During my observations, I have had the opportunity to view and help out four different teachers, grades 7-9. Each teacher was a little different, of course, with two of the four having very organized classrooms. Several times, one of the teachers let me know that a particular class was larger and therefore more difficult to manage at times. They all preferred their smaller classes. The classes I observed were doing either lecture and seat work time, labs, or computer projects, so this included several types of transitions. I also got to be part of an ALICE intruder drill, so that was another one.
For coming in to the classroom, two of the teachers had specific things for the students to pay attention to. One had science starter questions that for one class dealt with their worksheets and for the other was a lab preparation question. Most of the students came in and worked on them, while a few took out their paper and then just talked to their neighbor. It did give the teacher something to direct the students to, as they came in or got too noisy. The other teacher changed her class seating arrangement once a month, so the students came in that day and looked at the smart board which had the pictures of each student in their new place. The students all figured out their new spots, some grumbling a little and some enjoying the change. Both of these things gave the students something to focus on right away as they came in, which compared to the classes that didn’t have them, focused the students on that class and its tasks.
For closing, one teacher had students put their computers away, after which a few started to stay clustered by the door. The teacher called them back to their seats, letting them know that she would dismiss them from their seats. They complied and she gave a little closing statement and then told them they could go. Two of the other teachers were finishing labs, so had students folding aprons, returning goggles, and turning in lab sheets before they could go. One teacher just allowed the students to begin to accumulate by the door and then they just started to leave when they chose to. I liked the idea of giving the students something to do or a dismissal. I will do both a starter activity and at least just have students wait to be dismissed at the end of class. I believe this creates a more organized and focused class. I especially like the starter questions that review the previous day’s lesson or introduce the new topic.
Transitions from class to lab work is common in a science class. During one of the lab classes, the teacher had one lab partner from each bench line up to get materials, and he also just had three benches go at a time. This way there was not a big line of students jumbling around trying to get their stuff and being in each other’s way. I thought this was very efficient and effective. Getting and putting away tablets or computers is also common in many classrooms. During the two classes that were working on computer projects, one of the teachers started out the class and gave them some basic instructions for the day, told them they would be getting their computers to work, and then told them to get certain things out and then get their computer when they were ready to get started on it. This way, the students were not all jumping out of their seats at once to get computers. At the end, the teacher reminded them to please make sure their computers were plugged in when they put them back, so they lasted the whole day. This worked well in her class, as students got up 2-5 at a time to line up and get their computer. Some students took a little longer to get all their stuff out and get organized, others got right to work.
Two different methods other than just speaking, were used to redirect attention to the teacher during class. One teacher started counting backwards slowly from three, holding his fingers up as he counted down. The students started to quiet down right away most of the time, one time he reminded them that by two they should be quiet and paying attention. The other teacher said, “If you can hear me clap once,” as she clapped. A chorus of claps followed and then the students looked at her and listened. One time, only one student clapped, so she said, “If you can hear me, clap twice,” and clapped twice. This time, several more claps were heard and she had the classes attention. This was at the end of class and several students were waiting to put their computers away so they were distracted. I liked the clapping thing because it was interactive, so that is something I might use in my classroom, or something similar.
The ALICE intruder drill was a big type of transition, but the students were aware it was going to happen in their last class period. When the announcement came on that there was an intruder and that he was downstairs, the upstairs class teachers opened their classroom doors and had the students quietly and quickly make their way down the hall, down a set of stairs, and outside onto the grass away from the building. The teacher followed the last student out and quietly reminded students who were talking that there was no talking as they left the building. This went quite smoothly and quickly, I thought. The teacher I was with was calm and level-headed, which transferred to the students, who walked together quietly and in a fairly organized fashion.
During my short observation time, I noticed that the teachers who used classroom management strategies had more organized classrooms that had a good feel when you walked in. The teacher was in control and the students worked better for those teachers. Those teachers who were really laid back and didn’t really use many strategies, I noticed that more students were goofing around and not really working in their classes. So, I think it’s a good idea to create boundaries and rules and procedures, so you have an organized classroom and the kids know what is expected of them.