I’m trying to get back into blogging with the #SundayFunday challenge. This week’s topic is classroom management. I always feel like this is something I should be better at after six years, but I’m still learning and looking back on situations wishing I’d handled them differently. I’m in the privileged position of teaching mostly upper-level classes with motivated students, but they’re still kids who would sometimes rather do other things besides math.
Here are my three main strategies – mostly prevention. They’re nothing groundbreaking, but they’re key for me.
Build relationships. Get to know your students and let them get to know you too. Many of my students have me as a teacher three or four years in a row, so I have an advantage here. I have students fill out an information sheet about themselves on the first day every year, and I share about myself as well. Go to sporting events, the art show, etc.; show them that you care about them outside of math. Realize that if they have a bad day, they probably have a reason for acting the way they do. If I have a bad day or mess up, I try to acknowledge it. Students need to know I screw up too. I also resort to bribery and bake my classes cookies if they get an ‘A’ average on a test. Feeding them always helps. 🙂
Have procedures and be super-organized. Get your class trained in the basic routine and expectations from day one. One plus of being required to go over the syllabus on the 1st day is that we get a lot of this out the way right away. My students quickly learn what to do if they need to go the bathroom, where to download materials, where to find assignments, etc. Once we get the routine down – walk in the door, read the board, pull up your assignment, work out the warm-up on it, check HW, new lesson – things run pretty smoothly.
Keep ’em engaged! We do math all hour, almost every day. THERE IS NO FREE TIME! Having an engaging lesson helps, but sometimes I struggle to math things like rational functions “fun.” So I crack lots of cheesy jokes and probably use far too much sarcasm. When I ask questions I call on random students, and “I don’t know” isn’t a valid answer. They can get a hint or help from a friend, but not opt-out. I try to mix up lecture with lots of cooperative practice strategies to get them talking to one another. I do lots of visibly random grouping for practice tasks. I’m always walking around the room during practice time asking questions and checking in. I also love projects and try to incorporate one per unit.
Since I just made this handy list for our new MS math teacher, here are some of my favorite activities (that I’ve mostly borrowed from the MTBoS):
- Add ‘Em Up
- Row Games
- Desmos Activities
- Rally Coach (Kagan)
- Question Stack
- Class Consensus
- Speed Dating
- One Incorrect Worksheets
- Sorting/Matching (with Desmos)
- Desmos Activity Builder
- 4 in a row
- Quizlet Live
- Lucky Lottery
- iMovie – solve and explain problems
- Make a board game
- Make comics