Just wrapping up two days at an incredible conference in Indianapolis put on by the PATINS project. One of our sessions centered on student engagement and we taught how to actively engaging all learners using creativity, evidence-based strategy (example), and technology (example) through the UDL framework. In sharing strategies in how to engage all learners from the start, we spent a few moments on key prerequisites to hooking learners into the lesson. I wanted to expand on one here that is critical for all classrooms.
This often overlooked component to engaging learners into the lesson in classroom management. If you do not have an environment in which positive student behavior is the norm. I strongly recommend you start working towards establishing a positive and productive environment first, if not, it is possible that things will only get worse. Here are 4 places to start if you want a quick classroom makeover.
1. Teach behavioral expectations. Take a moment to think through the perfect student. What would that perfect do (versus not do) in your class? The answers to that question should help you design your expectations. Remember to keep the simple, only 4-5 expectations, and be thing to “do” as opposed to things to “not do”. After you design them, teach them! Let your learners know what exactly you are expecting so they know how to do it successfully. After you teach them, celebrate students who do them.
2. Have an attention signal. Having a way to get your learners attention is a necessity. You don’t want to raise your voice and scream to get all eyes on you. Not only is this a safety issue, it also can be frustrating and slow down your learning activities. A popular one is raising your hand high and waiting quietly until all the learners do the same. You can also clap a cadence with your hands and have your learners respond with the same cadence. It doesn’t matter what you do, just pick it, teach it, and stick to it.
3. Have a back up plan. There are times when we teach, that things absolutely do not go like we planned. Maybe the activity doesn’t take as long or it is too complicated. We try our best to get it right every day of every year with every learner, but there are times when things do not go where we anticipated. It is in these times that it is easy for our classroom to get a little on the wild side. To navigate this effectively, I recommend having an emergency lesson box. In this box, you have enough materials/supplies for 5 lessons that can be done at any time through the year. It is not dependent on where you are with your content, so it is a plug and play activity that is educationally relevant. So when the ship is sinking, you have a life boats ready!
There are many more components to effectively managing your classroom, but these 3 are a great start.