Posted by: Michel Baker | September 2, 2015

Classroom Management: A Response to Charlcie Swadley’s Post on the iFLT/NTPRS/CI Teaching Facebook Page

A fellow practitioner named Charlcie Swadley asked an important question about management on the IFLT/NTPRS/Ci Teaching Facebook page…I was so glad she asked the question.  Taming the “barbarie” into a “civilicación” is a very constant reality for all of us, and in my opinion, it is half of what we do.

I spent the first three years of my career working to learn classroom management skills, as this did not come naturally for me at all. Over the next 20 years of your career, you will collect a whole bag of tricks you can use.

I encourage you to go observe some of your master classroom teachers, and ask what they do. Fred Jones’ Tools for Teaching is an entertaining and life changing read for softies like me, full of advice about Meaning Business, and illustrated with Far Side-like cartoon drawings.

Jason Fritze reminded us this summer to divide the class into two teams that compete with each other, which they seem to love.

Model for them the procedures you want to see, then have the class practice them silently with you. If anyone makes even one gutteral noise, we redo …practice, practice practice for the first several weeks of school until they get it right. Use every failed behavior as a great teaching moment/opportunity (Fred Jones). Behavior management is ALWAYS first before instruction. If someone on one of the two teams is a repeat offender regarding behavior, I tell the class that I will remove such a person from the team to play on their own team against their own self in order to keep from walking laps at recess. Talk with the whole class, as though you have no idea who it is out there that might consider such a thing. They usually shape right up.

Use Carol Gaab’s Silent/Managed Response.

As the year progresses, I start a notebook that has one page per homeroom, with a sticky note T chart for each child who needs extra support, and I mark a positive point every time I catch them showing leadership, a negative point when they are forgetting to follow the prodedures. If they get more points on the positive side, they have been a leader that day; if more on the negative side, how ever many more points they get on there is the number of laps/minutes they must walk at the next recess. I explain this to the student one on one, and I conduct it without the rest of the class knowing.

However, those are the biggest guns I have, and I only bring them out as a last resort. Most of the time, I just keep all of my students as far away from the cliff as I can by doing more preventative things: using my proximity as I physically “work the room,” keeping Jones’ “red/yellow/green zones” in constant flux so that no one has time to even consider whether it is safe to “goof off.”

Each child is told they may sit in Criss Cross Applesauce or with both knees under their chin, as long as they are on their bottom at all times.. They may also stand up if they need to, as long as they are not blocking someone’s view, and it truly helps them to focus…I move to where all can see, if I can help in that way.

Students are taught to “think it to yourself in your brain,” rather than blurting. They are only allowed to talk without raising their hand under three conditions: when they are making a +/- Rejoinder comment in TL (I am not talking at the time, they say it once and stop saying it, no one else has just made a comment, it is respectful, it makes good sense, and they say it in TL), checking for meaning or answering a question that I ask them. All other questions require a raised hand, and I usually silently and lovingly motion for them to put their hand back down, or I hold up a translated sign that asks if it is an emergency, followed by a sign that asks if it can wait. I offer question time at the end of class, on their way out, while the others are silently exiting class, but I try not to encourage this to get out of hand.

I used to lose my voice a lot and had to learn how to redirect them silently with gestures, so I still do a lot of that simply to keep from allowing the instruction to be interrupted with verbal redirection…Ben Slavic points and pauses at rules on the wall while making firm and loving eye contact with the perpetrator, and I adapt this for elementary by pointing at the part of the body on the”Rules Boy” poster that needs to be under control. When the student complies, keep eye contact with them while you smile, and say, “Gracias. (a la Susan Gross).”

I encourage you to invest in some wiggle seats by Isokinetics…I now have a class set, worth it. You might also try to keep a sturdy antique chair, a rocking chair, a bean bag, rolling chairs with a small stool to steady the feet, for the neediest students. Set your teacher’s desk in the back, arrange the seating in a Fred Jones chevron with wide pathways and boulevards that allow you to get to any student within as few steps as possible.

Keep a seating chart. When you need to change someone’s seat, ask the class to subvocalize as you spell the students’ names aloud while writing them onto the new spot on the seating chart. If you do not trust the students to wait quietly for you, you can always fall back on the Silent Game, with one volunteer up front looking for the quietest boy in the room, or a girl, if s/he can’t find a quiet boy.

Set things up for success by asking them to “nod their head if you think that…”

Work out, eat right, drink plenty of water and get to bed early each night so that you will be there to catch that ball and stay one step ahead of them behavior wise…never take your eyes off of them.

Program your computer alarm to go off 3 minutes before time to leave, all across the day so you can focus on THEM.

Keep a points system, this year’s for me is a tiki on a surfboard on a wave. They start out almost at the top of the wave on the number 3. They can either go up over the wave to land at 5 or down the back side of the wave to land at 1. Tally this on a chart at the end of class, and culminate with a celebration in December when they “get enough points to have one.”

Finally, and most importantly, use the Love and Logic ways…love the students…they will be able to tell if you don’t. Say, “I expect everyone in this class to do these things. If someone forgets, I will give the student a chance to fix it. If s/he can’t fix it or will not fix it, I will do something. And what I do will depend on that person’s situation.”

Mean business and love the students. They will rise to the occasion.


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