This fall I have been called upon to help in many classrooms with guidance and management. I routinely present classroom management workshops around the country and there are always many participants in those workshops. I think every teacher understands that you cannot accomplish much in a classroom if there is not some type of organization. A teacher can’t support children in their learning without some type of guidance in behavior. I recently published a booklet for early childhood teachers to help them accomplish that task.
The biggest hurtle in guiding a classroom comes when you have children with challenging behaviors. I am currently supervising 16 intern teachers and every one of them has 1-3 students that are struggling with appropriate behavior. I’ve model-taught in several of these classrooms so that I could provide examples of appropriate strategies. It takes a bit of work to get a classroom running smoothly, but they are all on their way and continue to improve daily. The effort put into management at the beginning of the year will reap great benefits throughout the year.
I am currently at NAEYC’s Professional Development Institute (PDI) in Baltimore. Yesterday I presented a workshop on classroom management. One of the focus points for this year’s conference was the need to support DAP strategies in primary grade classrooms, K-3. This is important to me since I have spent most of my teaching career in those grades. I also currently supervise student teachers and interns, which include candidates working in K-3 classrooms. Although we tend to shy away from the term, ‘management’ when speaking about 0-5 settings, it is evident that it can be appropriate to use that term when speaking about school-age classrooms. From my experience, classroom management in primary grades is the foundation for teachers to be able to teach in a developmentally appropriate manner. I have found over the years that administrators and fellow teachers will listen to a DAP suggestion when they feel the teacher making the suggestion is an effective teacher and can run a nurturing and responsive classroom.
Here are some of the research materials that we use in our program at the University of Utah to provide guidance for our candidates to develop appropriate classroom management skills:
• Forlini, G, & E. Williams, A. Brinkman. (2010). Class Acts: every teacher’s guide to activate learning. Bronxville, NY. Lavender Hill Press.
• Jensen, E. (2013). Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
• Wilson, M.B. (2013). Teasing, Tattling, Defiance and More. Turner Falls, MA. Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc.
• Armstrong, T. (2006). The Best Schools. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
• Charles, C.M. (2014). Building Classroom Discipline, 11 Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Pearson.
• Cunningham, P. & R.L. Allington. Classrooms That Work: they can all read and write, 5th Ed. Boston, MA. Allyn & Bacon.
Of particular note is the ‘Big 8’ format that we use, in collaboration with Granite School District, which comes from the book listed above, Class Acts (Forlini 2010). Expectations, attention prompts, proximity, cueing, signals, time limits, tasking, and voice, provide a wonderful framework for helping pre-service teachers develop that all-important classroom management foundation.
We recently went to visit an ice exhibit that is in our area this winter. In anticipation of the visit, we dressed warmly, took hats and gloves, and wore heavy-duty shoes that could navigate the snow. We expected it to be cold and we prepared ourselves for the conditions, knowing what to expect in the snow. I often work with my student teachers on setting expectations about the behavior that they want exhibited by their students. Just as I would have been incredibly cold without proper preparation for the ice exhibit, we often don’t prepare children enough with instructions for them to follow through as we expect. Expectations come before the children proceed.
“I am going to count to 10. When I get to 10, you should have all of your materials put away and you should be sitting in front of me on the carpet. One…”
I watch teachers give marginal instructions to children and then get exasperated when the students don’t immediately comply. Unclear expectations can lead to chaos and inappropriate behavior. Current research tells us that children often misbehave because they don’t know what is expected (even though the teacher may think they know how to behave). Also, expectations must continually be reinforced and repeated. I often ask my students, “Why are there speed limit signs on the freeway?” Because, we ALL need continual reminders about expectations.
Clear expectations and follow-through have always been key factors in creating a positive learning environment.
I was instructing my student teachers this week about setting up a classroom to avoid negative behaviors. I often use information learned from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL) at Vanderbilt University. I mentioned in earlier posts that I was trained by the center when we were working on social and emotional strategies in Head Start. We saw a marked increase in the ability of teachers to curtail negative behavior in the classroom, when they used the strategies suggested by CSEFEL’s research.
This past week we were talking about classroom setup and how important it is to have a well thought-out schedule and a concrete way for children to know what is expected during the day. I love having a schedule in the room (horizontal and visual for PreK-2), but I also mentioned the success I had using a ‘Center Board,’ similar to the commercial one you see above. Children in classrooms which are set up in centers can identify what centers are open and available for the day. I’ve seen a form of this used in upper grades, as well, showing the children visually what activities/assignments they need to work on for the day.
I think a center or assignment board, coupled with a solid posted daily schedule helps children feel stable in the setting. Stable children do not exhibit negative behaviors as often as children who don’t know what is going to happen next (CSEFEL, 2006).