The best opening strategy that I observed was a sponge activity. The teacher would place “Daily Geography’ questions on the document projector and the students, 7th graders, knew when they came in that they were responsible for recording the questions and the answers in their journals. The questions were review of either a topic they had gone over, or the use of a skill that they had learned — such as finding a specific point on a map. My mentor doesn’t use this every day, but often enough that the students were familiar with it and most started taking down the information as soon as they came in the room. It gave time for roll to be taken, and was a good starting point for a quick discussion that led into the day’s lesson.

One management strategy that I noted in several classes was proximity — moving around the room, between rows or groups — both when giving lecture and during group work or seatwork. This allowed my mentor to keep an eye on behaviors, but also to stop by each group and check on how they were doing or answer questions. She also gives praise when the students are doing well — i.e. staying on track and helping each other out — or encourages them when they get bogged down. I like this strategy because it allows equal attention to be paid to all the students; it also keeps from singling out only the students who are misbehaving or falling behind, and potentially embarrassing them about it.

For lesson closure, one of the best ways I’ve seen my mentor close a class was by reminding the students that they were to finish their work at home and that it would be due the next class. Then she asked the class when they’d meet next, and after they had answered, when the assignment was due. This is a good way to make sure that everyone knows when the assignment is due, and by asking the class to repeat it back it makes them actually think about it rather than letting it go in one ear and out the other.

One transition, going from passing break to starting class, that my mentor used was asking if everyone in had turned in the assignment that was due. Then while people were doing that asking questions about what people had done over the week end. Just for a couple of minutes, but it let the students get some of their chatter out; as this was early in the semester the students, 7th graders, were still getting used to procedures like that and some still needed a nudge to remind them.

Another transition between two activities — the sponge activity and giving directions for group work — that my mentor used was telling the class that to finish up their daily geography and get out their books for the lesson. After about 30 seconds she, told them they’d start when everyone was quiet. This signaled to students 1) that they needed to finish right away, and 2) that they should settle down.

For an end of period transition, from working on projects at their seats, my mentor gave a warning that there was only 10 minutes left in class and that they should wrap-up what they were working on. At 5 minutes she gave the time, and had the students close down and return their laptops to the cart. At 2 minutes she again, gave the time and had them start putting away their supplies and bringing their projects to the front of the room to be stored away. This strategy kept the students from rushing about chaotically to get things tidied away by breaking down the clean-up into steps.

My mentor has a basic agenda that she can swap out from magnetic clips on the side of her blackboard. It has things like Daily Geography, Bookwork, Test, etc. so that students know when they come in what is happening that day. She also has numbers that correspond to a volume scale, which go above the agenda. If the class gets noisy she gets their attention and asks what the volume level is, what level they think they were at, and if they think they can bring it down or if she needs to set the level to 0 (silent work). Since this is a normal procedure the students are good at gauging what level they were at, and also about bringing down the volume to where it should be. During advisory she can use it in the reverse; where most of period was at 1 (whispering), she can say “ok, you can go up to level 3 (talking normally) for the last 10 minutes.’

I think that if was teaching at a middle school, particularly 7th graders, this would be a pretty good strategy. It is a good way to train the students to know what volume they should be at during individual work and in groups; and by using it consistently it would add structure to the class. A consistent consequence — such as going no more talking — would hopefully cut off protesting, and allow for peer regulation.