Category Archives: Classroom Management

My Classroom Management in a Nutshell

The great American Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is true in many different areas of life, but is especially important in education. At first when thinking about it, I thought that it was referring to the daily schedule or curriculum, but it is so much more than that. I decided to apply it to as many areas as I could and one area that made a difference for me was in my approach to classroom management.

We need a discipline plan. It is that simple. Without it we will not be as effective and our students will not achieve as much. My plan is easy to understand and realistic.

  1. I have some rules
  2. Something happens when you choose to not follow a rule
  3. Something happens when you do choose to follow a rule
That’s it! It follows the basic idea of Rules, Consequences and Rewards. Once this was developed, I had the task of deciding how I would let them know that they violated a rule. I have tried to keep my classroom as real life as possible and chose to model the violation notification after the speeding ticket. Why? Because it’s familiar, especially for teenagers who are looking forward to driving. So, when they choose to not follow a rule, I give them a ticket. It’s a 3 inch square of red paper that fits in my pocket. On the ticket I have three words: Name, Date, and Rule. I carry about 5 of them in pocket at all times so I am prepared for when the students choose to break a rule. As soon as they break a rule, I respond with something that shows empathy. For example, “Ooh. That just stinks.” I lay the ticket on their desk, tell them the rule they broke, give the student some space by moving away, and then immediately get back into instruction. The whole incident takes about 5 seconds and there really is no pain. They usually know what they did and just start filling out the ticket right away.
When I was developing a consequence, I just thought of something that the students really love and took it away. For many teenagers, this is lunch time. When they are the last person in line for lunch it sends them a message. When they can’t ride with their friends to go out to eat, it sends them a message. So far, it has worked really well. And the atmosphere in my classes is quite pleasant. Below is my Discipline Plan.

Discipline Plan for Spanish

Classroom Rules

  1. Respect the people, equipment, and furnishings of our class.
  2. Follow instructions immediately.
  3. Don’t cause a problem for someone else.

If You Choose To Break a Rule

Phase 1:                       We’ll talk about it.

Phase 2:                       5 minutes at the beginning of Lunch Time.

Phase 3:                       10 minutes at the beginning of Lunch Time.

Phase 4:                       We’ll have a conference where you will develop an action plan.

Severe Disruptions:     Student sent immediately to the office and we’ll have a conference where you will develop an action plan.

If a student chooses to miss his or her scheduled consequence, it will immediately be turned over to the Principal.

Possible Rewards

  • Verbal Encouragement
  • Phone call home bragging about how awesome the student is
  • Extra Credit
  • Unexpected Candy
  • Various other perks
A side note to language educators is that we also have the problem of students speaking English in class. If students continually do this, it gets in the way of acquiring the language. I use the Págame system. [págame means pay me] Here is the nutshell.
  • When we’re going into a time of Spanish, I say “Español por favor.” [Spanish please]
  • If a students really needs to speak English, they raise their hand and when I call on them they say, “¿Inglés por favor?” [English please]. If I nod yes, they say it. If I say no, they have to wait for another time.
  • If a students speaks English without asking for permission, I may give them págame. I do this in a light-hearted way. It has to be like a game and not a punishment. If it is a punishment, it causes damage to your classroom atmosphere and students feel like they are getting yelled at. If it’s a game, it becomes more of a challenge to not get a penalty. Kind of like not getting called for holding in football. I may do a video on this to show the difference.
  • After I give them a págame, a student in the class records it on a designated piece of paper. This frees me from any administrative duties and I can just relax. Plus the student likes the responsibility and power to keep track of the class. I choose this person wisely. Usually a quiet person that doesn’t like to act.
  • This keeps the English out and Spanish in. We have a lot more focus and more gets accomplished. Also the students practice more control.
Both of these plans have made my life so much easier because I have something to fall back on when a problem arises. It allows me to have high expectations for our class. Most of all, it allows there to be justice in our class. So often I feel like kids say things in class that are hurtful or don’t belong in our learning environment and nothing happens. Now, something happens and I have seen changes in behavior. It frees me up to be creative and have fun.

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Routines and Procedures

This year I have really taken the idea of Routines and Procedures quite seriously. I wanted to see if it really made a difference. So far, for me, it has made an incredible difference in the achievement of my students. It has also made a difference for me. I decided to take the concept one step further and assign myself Routines and Procedures. I thought to myself, “If this works for the students, why can’t it work for me?” So here and there I decided to think of ways that I could make my day more efficient. It has not only made my day more efficient, it has made the day go by faster and less stressful.

Here are a few of the Procedures and Routines that I have assigned myself.

Before School 

  • Organize the Desks
  • Write the Daily Schedule on the Board
  • Write the Bell Work
  • Take out the box of folders for Period 1 and place it on the cart by the door
  • Before I open the door to let students in, I look at the Daily Schedule and make sure that everything is prepared for each item.

During Class

  • I greet each student as they get their folder. Sometimes I hand them a piece of paper with the Bell Work on it or I hand them a graded assignment.
  • Help students stay on track by saying, “Get to work.”
  • When everyone is in their seats working, I close the door and say, “Buenos días, clase.”
  • During the 3 minutes of silent work time, I take attendance and enter in grades for that particular class on my iPad.
  • Then I mention the agenda for the day, we finish grading the Bell Work, and go through the agenda one by one.
  • At the end of class, the students put their folders away, I put their class box on the shelf and get out the next classes box.
  • I dismiss the students, not the bell.
As I was thinking about this routine, it first sounded really OCD. I continually asked myself if this was necessary. But it has made my life so much easier and stress free. I actually have more free time after school and usually get home by 4:15 – which is pretty good because I have a 25 mile commute. I can spend more time with my family and I am happier. Procedures and Routines have much needed order to my life and I hope that my students benefit from it as much as I have. So far, they have really embraced it and look forward to coming to class. I enjoy greeting them when they enter and seeing that we are forming a healthy working relationship. I am excited to see what the year will look like at the end.

Upcoming article Next week…

My Discipline Plan in a Nutshell

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The Power of the Picture Dictionary

This year, I added another comprehensible input element to my classroom –The Picture Dictionary. I had heard about it for the last few years and considered it a great idea, I just never implemented it. Over the last few weeks, I have seen how useful this can be for acquisition as well as the overall atmosphere of the classroom.

Atmosphere

  • Sets the tone that in this class we are here to work
  • The work is not always hard, but can even be therapeutic
  • Practices the expectation of working quietly
  • Promotes sharing, if students need a color that they don’t have

Acquisition

  • Students think about the word multiple times as they are writing it and designing a representation
  • Students get an initial feeling for how the word is spelled
  • Students are personalizing the vocabulary to bind it to their memory
  • The use of color makes the vocabulary come alive

Steps

  • Students make a table of contents [This is a list of the words with their definition]
  • Students construct the form of the dictionary [Simply just draw the lines on their paper]
  • Students write in the word and draw a picture

I have seen an improvement in recall as we start to play with the words.  The Picture Dictionary is yet another way to prepare the table for the meal that is to come when we tell the story and the students are blitzed with action and meaningful repetition. It seems that more I prepare them for the story time, the more opportunities there are for the language to be subconsciously imaged into the language acquisition device.  Plus, for many of the students the Picture Dictionary is just fun! They spend all day getting lectured and then they come to Spanish and it is creative and focused.

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A Well-Oiled Machine

This summer I had the opportunity to do a lot more farm work. To some of you, that may not seem out of the ordinary since you know that I live in a rural town of about 3,000 people. However, I must share that I grew up in Wheaton, IL, a suburb of Chicago. I am pretty much a city boy. I think that’s why I have enjoyed living in Minden so much. Well this summer I did more work on machinery and I found out how important it is to have a well-greased machine.Without grease, the joints of the machine will get squeaky and wear out much quicker. Without oil, the engine will be ruined. Where am I going with this? I see such a parallel in my classroom. Our classroom is like a machine. There are many unique parts that work together in order to successfully complete a job. Grease and oil are the procedures and routines that keep this many membered machine working. Without procedures and routines, classroom management is much more difficult and the unit will not run efficiently.

In the past I have been a very relaxed teacher when it came to routines and procedures. My classroom had procedures, but my mentality was that I didn’t want to be up tight about every little aspect of the classroom. I was still a good teacher and the students still acquired the language, but I wasn’t efficient. The classroom squeaked and at times I heard the sound of metal rubbing in the wrong way.

If last year was the year of being relaxed, this is the year of efficiency. The funny thing is, I am way more relaxed this year than previous years because the classroom practically runs itself. The first two weeks of school I nailed the class with procedures and routines. We still did some Spanish, but that was mostly in the background. I wanted my students to know that there is way that this classroom is run and I wanted them to be on board. From time to time, I would hear little respectful winces of, “Profe, are we going to tell a story soon?” They want it so bad that they are eagerly awaiting the day.

I am so excited! They have no idea of what is about to hit them this week. The well-oiled machine is what allows us to have fun as a class. I know that we cannot begin to have fun without an orderly environment of respect. Now that this solid foundation is laid, it is time to build an architectural masterpiece of comprehensible input that will forever change their lives. Krashen has said that acquisition is involuntary. When CI breaks through the language acquisition device we have no choice but to acquire the language. That is how powerful language acquisition can be. I believe that structure gives students a comfort and security that will lower the affective filter resulting in the language acquisition device being more exposed to the comprehensible input. What a beautiful thing! The more I learn about it, the more impressed I am with how it works.

Now, I must remember that just because I greased and oiled the machine at the beginning of the season does not mean that it’s fine for the whole season. A machine must be maintained and checked. Some joints may need more attention than others. I must continue to reinforce the procedures and routines as we go and as soon as I notice a student not following a procedure, I need to address it. It doesn’t have to be demeaning or painful. I just simply need to ask, “What’s the procedure for …. or how do we …? They tell me and then I say, “Great! Now show me how it’s done.” I am prepared for this and they need to know that I care enough to keep them in line.

I am greatly looking forward to the condition of this machine by the end of the season. Many times we notice that a machine has been neglected and not treated well. If a machine is taken care of properly, it can last for many years. Our classrooms are the same. If we maintain them, we create a machine that will create memories that last a lifetime.

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Students Surprise Me with Internal Scoreboard

It still surprises me that students keep an internal score of how I am disciplining them. It usually comes right after we have built a good relationship and they want to see if they can really respect and trust me. For example, if a student decides to put their head down there is a part of them that wants to see what I will do and whether I will let them get away with that in our class. Many times, class is interesting, they are just testing me. I simply don’t allow them to do that and many times when I ask them to sit up, they smile because they know that I care.

From time to time, I also use the págame system. This does not work for everyone, but it works for me because I keep it light-hearted and almost like a game. Plus, it really decreases the English in the classroom. Students know when I am not enforcing the pagames and when they speak English, usually it’s not because they forget. They want to see if I will enforce it. When I do, in a light-hearted way, they almost respect it more because I am letting them know that I care that they are speaking English. I have found in my district that I can’t be over-the-top strict, but the students do like some structure. It somehow makes the program more respectable and challenging.

The students continue to surprise me! Just when I think that it doesn’t matter and they aren’t paying attention, they really let me know that they are. They let me know that they are inwardly calculating the score. I like that!

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Replacing My Energy

Well, I think we all know that this is a crazy time of year and we are all ready for a little break. We only have 3 weeks left of school and the students are getting a little difficult. I would have to say that I definitely a Love and Logic teacher. Our school has been using the program for the last several years and it is nice to have support and resources. Our principals are apart of the Love and Logic Insider’s Club and they frequently get emails which they pass on to the whole staff. I am not sure if everyone reads them, but I sure like reading them.

One tip that I learned from an email is the idea of having students replace the energy that they take from us. For example, if I have to constantly monitor the students and their behavior during class while I am doing storytelling, it really takes a lot of energy out of me.

After class I talk to the student that is causing a problem for me and I say, “I really lose a lot of energy when you do … How can you replace this energy that I have lost.” If they don’t have an immediate answer I let them think about it and then I follow up. If they still don’t have any ideas then I have them do something for me in the classroom. For example, one project I am working on is printing as many books as I can from Readinga-z.com, a wonderful site that has printable books. I asked the student that took my energy to print off some books for me and it was great because that was one less task that I had to do. In fact, I have started making a list of tasks that I can delegate to students. Now I am prepared to have a student do something else for me.

In short, I have found that more honest I am with my students about how I feel about things, the more they respond and start to behave better. When they start behaving better they start to acquire more.

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my next tprs endeavor– playing the game

I am always thinking about where I can go next in my tprs journey. It has been quite the wild ride and slowly I feel more confident and less like I am surviving all the time. I am still nowhere even close to where I want to be and that is why I am thinking about my next step.

For me, I want to get really good at getting my students to “play the game.” What does this mean? Well, it’s hard to describe, but basically the tprs game is a competition between the students to come up with the most clever details. This is another tool that leads to engagement. Also if the students are playing the game well, they almost forget that they are in class, learning a language. This leads to acquisition because they are not consciously learning the language, it is sort of just happening. As always, the teacher plays too. However, the most creative answers usually come from the students.

If a story is dying or falling flat, usually it is because the students have decided that they do not want to play the game. If playing the game can lead to increased acquisition, well I would have to say that the opposite is also true. Lack of playing the game will not only make the story dull, but also not lead to acquisition and decrease the amount of buy in that the students have for your class. Trust me, it’s in our best interests to get the students to play the game.

Some may say, “Thomas, this is one of the first things that you learn in tprs!” Well, that may be true, but here I am. I still feel that I need to grow in it.

We’ll see where this leads. So if anyone out there has any suggestions, I am all ears. I am sure a book could be written on all the ideas that people have. I’ll post what I find out.

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My latest classroom management tool

Lately, I have introduced a new classroom management tool that is quite effective and also adds fun to the classroom. No, I’m not talking about Fred Jones or Love and Logic, which are both great. My new classroom management tool is simply a squirt bottle.

It is amazing what a little water will do for a class. It adds instant attention, especially if someone decides to put their head down for 2 seconds or if you just want to randomly squirt people. Of course I avoid nice clothes and faces, as well as the obvious places, but it really can be quite fun. It creates an environment of fun in the class as well as takes care of unwanted behaviors, like speaking English. Now, I still use other classroom management skills, which are vital to success in tprs. But this was a nice addition to the classroom that gets students to do what we need to do and have fun at the same time.

One student even donated a super soaker to class that sprays 3 different directions and also has an option that creates a pleasant mist. Pleasant to me, of course. The next day another student brought in a different type of super soaker. Who could have thought that a water gun would be such an effective management tool that leads directly to acquisition and lowers the affective filter. Why don’t they teach this stuff in college?

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Dealing with Attitude

I am sure we all have students who have a little bit of attitude. Sometimes this is hard to deal with, especially when the teacher is trying so hard. I feel that many times it best to not give attention to the attitude or rather to respond with empathy, but I have been experimenting with another way as well.

When students give me attitude, I give it back. I just mirror exactly what they do and they see what they look like. When they see what they look like, they almost always lighten up and realize that they are being a bit disrespectful. Again, probably not a best practice idea, but it seems to work with some students without giving them a lecture or yelling at them.

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They Just Want to Play

I have gotten used to the fact that I teach Freshman. This can be a wonderfully exciting task and at the same time very frustrating. Just like everything else, they come in all shapes and sizes, but most importantly they come with different personalities. I have experienced that it is during this time that you can really see the differences.

Well, one particular type of freshman comes across as being very immature and they really like to joke around a lot. At first glance a teacher may see this as a problem, since the clever little guys are always keeping the teacher on their toes. I finally figured out, after having them for 3 months, that when they get this way they really just want to play. They love playing! But more importantly they want somebody to play with them. It is important to keep your professional distance, but I found that I am way more successful with them if I play with them at their level. Sometimes, I am better at being more annoying than they are, and all of a sudden it’s not as cool to be annoying because the teacher does it better. It may seem strange, but it helps to curb their behavior.

None of this may be right and it probably doesn’t align with any research or best practice teaching. But as far as figuring out my freshman, it seems to be a key into their complex little minds. You see, they are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. Will I get offended by that or will I just learn to play with them? A good thought to meditate on.

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