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 went to the beach in San Clemente, California, on New Year’s Eve to watch the sunset. Even though it was cooler than normal, it was still a beautiful site. As we were watching the sunset, there was a lone paddleboard rider floating on the waves. I was impressed by his sense of balance that helped him navigate the waves and that he was out there even when it was quite chilly. He quietly floated on the water and made it to shore as the sun sank below the horizon.
Later, I was thinking about that lone boarder out in the ocean as I was trying to shore up a shaky student teacher who was tempted to use premade materials in her classroom, as her site teacher instructed. Even though she knew that it would be better to have the children create their own projects, she wanted to please her cooperating teacher and not cause unnecessary waves. She was looking for that delicate balance to keep from tipping over into the abyss. I showed her the picture of the paddleboard rider and compared it to the fact that there would be times when she would feel alone in her delicate balance, like the rider. I challenged her to keep her head in the game and do what she knew was right, and she would stay afloat on her board and safely make it to shore. I know this because there have been many times when I have felt like I was the only one who insisted on appropriate practices with young children. As I persevered with good practices, I felt great when I knew the children in my care had been supported in an appropriate manner. Because I haven’t given in to peer pressure to cut corners, I still feel like I am keeping my balance as I am heading to shore and will get there safely by sunset.
I have been speaking at a number of early childhood conferences around the country talking about many early childhood topics. One topic that has been of particular interest to educators is my classroom management workshop called, “Classroom Management Should be Easier than Herding Cats.” Most early childhood educators recognize that they must have group management strategies that work with young children. The atmosphere of the classroom is critical to learning and providing security for the children in their care. The handout for my workshop is down the right side of this blog, under Conferences. Check it out. It may contain information that will be helpful to you.
At the beginning of each fall semester at the university, when I meet with my new group of student teachers, I tell my candidates that I insist they learn how to effectively run a classroom. I know that they can learn the academic content and how to create engaging lessons, but if they can’t run an effective classroom setting all the other preparation may be for nothing. I often visit my student teaching candidates’ classrooms and model teach for an hour, emphasizing management procedures. Concentrating on that organization and management works every time. My 18 student teachers who are graduating in two weeks are all rock stars! They can run a classroom and the content and engagement followed closely behind. Since my candidates are assigned to very at-risk schools, I feel confident they will be able to teach in just about any setting. In fact, three of the candidates already have teaching jobs for the fall and the rest have multiple interviews in the next couple of weeks.
I do appreciate products that will help teachers be efficient, such as the Visual Schedule. But, products and classroom materials are only as good as the teacher.