Category Archives: Classroom management
Hello my name is Stephanie and I’m an iphone addict.
I use my iphone in conferences, in meetings and *gasp* even in the classroom but I’m not using it to play angry birds.
Here’s 10 ways I use my iphone to make my teaching more effective:
1. Video – capturing learning as it happens
The main reason I got an iphone was for the video capabilities I’ll often walk around my classroom with my phone capturing student learning. Video can be used for students to check in on what they actually did versus what they really did. For instance, do students give each other time to talk or do they butt into conversations? I will frequently use interviews as an alternative for pencil and paper tests making assessment far less intrusive on the student. Moreover video is an effective way to put friends, family and sometimes even parliamentarians right into our classroom. Using an iphone means footage can be edited on the spot and then shared potentially with the whole world in a few minutes.
2. Posting pictures to the cloud
I’ve easily taken thousands of photos this year of my class. Some of them are the generic photos of kids at school events and on field trips but I also use the photo function as way to capture student learning and thinking. What makes the iphone awesome is that these photos can then be easily be shared even if I’m away on camp. I use flickr as my cloud storage of choice and will sometimes email stand-out pictures to students families.
3. Texting parents
You don’t need a fancy phone for sms and so this hardly seems worth mentioning. Nevertheless, I’ve found the best way to engage with my previously hard to reach parents, parents who don’t have email or might work odd hours, has been through text messaging. 160 characters keeps communication short and to the point. The asynchronous nature of text messaging also gives the parent time to think and then respond at a time that suits them.
4. Professional learning
I’ve got twitter, feedly, diggo, facebook, pinterest all on my phone. I often use my commute in the morning or my lunchtimes to scan my social network feeds for readings and ideas in the classroom. Professional learning for me isn’t a once a week meeting, it pretty much happens from the minute the alarm goes off on my phone.
5. Timers and reminders
The phone has a handy stopwatch and timer available. I’ve used my phone to time students speeches and also a countdown for tidying things up at the end of the day.If you are a bit like me and are so engrossed in teaching that you forget that your student needs to go over to the teacher aide room or need a prompt to photocopy something for class when you arrive at school, the iphone will send you reminder at a certain time or place.
Although I much prefer paperbooks to the electronic version. If I’m desperate for a book and New Zealand shops don’t stock it I’ll make a quick trip to Amazon and hey presto the book was there on my phone. Granted it’s a bit tough on the eyes and I wouldn’t recommend reading the entire of Moby Dick on your phone, but if a student is borrowing my ipad and I want to read a passage from a book, the iphone is great second option.
You are watching a news story with a reading group about kid’s school lunches. One of the students pipes up,” hey why don’t we see what things are like in our class?” The student takes photos of a quick survey, which is then posted to your blog and then let the journalist know via your class twitter account all from your iphone. No more mucking around waiting for the computer to load and finding the right cords for the camera, the sharing is seamless and the ability of my classroom to connect with the outside word is so much simpler.
8. Anecdotal note taker
If you are conferencing with a student or group of students, instead of writing down the conversation or taking a bulky laptop, you can use your phone to quickly record that conversation. I use Evernote which is an easy way to sort each child into folders and the app also has a nifty audio feature. When I’m talking about a child’s reading progress with another teacher, that teacher can hear the child read. The notes I make on Evernote are easily accessible from any device I’ve got the programme installed.
9. What the heck is that?
When I was out on duty when a group of kids spotted a rather interesting looking spider. I had no idea what the said spider was so I whipped out my phone a quick google confirmed the species of the spider and that it wasn’t dangerous to even if poisonous spiders aren’t exactly a huge problem in New Zealand. Point is we can access the information right then and there
10. Augmented reality
One of the most awesome features of the phone is augmented reality. Apps like wikitude, skyview etc. give kids a heads up display of what they are seeing in front of them. If you are on field trip you can learn point your phone in front of a building or a landmark and get a detailed history from wikipedia. Better yet, get the kids to start entering details for their area or make artwork come alive with aursama.
In reality there are hundreds of ways to use your iphone in teaching. What I love about my phone is that I mostly use it for a specific job and then *gasp* put it down again. It is the quick functionality of the phone, the unobtrusive nature of recording, the seamless sharing between channels and the fact it is small enough that I can put it back in my pocket when I am done which makes the iphone an indispensable teaching tool.
Moreover the ipod touch is the most common device students in my class own. Through using my phone, I better know how to help my kids learn effectively with the technology that in too many classrooms is at best sitting in a student’s pocket at worst outright banned from school.
So the next time you see a teacher hunched over their iphone in the staffroom, ask them how they are using it in their teaching and learning.
Whoops I better go, my phone is ringing.
How do you use your mobile device as a teaching tool?
This week I found myself spending what seemed like an inordinate amount of time on pastoral care. Perhaps it seemed inordinate because I find this part of the job emotionally draining. Obviously I can’t blog about actual incidents but this week has really emphasized the fact that students aren’t simply academic learning units devoid of any human emotion. They are real people with real lives. Those lives don’t suddenly stop the minute they enter the school gates and what goes on outside has an impact on learning inside the classroom. But I’m glad I’ve taken the time to listen, support and sometimes to hand out the old lolly pop to the students who needed them this week.
August 22 is a bad day.
2 years ago this date was the worst day.
I didn’t know when I took that picture, which I’m sure most readers will recognize as the Twelve Apostles, that I was just a few hours away from what would be the first of many hospital admissions, blood tests, IV lines and instances of thinking to myself ‘are you old enough to be a doctor?’
So perhaps this date was a rather inauspicious one for me to start my first block of full control for this placement.
The first two sessions went ok but by the third session the junior juggle turned into a junior jungle. I’m not going to sugar coat it, that session was an absolute disaster. Students off task, students excluding others, getting students attention to bring us all back to earth was a herculean task and yes my associate teacher had to step in a few times. The children were in charge in that class and not in a good way.
I went to lunch absolutely dejected and made the worst mistake of all, I complained about how awful that session went with another student teacher. Sure the snarking might have been therapeutic in the short term but I should have put my energy into figuring out how I might be able to improve my situation because there was something I could do differently.
Even though I had a well-planned lesson and some awesome classroom management strategies up my sleeve, I also had something I needed to work on my voice. I am one of those people who has a voice which carries especially when I’m excited.
Having a voice which can cut through chatter definitely has its bonuses in teaching but there was a problem, in the classroom my and my students energy levels were feeding off each other. I can be quite loud and animated which has a tendency to make the students the loud and animated. This got to the point where we had one very loud and animated classroom. Once my voice and energy levels dropped off, the class became a lot easier to manage and I was working with the kids energy rather than against it.
Sure enough by Thursday I was getting through my groups and my associate commented that two of the hardest to reach students in the class were engaged and volunteering in the maths warm up. As more lessons were going to plan, I started to praise not just good behaviour but also thinking and effort. For their part the students were eager to share what they were proud of and what they would differently on the task next time which is the learning conversations I wanted to have with them. I ended my week in a state of teaching bliss, students engaged in different tasks around the classroom with some music on in the background. Something I wouldn’t have imagined as possible on Monday.
Even though I hated it at the time, I’m really glad I had my bad day. We all have moments in the muck of feeling angry and frustrated and GAH why is it all so hard and none of it is my fault grrr, grrr, grrr. Those moments totally are important and necessary but just as necessary is finding a way out of those moments and back to “ok, that sucked. What can I do to deal with it now?”
Even on Monday’s walk home I was mulling over stuff I wanted to do the next day, week, month and year despite being absolutely exhausted which is a very good sign. By Friday then events of Monday had quickly faded into the past and I spent 2 hours after school leaping around to Lady Gaga at the gym when by all rights I should have been collapsed on a sofa somewhere after my first week of full control in the juniors.
I also think that bad days also have another purpose. They serve as a reminder that learning is messy, hard and much like time not a linear process. There are hours of my life which I remember better than I do entire years, conversely events that seems like a huge deal at the time can quickly fade into a hazy memory.
This time last year I was trudging the streets of Philadelphia with the events of the Great Ocean Road still very much dominating my thoughts. This year it didn’t actually hit me that Monday was the day until about 9.30 that evening when Facebook’s new feature of posting old status updates bought the events of August 22, 2009 sharply back into focus. A few tears were shed for the possibilities of a different August 22, 2009 and then I went to sleep knowing that except for this post I probably won’t remember August 22, 2011 as a bad day.
But I will remember to keep my voice down.
Before I went out on Teaching Experience, I had a couple of people mention that year 1/2 teachers have it easy because all the kids are learning at this age group is their 123s and their ABCs with some finger painting thrown in for fun. I’m convinced that anyone who thinks this must never have set foot in a junior classroom. Sure we all know our ABCs and the prospect of teaching that part of the curriculum might seem easy until you are actually staring down the barrel of 25 youngsters at various reading levels and keeping them engaged with reading.
During my first week I quickly found myself in awe of my associate teacher’s ability to juggle 8 reading groups plus the few extra students that come into the classroom for reading knowing full well that in no time at all I would be taking the reigns. Having only observed English classes at my last placement, where the students were reading George Orwell’s 1984, I knew reading was going to be tough task but I’m here to learn so last week it was my turn.
29 junior students, 8 reading groups, 60 minutes and 1 student teacher what could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, quite a bit.
This school’s reading programme is based on small-sized reading groups for more individualized instruction. However the corollary of this type of programme is that a teacher doesn’t have much time with each group, maybe 10 minutes but certainly not 15, which is how long I spent with my first group. This meant I didn’t finish going through all the groups I needed to during the session. I had some kids way off task which inevitably led to trouble which I didn’t pick up on soon enough because I was concentrating on putting the theory of what a guided lesson is into with practice and wasn’t scanning the room.
But with so many balls in the air it is perhaps unsurprising that I might have dropped some. I keep reminding myself that it took me about a week to remember to mark the roll back on my first placement so it is unsurprising that I’m finding the reading session hard when I am still literally finding my way around someone else’s classroom. Right now I have to think about things like where are the marker pens, student-sized whiteboards, modelling books and reading books for students while keeping an eye out for off-task behaviour and also trying to keep focused on the task at hand, taking a guided reading lesson.
Eventually I will remember where the marker pens are kept, that student A and student B have a habit of distracting each other from the task at hand so need to be split up and will make better use of the extra space that the collective indoor courtyard area attached to the classroom has since there are extra bodies in the class and activities going during reading that require extra room.
This is learning at its best: messy, unpredictable with lots of mistakes and the best thing is that I get to make some new mistakes next lesson!
Yes there was stuff I did well. I’m good at using questioning strategies to promote thinking and understanding, the students were moving between activities quickly, the dexterity check is a good way to get the class’s attention and at the end of the lesson the students and I did some collective trouble-shooting of problems encountered during the lesson (which we will recap on Monday) but I’m definitely my harshest critic.
Hopefully next week will see some improvement because I have a lesson assessment with my visiting lecturer which Murphy’s law dictates will be during the class’s reading session. Last placement I taught my best lesson when my visiting lecturer came to visit which was an awesome ego boost but also meant we had trouble generating next learning steps for me. So I’m trying to use this assessment as an opportunity to improve rather than to feed my Type A desires of wanting a nice gold star for my learning.
Teaching Experience 1 is all over bar submitting the paperwork (and dear god is there a lot of paperwork).The last few weeks in particular have certainly given me a lot to reflect back on as I went from an observer and small group teaching to taking responsibility for planning and teaching 4 classes a unit on probability over the last few weeks. I also taught some algebra, fitness and a Te Reo class. Despite my initial jitters I’m thankful that my associate let me pretty much have free reign over the classes for three weeks. I doubt that I would have learned nearly as much if I had done the minimum of 5 days of full control. Certainly having an opportunity to do some unit planning was a highly useful exercise.
I also valued teaching in a school that not only was highly ICT friendly but also had specialist teaching. Not many primary teacher trainees (or indeed teachers) get the opportunity to develop skills in a specific subject area, maths in my case, and I had the opportunity to do so relatively early in my career. Hopefully there’s a school out there which would value someone with some extra maths teaching experience enough to give me a job.
Effective classroom management is essential - You can have the greatest lesson in the world planned but if your classroom management isn’t up to snuff then it doesn’t matter. It’s amazing how gust a few tweaks in classroom management can make the difference between a good lesson and a great lesson. But on the other hand, a few missteps can turn a good lesson into a disaster. I’ve ended up at both ends of the spectrum, and did need to be reminded to actually use all those classroom management techniques I’ve written about.
Keep it Simple and Succeed – There were times when I had far too much going on the classroom to manage it effectively. This is undoubtedly because I’m still stuck in the beginning teacher mindset of ZOMG 45 minutes how on earth am I going to fill up that time? Rather than realizing that by the time the students arrive, get settled and pack up, they’ve really only got about 35 minutes of proper learning time and ZOMG where did the time go? To that end, I need to work on making sure groups are better aware of what they are doing and having some relevant activities set up for students who do finish early. I also need to not bite off more than I can chew during my lessons.
In terms of planning I am generally happy with the overall concept and also using evidence to develop the unit of work. I have some work to do on developing success criteria and making those known to the students. While I am reasonably happy with my planning, my execution is still not particularly good. My major problem areas at the moment are classroom management and time management. I’ve got a good repository of management techniques I could use but need to develop my own style for which ones I actually use. Time management will be even more important in my next placement where I will not have a bell every 45 minutes to remind me that it is time to change lessons.
Despite my poor performance in some areas, I’m so stoked to have had such a fantastic placement at such an awesome school with such a great associate teacher. I’ve been recommending my school to one and all whether they have kids or are in need of a placement for teaching experience.
Right now I’m trying to summon some enthusiasm for lecturers and assignments now the ‘fun’ part of the diploma is over for the next few months and I’m back to the drudgery of readings, assessments and exams! Oh my!
If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest you read Classroom Management techniques Part 1.
7. A musical device
One of the teachers at my school has a small old-school bike horn which she plays when she wants the class’s attention. She uses it at the end of the countdown, but it could be used without. Obviously it adds to the noise, but the noise is distinctive so the kids know that when they hear it they are to stop what they are doing.
8. Dexterity Check
Teacher says “dexterity check” and the students clap five times twice, three times twice, say ‘whoop, whoop’ clap. Once they’ve finished, the students are only allowed to move their lungs and their hearts while the teacher says what she/he wants to say (in other words there is absolute silence). When the teacher has finished saying what he/she wants to say, she says ‘check dexterity.’ At that command the kids go backwards through the chant: clap, whoop, whoop, clap 3 times twice, clap five times twice. Feeling a bit confused? Here’s a guy teaching a group of students how to perform a dexterity check. Obviously this technique would be a bit too hard for youngest kids and some of the older kids (year 8 ) think they are too cool for it. There’s also the issue of time, the routine takes a day to set up and a lot longer to get But the class whose teacher used it thinks it is one of the better classroom management techniques out there.
9. c3 b4 me (see three before me)
This technique is used as a way to avoid getting 100 of the same questions and is a great for kids to manage themselves. Basically it encourages the kids to see three people/books/information sources before asking the teacher for help. For example in maths, we have a bunch of text books, a couple of computers at the back of the classroom etc. that students could check in with before asking the teacher. The students can also ask a neighbour for help.
I used this one when I was teaching in Korea. Basically I would say attention and the students would say it back until I was satisfied that all the students attention was focused on me. This technique was useful for me in a very large class (Think 40 students) where the kids didn’t speak english so I needed a one-word command that could grab the kids attention. Obviously it adds to the noise and excitement, but is effective in large crowds, especially large crowds of English Language Learners.
11. Alternative learning pathways
Avoid having kids off-task by letting them choose the task! At the start of the learning unit the kids are given a print out of pre-test results which show their strengths, gaps, achieved and not achieved areas of the curriculum. They also get a print out of activities from books etc. which will support the various learning objectives. The kids are then directed to highlight the areas that they need help with and find activities to support them. Based on my observation students value this sort of learning because they can choose their pathway (so they have control) and also they aren’t going over material they already know so aren’t bored. Lessons should regularly open with a ‘plenary’ where kids are asked what they have been learning about and at the end there is a closing plenary. The teacher will also pull aside groups in order to concentrate on problem areas. The students also need to see the teacher if they get more than two wrong on an exercise. I wouldn’t recommend this technique for under year 7 and even then there are some year 7s who have struggled with this sort of learning.
This list isn’t exhaustive and I obviously wouldn’t recommend trying to do too many of them at once, however I wouldn’t rely solely on one technique. My advice to trainee teachers would be to have two or three that you consistently use so the students don’t get too confused.
What techniques do you use to manage behaviour in your classroom?
For student teachers perhaps the biggest challenge of being in a classroom is finding ways to manage student behaviour. Teachers yelling ‘quiet’ every five minutes isn’t a particularly effective form of discipline. The kids don’t like being shouted at and you’ll end up with a sore throat by the end of the day.
So what are some techniques I’ve seen in action in the last 4 weeks?
1. You catch more bees with honey…
AKA as positive discipline. Instead of focusing attention on troublemakers, the teacher focus their attention on the children who are behaving in class. Eg. ‘I like the way Sarah puts her books away,’ ‘I like the way Matthew is sitting on the Matt.’ This technique is particularly effective with younger children who still seek a teacher’s approval for their behaviour however I’ve seen it used in year 7/8 classes as well.
2. ‘Eyes on me’
You sing, eyes on me, the students sing it back to you. Good for juniors, drowns out other conversations but does tend to add to the classroom noise.
3. “Clap clap, clap clap”
Like ‘Eyes on Me’ but the teacher claps a pattern and the students clap it back. Suitable for older kids as well as juniors again it drowns out other conversations but it does add to the noise.
4. Stand and glare
This is particularly effective at the end of the lesson and with kids from about year 3/4 upwards. Don’t do or say anything and wait for the class to bring itself to attention. Pro doesn’t add to classroom noise, con takes time there’s a risk the students will continue with their off-task behaviour ignoring you. Must have good ‘teacher glare’ to implement.
5. Hand up
You put up your hand and stand quietly. The students notice and then start to add their hands up until every is silently sitting/standing with their hand up. Pros, doesn’t add to classroom noise and is visible. Con, takes time to train and to implement.
Teacher counts down to 1. The technique is effective when you want to get students to complete a task, eg. putting away reading books, in a timely matter.
7. The silent pick-up
Students are given a list of tasks that need to be done at the end of the class, eg. putting away the paint, washing the brushes etc. The class is checked off against those criteria the students win points for extra jobs and lose points for talking. At the end of term the class with the winning points gets a certificate at end of term assembly.
Part 2 to come tomorrow…