At the moment, a number of us are going through some transitions from first to second semester with some assistance from a book on management that EL has put together, entitled "Management in the Active Classroom." I have been feverishly taking notes about my own classroom while reading this book and had an amazing conversation yesterday that reinvigorated my own practice. One of the critical things I am trying to focus on is creating the "self-managed classroom." Many educators view themselves as the end-all and be-all of classroom management and discipline (the best example I can think of is the SLANT technique, often popularized in charter schools across the country). EL argues that a classroom that understands not only routines and procedures, but also norms of behavior and the rationale behind them can be a better way of ensuring learning.
The first aspect of this that I will be focusing on is the first and last five minutes of my classes (I will only focus on the first five here). At the moment the beginning of my 9th grade Algebra 1 classes look like this:
Students walk in the classroom leisurely and many sit down at their desks. Others walk across the room to chat with a peer and do not heed the bell that starts off class. The teacher is by the front projection screen, pointing out the answers students should be reviewing last night's homework. Since 65-70% of students have not completed the homework, there is little benefit or motivation to do so. The teacher often waits for a long time to review a problem while many students continue talking or - if they are seated - do not have their materials out.
Students walk in the classroom and see a riddle or quizzical question on the projection screen. The teacher is using a portable tablet to control the screen so s/he walks around the room and redirects students who might want to begin a conversation. Students sit down at their tables and take out their materials while debating with their peers what the answer to the riddle or question could be. Students do not heed the bell because they are already on task, debating the question. When the teacher wants quiet s/he raises a hand, signaling all students to do the same and quiet down. One student takes "stack" (a list of potential speakers) and the teacher facilitates a conversation about the riddle/question.
- The teacher does not have to be tied to the projection screen to control it (i.e. technology - using a tablet)
- The students are engaged in the riddle because it is a low-barrier threshold but still curious.
- Routines are in place to ensure smooth transitions (hand-raising and students taking stack)
I do not think this will happen overnight, not should it. It will take a long time and we will go through a process of reflection to determine how well (or not well) it is going. I will be writing more about this in the coming weeks and I look forward to any feedback you might have.