A common strategy that I have seen in ELA classrooms is having students work on some sort of a warm up activity at the beginning of class. I like this strategy as it provides a consistent routine and expectations for students to follow. Different teachers align these warm ups with different standards. Many see it as a good time to practice grammar or grow vocabulary.
Once the students are settled in and working on the day’s task, a management strategy that I have seen work well is to circulate and check in with students. Often you will find students struggling with something but not asking for help until you approach them. Additionally, it is a good way to keep students on task by being physically present in their area of the room. Depending on the task the students are engaged in, the strategy changes. If students are discussing something, you might sit and listen. If students are off task, you can gently guide them back.
One end of class procedure that I have seen work well and continue to try to implement is to keep students in their seats until the end of the bell by having them writing or talking about something. While exit tickets are not necessary every day, they are a good way to keep students occupied and as a formative assessment tool. If the day does not demand an exit ticket, or if students are obviously burnt out, engaging them in a conversation at the end of class seems to be an effective strategy for keeping them in their seats. It is also a great time to review what they should be doing for the next class, as well as the objectives of the next class.
Three transitional strategies that I have seen work well include: Modeling, Pre-corrections, and Active Supervision. Modeling transitions is important to do at the beginning of the year to make sure that students are aware of expectations. It is also important to continue modeling these behaviors as well as correcting them when they are not followed and praising them when they are. Pre-corrections are another good strategy for transitions. If you see students beginning to not follow the transition protocol, you head them off and bring everyone back together. This can be enforced by explicitly noting the misbehavior or by subtly correcting it, depending on the student and situation. For example, if we are transitioning between computer work and group discussion, I ask students to close their computers. If students open them back up, I either call them out on it, start a pregnant pause and put my attention in their direction, or walk over to them and tap the desk. Finally, active supervision is a strategy that should be happening constantly in the classroom, especially when students are interacting with one another. That way, if students are getting off task, you can redirect them towards the topic. It is also a great time to conduct informal/formative assessments to gather data.
One strategy that I have observed that works well to open classes, particularly after not seeing students for a while, is to open classes by asking for a couple of volunteers to share how their weekend went. The teacher should also share in this situation. I have seen this strategy work to increase classroom community and to make students feel more comfortable with one another and with the teacher. I would like to try a similar technique. Specifically, I would like to try talking with students about a big idea that has been on my mind over the weekend and then tie that into the lesson somehow. This way you could transition and hook at the same time and also model ways to connect what is happening in the classroom with what is happening in “real life.”