Classroom Management | Establishing and Maintaining Behavior Standards
When Ms. Jones walked into her class, she was thrilled. She had spent an entire week researching an interesting way to introduce the concept of geometric angles to her class. Finally, she stumbled upon an idea, tweaked it to suit her class, bought all the required material, wrote down her lesson plan, reviewed it with a peer and finalized it. Today, she was going to have her class build bridges with Popsicle sticks, and through the activity she was going to introduce the concept of geometric angles.
When the class began, Ms. Jones divided the students into six groups. Each group was given a dozen Popsicle sticks and asked to build a bridge. The groups were allotted 15 minutes for their activity. As per the plan, while the groups built their bridges, Ms. Jones was to stick pictures of some famous bridge structures from around the world. But before she could begin sticking the pictures, she had to control the students. Some groups had made a catapult with their stick and were using it to throw paper balls at the other group. In another group only two students were doing the activity while the others students were chatting with each other.
Ms. Jones tried to bring order into the class, but by the time she could get everyone to listen to her, she had lost 25 minutes and her patience. Finally she taught the concept in theory and wound up the class, promising herself never to do any activity with the students.
One of the important factors that affect the success or failure of a class is establishing and maintaining student behavior. Most often it is assumed that every teacher has to know how to control her class and students, it’s a part of their job profile. Therefore, most teacher training programs focus only on academic aspects and don’t teach classroom management strategies. The result of which is Ms. Jones’ class.
Establishing ground rules and managing student behavior plays a critical role in ensuring the success of every class. And, teachers should spend a good amount of time developing and implementing strategies for good classroom behavior, especially at the beginning of the year.
Last year, I took a course on Coursera – First Year Teaching (Elementary Grades) – Success from the Start. The focus of the course was not on how to create successful lesson plans but how to create positive, productive classroom environments where students thrive. The different modules in the course focused on the following aspects:
- Setting and communicating high expectations for students;
- Building positive relationships with and between students;
- Organizing the learning environment;
- Behavioral preventions and interventions; and
- Establishing and maintaining routines and procedures that support student learning.
The objective was quite clear – work systematically and build strategies to create a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. It made sense, because only if a classroom environment supports learning, can learning occur. Every module in the course had detailed notes and supporting videos that explained different classroom management strategies, each of which emphasized the importance of beginning a school year by planning how teachers will manage their class and create an environment for learning.
While I cannot share the notes from the course, I am sharing the assignment, I did for Establishing and Maintaining Behavior Standards.
——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Describe how you will:
• involve students in developing behavior expectations.
• reinforce positive behavior and respond to misbehavior.
• helps students take responsibility for their own actions.
When the year starts, I will interact closely with students and observe them for the first week to understand their personality, attitudes and learning styles. I’ll use these observations as an input to devise future lesson plans and also to identify what type of behavior rules I need to set in class.
In the second week, I’ll work with students to set behavior rules for the different activities done in class as well as general acceptable behavior for the classroom.
Students will be divided into groups and each group will be asked to list acceptable behavior and non-acceptable behavior for activities such as – responding to questions in class, doing group activity, behavior while entering and leaving class, etc.
When groups have made their list, I will read out their list to the rest of the class and discuss their thoughts. Once students have agreed to the list, the group will write it on a chart and put it up on the wall in the classroom.
We’ll begin with 2-3 charts at the beginning of the year and develop new ones as new activities are introduced in class.
Before we begin an activity, the class will be asked to review the rule list and then begin the activity. We will also discuss the consequences for not following the rules. Students will be asked to come up with the consequences; this will help them take ownership of their own behavior. At the end of the activity, students will be appreciated for exhibiting good behavior. I will meet those who did not follow the rules separately in a one-to-one meeting to understand their reasons for not behaving well, and to reinforce the need for positive behavior.
To ensure that students practice good behavior at all times, I would implement the “Secret Student” technique. Each day a secret student will be chosen at random from the class. Only the staff members will know the identity of the secret student. In every lesson the teacher will observe the secret student and rate him/her on a set of parameters.
At the beginning of the next day, the teacher will announce who the secret student for the previous day was and how many points the student helped the class earn. The teacher will talk about the good behavior exhibited by the student and appreciate the student’s efforts.
The secret student technique focuses only on positive behavior, hence if the secret student did not earn any points his/her name will not be revealed to the class, but they will be told that they did not earn any point for that day.
Good behavior will earn points for the secret student’s class. At the end of each month, the total points will be calculated and the class with the most points receives a reward. Students will not know who the secret student is, it could be one of them, and hence they will be at their best behavior so that the class earns a point. This technique can be implemented for the duration of a term.
To introduce variety in behavior monitoring, I would introduce behavior report cards for the next term. At the end of each day, students would do a self-evaluation and rate themselves on their behavior report cards. The cards would be sent to parents at the end of the week. If a student’s rating was not upto mark, they would be asked to write a letter to their parents/guardians explaining their reason for the same.
Do you think this plan would be effective?
What strategies would you make at the beginning of the year to better manage student behavior in class?