I saw your plea for help at girlwithalessonplan’s tumblr and wanted to offer my two cents of what I’ve found successful with controlling classrooms. It’s great that you had a good day though. Hopefully that’s just the beginning. Your cooperative teacher does not sound terribly helpful, which is a definite failure to launch sort of situation. No wonder you feel like you’re going down with this ship.
I’m an 8th grade math student-teacher. I need help. I have a class where the students just don’t respect me. I’ve had the “classroom expectations” talk with them. I take them in the hallway to talk. I am just at my wit’s end. During group work they don’t stay on task unless I’m right next to them. I just don’t know what to do. There are 27 of them and they are constantly chatting and not focusing. Any ideas? I need to do something ASAP!
Here are my suggestions, take them as you will.
- Separate the desks into rows with significant gaps between them if at all possible. This may mean you need to have rows pretty much right against the walls and take some rearranging but the benefit is that in order to socialize the students now must contact each other over a gap/aisle. Much easier to detect and a good deterrent.
- For a short period of time (2-4 weeks) stop group work. At this point they’re not learning anything from it and the time would be better spent doing individual learning with you there to supervise and assist.
- Importantly, the above suggestions are a clear signal to the students that you are taking this seriously and won’t tolerate their behavior any longer.
- Write out a list of all the things that aren’t working. Be detailed. Google or brainstorm for ideas on other tactics. Go to your cooperative teacher with the list and ask for suggestions that are not on the list. Hopefully greater experience will provide some.
- Instead of lecturing the students/taking them aside to talk, create a punishment-reward system. These are more common in primary school but if they’re going to demonstrate the self-control and attention span of five year olds…
- This system can be relatively simple. Write out a poster with all the infractions that can gain negative points. Write out another poster with all the behaviors that can gain positive points. Individual ‘punishment’ can include taking a time-out outside (for the disruptive or angry student), being responsible for some classroom duty, having to prepare a letter explaining why their behavior isn’t acceptable, etc. Group ‘punishment’ relies on group reward, i.e. take away points from the reward system.
- Rewards can include candy (make sure to get fruit and chocolate so everyone has something they’ll at least eat), having a math problem or two taken off the homework assignment*, a bit of free time to have a group discussion about something that’s on the student’s minds… (This may be about, say, homework or the class schedule. Lunch, availability in the library, behavior of the administration. Whatever adds worry and therefore dissent to the students’ lives, KWIM?) Anything you think might be a positive incentive to these particular kids. *Re: the homework — this is a balancing act. In the long run providing the incentive of less homework does more good for focus and learning than the repetition of a few math problems.
- Be obsessive about observing this point system. Never back down. Be consistent in the enforcement.
- Be loud. As you discovered: vikax:
Apparently my inner “RAWR” came out (according to my cooperating teacher). She said that she finally heard my voice. Seriously, after all this time, she NOW tells me that she thought I was being too quiet. Oh well, better late than never. I had the kids do what I wanted, be quiet when I needed, and it was amazing.
Ultimately some kids may be unreachable by the age you’re dealing with them but the vast majority will respond to direction so long as they know what the direction is and how it works. Knowing exactly what can get you in trouble adds security to kids who are at an age for testing boundaries. I really hope these suggestions help you some and I’m sorry you’re going through this. Best of luck to you.