2a. Creating an environment of respect and rapport
On the first day of class, I give students a course expectations sheet. On it, I outline classroom procedures, materials/supplies needed, class rules, grading and assessment practices, and a list of units of study for the year. I also include contact information for parents and students alike.
One thing that I absolutely insist upon in my classroom is that we all respect one another. I do not allow teasing or bullying of any kind, and I when I hear kids “joking” with one another in what may be considered a disrespectful way, I make students apologize to one another. As part of classroom respect, I insist that gentlemen do not wear hats indoors, undergarments are UNDER clothing, electronics are where I cannot see them, and food is left in the cafeteria.
2b. Establishing a culture for learning
Once students know what to expect, I have very few discipline problems. I keep students on task by asking questions pertaining to the reading/task at hand whenever they seem to be veering on to another path.
I display their work around the room, particularly their creative work. I have posted pictures of the posters they have created (and may refer back to as needed when they are hanging up), as well as their Visible Thinking exercises for the unit so that we may refer back to things they may have seen or thought about earlier in the unit.
I have a specific shelf for each class’ journals, as well as reference materials around the room for them to use (dictionaries, thesauri, etc). When a student asks me what something means, they have come to know that my response to them will be, “Get thee to a dictionary.”
2c. Managing classroom procedures
Kids know that we have set routines for group work, their packets are set up in a similar fashion, their vocabulary quizzes follow a specific format, as do their reading quizzes. I create this routine so that they become comfortable in knowing what is coming. When they see their journals on their desks, they know that we are doing a Visible Thinking exercise. When they trade papers for peer grading, they know automatically that they have to have a red pen and put their name in the lower right-hand corner. They also know that they are expected to have the MLA heading on every piece of work that comes in for a grade, and that the heading is checked by peers during written/vocab quizzes.
2d. Managing student behavior
If students know what to expect, then there are very few surprises. The fewer surprises, the more comfortable they seem with a routine, and classes run smoothly.
I expect that students will refer to me as Ms Woodward, and not simply as “Woodward.” I also expect that they will respect my boundaries and work space just as I respect theirs. That means that students may not simply walk up to my desk and help themselves to anything they find (such as a writing utensil or a stapler). I remind them that I would never come up to their desk to help myself, so they may not do so with my desk. Students seem to understand and respect this guideline.
2e. Organizing physical space
I change the configuration of my room quite frequently. While I begin the year in rows (better for me to learn their names from a seating chart), I do form various sized groups for each unit, depending up on how many groups I need.
This gets a little tricky when I have two class levels doing different pieces or are at different points in a unit. I tried to plot my units out to last an entire quarter so that I could leave the desks in one set configuration for the full ten weeks.
For Enriched: During Every Bone Tells a Story, I needed four groups, one for each hominid. When I moved on to The Odyssey, I used eight groups because of the wide array of cultural mythology we were using. In the third quarter, we were in six groups for Gulliver’s Travels and again for the fourth quarter with Romeo and Juliet; three pairs of feuding families.
For Consultant/Regents: We worked in four groups (albeit they were rather large groups due to class size) for Plato’s “Apology.” By the time we got to short stories in the second quarter, I decided that we would have paired rows where students could “go head to head” with a partner. This required me to physically reconfigure the classroom between Regents/Consultant classes and Enriched, but I felt they work better with partners instead of in larger groups at that point. They went back to groups for Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, and for the poetry unit.
I mixed students up during the year so that they had the opportunity to work with as many people in the class as possible.