discipline

Most students want to be challenged. They don’t mind a tough teacher, but as Esquith puts it, “they despise an unfair one.”

Be fair. Be logical. If you’re not, students will see you as unreasonable—and once they see you as unreasonable, you’ve lost them.

Treat Knowledge as the Best Reward

Too often, teachers rely on rewards to manage their students’ behavior. In a way, this reliance makes sense. We’ve read B.F. Skinner in college; we know when humans are rewarded for behavior, they are more likely to repeat it. Rewards may appear to “work,” but their effectiveness can be deceiving. Consider Esquith’s example:

I have visited middle school classrooms in which the teachers use rewards to encourage their students to finish homework. One history teacher I met pits his classes against each other in a competition to see which of them can complete the most homework. The winning class gets a prize at the end of the year. Apparently this teacher has forgotten that knowledge of history is supposed to be the prize. When I spoke to the class that did the most homework, I learned that they were terrific at completing assignments, but their understanding of history was shockingly limited.

For an even more convincing reflection on the problems with a rewards-based classroom, check out an article by Dr. Richard Curwin.

If you're looking for more ways to develop a classroom management plan, check out our guide, 25 Effective Classroom Management Tips for Teachers!

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Tags: struggling students, Classroom Community, Classroom Climate, student independence, student engagement, classroom, management, effective classroom management, effective classroom management plan

An effective classroom management strategy you've never heard of

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Apr 5, 2013 10:31:00 AM

effective_classroom_managementRegardless of the kind of weather April has delivered to you thus far, springtime is here—and our students can feel it in their bones. If you’re looking for an effective classroom management strategy, one to reenergize your students (and their parents) and carry them into the home stretch of the school year, we may have just the thing for you: “brag” phone calls. This is an idea we gleaned from Donna Kelley, a teacher from Westminster, Colorado.

Brag Phone Calls, an effective classroom management strategy to take you into June

Most teachers have a classroom telephone, but even if you don’t, a cell phone will do just as well. The idea is to use the telephone as an incentive for high scores, excellent behavior or a job well done.

Here’s what Kelley has done with the activity: “At the beginning of the semester, I discuss what high quality, standard, and substandard work looks like in each subject area," she explains. "I establish with my class what level and quality of work earns a brag call. I explain to them that when work is exceptional and exceeds the standard, I'd like them to share with their parents their excitement about a job well done.”

Kelley has made it common practice to return excellent assignments with “brag call!” written on them. Then, at an appointed time during the day, she gives the student time to use the phone and report the good news to his or her parents. The rewards of brag calls are huge, especially when you consider how little it takes to make them happen. They’re also great for connecting you with parents. Instead of having the student make the phone call, you might first speak to the parent to let them know that their son or daughter has a special announcement! 

We all know that parental involvement positively impacts our students’ academic achievement. We also know that making this happen is often easier said than done. Brag phone calls are a simple way to strengthen the parent-teacher-student triad, reinvent your classroom management strategy, and create effective lines of communication between home and school.

We know that coming up with ways to motivate students and keep them focused in class is no easy task; that's precisely why we put together our guide, Effective Classroom Management Tips for Elementary Teachers, a quick refresher for teachers to inject a little energy into their day. Also, be sure to stop by our resource library where you'll find free downloadables, podcasts and webinars on-demand.

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Photo credit: Jmak / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">CC BY-SA</a>

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, student engagement, classroom rules, effective classroom management

5 Keys to Effective Classroom Management

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Sep 22, 2012 6:00:00 AM

effective classroom mangementTo say that math has never been my strong suit would only be a half-truth. As a student, math confounded, terrified and tormented me—until I met Mr. Bauer. Thanks to this amazing man, a 23-year old, first-year teacher with unswerving patience and kindness, math (algebra, specifically) not only became my favorite class, but the one I continued to excel in over the course of my freshman year in high school.

Most of us appreciated Mr. Bauer enough to submit our work on time, listen, take notes and ask questions when we had them, but he did have one Achilles heel: effective classroom management. As a result, there were always a few upper classmen who would interrupt him, throw things across the room when his back was turned and deliberately break the games he brought in to enhance the lessons. Many of us would come to his defense, but invariably, delinquency would seep in and eventually dominate. Those who wanted to learn did, but I’d be lying if I said our motivation, focus and comprehension didn’t suffer as a result. 

To make a long story short, our math teacher didn’t last long. Whether he left of his own volition or not, I don’t know. What was clear to me, even then, was that he did not receive the effective classroom management training he needed to become as brilliant at classroom management as he was at teaching math which is a tragedy.

What does research say about effective classroom management?
Classroom management is crucial to students’ success. In fact, research has shown us that teachers' actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies regarding curriculum, assessment, staff collegiality, and community involvement. Another study suggests the same thing: Of all the variables, classroom management has the largest effect on student achievement.

It should go without saying, but in order for students to learn, we must provide them with a well-managed classroom. Here are 5 effective classroom management strategies to help you accomplish this.

1. Establish an appropriate level of dominance

“Dominance” has the same effect as a dirty word, but not when it is used in the proper context. Healthy dominance is simply when a teacher provides students with a clear sense of purpose and guidance, both academically and behaviorally. 

2. Verbalize and model clear expectations
A common (and costly) misstep is to presume that students share our definitions of appropriate behavior. We must not only explain appropriate and inappropriate behavior, we must also model it. We need to remember that negotiating the nuances of social interaction—all of which takes place in class discussion, group work and peer review exercises—is uncharted territory for many of our students.

3. Consistently follow through with consequences
One way to redirect students’ behavior is by using a wide variety of verbal and physical reactions:

  • Move close to the student (you may not even have to make eye contact) and simply stand next to him or her until the behavior stops. 
  • Establish a variety of signals that correspond to specific behaviors you want to curb. Depending on the grade level, you might consider collaborating with your students on coming up with signals.
  • Acknowledge appropriate behavior and do so in every class.

4. Be assertive, not antagonistic
Consider linguist Henry Calero’s suggestion that 55 percent of the messages we transmit to each other come from body movements and 38 percent from the voice—inflection, intonation, volume. Here’s the kicker: A mere 7 percent of the messages we transmit come from words. What this seems to suggest, then, is that you don’t have to be sharped-tongued to be assertive. Let your body language do the work:

  • Stand erect and face the offending student, but make sure you keep enough distance so that you are not threatening.
  • Avoid an emotional response.
  • Do not elevate your voice. It’s generally a fact that humans respond to negative energy in kind: if you are sarcastic or attempt to single out the student by making him or her look stupid, you shouldn’t be surprised when you receive a similar response.
  • Do not ignore an inappropriate behavior and do not continue until the behavior subsides.
  • If the inappropriate behavior persists, speak to the student after class.

5. Embed Social Skills

  • Teach students how to greet each other and lead by example. As students trickle into the classroom, greet them individually and address them by name. A simple, “Hi, Joe. How are you?” breaks down hierarchy and shows students that you care.
  • Spend five minutes before (or after) class talking about something not directly related to the course materials. The topic could be something related to popular culture, a TV show, a movie, an artist, or a current event. These conversations have the potential to go “off the rails,” but so what? You’ve already accomplished all of your goals for the day. This activity is short and simple—and it teaches students to negotiate the art of group conversation.
  • Embed turn-taking skills in class: Implement group or partner work and in-class discussion.

    Ryan O’Rourke ( is a writing tutor, blogger, guitar strummer and former adjunct professor. He graduated from Madonna University in 2005 where he received his B.A. in English and Philosophy. After living and teaching abroad in Taiwan, he returned to Detroit in 2006 to complete his M.A. in English from Marygrove College. Currently, he blogs for Marygrove's OnlineGrad programs including the Master in the Art of Teaching program.

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