Day 100 has passed, we’re well into the second half of the school year. We’re also getting to the point that difficult students are driving us crazy. So, what can you do as a classroom teacher? In this series of posts, I’m going to review a handful of tried and true strategies to get your classes back on track and maintain your sanity. Hopefully along the way we can return valuable instructional time.
The most important daily routine for middle level students is getting started as quickly as possible. The longer your students sit with nothing to do, the more likely there will be discipline issues. I set a mental note to always be teaching when the bell rings or class starts. This requires a few steps.
1. Always have a bell ringer or warm up exercise posted. Greet your students by name and direct them to this activity.
2. Start class with as positive attitude as possible, I’m not talking about playing unicorns and rainbows. But the incidents from yesterday are far away in students mind. This is a struggle for teachers because we don’t forget anything. I try to give the kids the benefit of the doubt each day.
3. Clip art does wonders to PowerPoints. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but kids will start talking if they see something that interests them.
4. Understand that 75% of kids will be ready when class starts, work on the 25% who aren’t.
5. Be ready to redirect off task requests. There are always a handful of students that their first act of class is to ask you to do something. Can I.. .
Go to my locker
Go to the bathroom
Go call my parents
Go to the library
You can respond to these request in two ways, “NO” or “We can talk after class gets started.”
I use both approaches, the ultimate goal is to get your students together and on track at the start of class. Many kids use this as avoidance behavior, which leads you to interruptions 3 minutes later when they return. Side note: if a kid is turning green I will tell them to go to the nurse or restroom. These are the rare exceptions where professional judgement tells you the kid is not feeling well.
6. Seating charts are a must. In classes that are difficult, we must provide structure. Removing the daily questions of who will I sit by reduces drama. Additionally, it’s one more variable you can manipulate to help improve students learning. We’ll talk about this on in later posts.
If you are looking to refocus and improve the start of your classes, remember, it’s your classroom. We have a lot more control of what happens in the room than we think. Start with the little details and they rest will fall into place.
Here’s an example of an activity I created for a particularly difficult group of students, Science Stackers. The goal was to get kids working on a hands on activity that engages lesson content.
Best luck with your teaching!
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