For some, classroom management comes easily. For others, it is a daily struggle. I’m one of the fortunate ones, but it has taken me awhile to get comfortable with it.
Side Story – During my first teaching position, I taught grades 3 and 4 at a Hutterite colony. My discipline plan was “they’ll behave”. That lasted all of a day! Then I had to figure something out! HA! What a rookie! =)
Fast forward a few years. I taught a group of 5th graders who were known as “that” class. They were one of the largest classes in the district, there were lots of boys, and they knew what their reputation was.
If I told you I wasn’t a little stressed about teaching them, I’d be lying. However, I knew that with consistency and fairness, they would be fine – just like all the other classes I’d taught.
The fist day came, and we addressed the language expectations I had. We also went through the classroom rules they would be expected to follow. I reinforced these relentlessly in those first few days.
When we got to the point of “real” lessons, I knew I was going to have to be even more rigid about my expectations. The lesson started, and I noticed a student go off task. Without missing a beat, I said that student’s name mid-sentence and kept teaching. However – unlike classes I’d had in the past – everyone in the room swung their head around to look at the student whose name I just said. “Odd,” I thought, and the lesson continued.
A few minutes later, a student was seen whispering to a classmate. I again called out his name mid-sentence and proceeded with the lesson. And once again, twenty-plus other heads spun quickly around to look in his direction.
It took me about two days to figure this out. At one point mid-lesson, I had this “aha!” moment. Every other class I’d taught would not act like this. If I said someone’s name mid-sentence, they basically ignored it. This class fed off of getting in trouble! They knew that meant the teacher would spend a lot of time disciplining and not teaching. I swear they took turns trying to do this!
I said the following to the class. “When I call out Jimmy’s name (20+ heads spun around to look at Jimmy), it’s because I want him to focus on the important parts of the lesson, Roger (20+ heads looked at Roger). That doesn’t mean anyone is in trouble, Sally (20+ heads went in Sally’s direction).”
I continued saying student names for the majority of my 90 minute block with these students. By the end of that time frame, their heads were done whirling around! (probably because they were dizzy, but also because they realized no one was in trouble!) I’m not going to say they were perfect, but they realized that they weren’t in trouble and they weren’t doing themselves any good by whipping their head around to look at their classmates.
Why does this strategy work? By saying a student’s name, you are helping gently remind them to stay on task. I wasn’t reprimanding them for something, but rather just bringing them back to the lesson. There were times where I did need to correct student behavior, but I consider this strategy to be my first line of defense. It’s just a way of saying, “I see you, and I know you’re not totally with me. Come back please.”
This strategy works well even if everyone IS paying attention. At those times, I like to call on the “good” kids. This way everyone realizes that I call out names of ALL students in the classroom.
What strategies do you use regularly in your classroom?
Need more classroom management strategies? Try this blog post entitled Stopping Behaviors BEFORE They Start!