Currently Browsing

Posts Tagged ‘ classroom management ’

5 Rules for the First Day of School

5 Rules for the First Day of School
Typically, it’s the students who receive the rules on the first day of school. However, there are some rules teachers should follow too. Following these rules on the first day of school and throughout the school year can help ensure success.

1. Be Welcoming

Many veteran teachers live by outdated axioms, such as “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving!” and “It’s easier to go from mean to nice than from nice to mean!” While these nuggets of wisdom contain some truth, experience has shown that most students – even those with behavior issues – benefit from a warm, welcoming environment, not one based on obsolete clichés. Greet your students as they come into your classroom. Make them feel comfortable in their new, unfamiliar surroundings. Allow them to take ownership of the setting by referring to it as “our classroom.” A strong presence in the classroom can take back momentum at a moment’s notice, even if you smile at your class before the leaves on the trees change color.

2. Be Specific

Many students won’t remember much of what you say on the first day of school and parents will sign your contract without giving it a second look. Despite those unfortunate truths, it is imperative that you design your syllabus or contract with specific information and properly enforce whatever you distribute to students and parents. If you weigh your grading components differently, break it down on paper. If there are stages to your behavior modification plan, list the steps you will take to correct misbehavior. If you give formal assessments on regular days, create a calendar. These simple steps will keep your students and their parents informed, and serve as evidence should your methods be questioned by an administrator or parent.

3. Be Prepared

Just because it’s the first day of school, it doesn’t mean you should improvise your lesson. Have the entire period planned out with ice breakers, activities, and, yes, even class work. Setting the tone on the first day doesn’t mean being strict and insensitive (see rule #1), but it does mean being consistent and organized. Students will remember if you ended class too early, and that can set a precedent that is hard to shake.

4. Be Collegial

Teachers often share the same students. These teachers likely meet as part of a team or to informally compare notes. If your schedule allows, it would be helpful to make an appearance in your colleague’s classroom during the first few days of school. This is a special show of support for someone whose skills you will rely upon for the next nine months. This united front of solidarity also help students see your educational interdependence. You will know the excuses, explanations, and issues from their other classes and you can use that information to better educate them.

5. Be Ready for Anything

A new school year and new students means a new set of unknowns. Never be surprised when something happens for the first time and always be prepared with a rational response to problems.

Whether it’s your first day of teaching or you’re a veteran of the back to school grind, following these five simple rules can make your first day a walk in the park and set the tone for a prosperous year of learning. Read Back to School Tips for Teachers for more advice on a great start of the new school year.

How to Refocus a Difficult Class

How to Refocus a Difficult Class

Even the most seasoned teachers have encountered a class they just can’t reign in. If you’re currently facing a troublesome group of students, don’t give up hope. Here are five simple methods for taking back control of your classroom, while still maintaining your sanity and professionalism.

#1 Take advantage of the support systems in place

There are various school support personnel in every school district and many of them can provide you with valuable feedback. From guidance counselors to school psychologists and social workers, there is usually someone who could offer advice on how to work with a specific student, or suggest methods that work with a particular issue. Also, you may not be the only one dealing with these issues. Talk to other teachers who may teach the same students as you to see what strategies they use that work.

Parents and guardians are part of the support systems too. The best phone call you make will be to parents and guardians. Communication with parents is the most effective method for eliminating bad behavior in the classroom. Make phone calls whenever necessary, and remember to call parents back when the behavior improves. You’re more likely to get them on your side if you take time to note the positive.

#2 Don’t use threats to change negative behaviors

It’s tempting to scream,“If this doesn’t stop right now, every single one of you will be assigned detention today!” or “The next person who utters even one word will get a zero on this test!” Threats don’t go over well with students and are nearly impossible to enforce as a teacher. Don’t succumb to the ease of idle threats. Instead, pause before making the threat and think of other strategies that might work in the moment.

#3 Follow your code of conduct

Students should be aware of the teacher’s or the school’s code of conduct. A code of conduct should outline the consequences for specific behaviors in the classroom. If tardiness is the reason you’re losing control of your class, follow the written code of conduct to correct the misbehavior. This shows students there are direct effects for their actions, leaves a paper trail of your decision making, and often triggers an automatic phone call home. Using an already published and readily available list of consequences also eliminates accusations of unfairness or favoritism.

#4 Engage ringleaders in positive behaviors

When a classroom veers out of control it can often be traced to a few ringleaders who influence the entire class. Those students should be dealt with directly, including all the steps listed above. They should also be given a chance to be a positive member of the classroom. Give them responsibility and go out of your way to compliment positive behaviors. This tells them the consequence that resulted from their poor behavior is not personal and there is ample opportunity to gain attention for the right reasons.

#5 Mix it up and engage the class with your lessons

The best recipe for classroom management is a good lesson plan. Look inward and ask yourself: Are my lessons stale? Can I find materials that are more engaging? Are the students being asked to be passive or active learners? Trying something different can be daunting because no one likes to experiment with the unknown in an already difficult situation, but it is our professional responsibility to give our students the best chance at success, even if that means changing what has worked in the past. One way to reinvigorate your lessons is to use engaging materials, such as graphic organizers or text analysis worksheets, which are part of Help Teaching’s free printable worksheets collection, to encourage higher level thinking and more active student participation.

A difficult class is never a lost cause. Follow these steps to ensure that you’ve exhausted all of your options so you – and your class – have the best chance at success for the entire school year. Read 5 Rules for the First Day of School for more advice on how to create a welcoming classroom.

 

7 Things to Remember When Working with Kids with Autism

7 Things to Remember When Working with Kids with AutismApril is Autism Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about autism within the community. As autism rates have risen over the years, so has awareness. However, as parents of children with autism know, a lot of myths and misunderstandings still exist. Whether you’re a teacher, a principal, or someone who works in another capacity in the schools, it’s important that you avoid the myths and develop an accurate understanding of what autism is and what it looks like to work with kids with autism.

1. Autism is a Spectrum

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of autism is that kids with autism are on a spectrum. There’s a world of difference between kids with high-functioning autism versus low-functioning autism. Before assuming anything about a child with autism, learn where they are on the spectrum and what particular aspects of autism they demonstrate the most.

  • Are they socially awkward?
  • Do they have trouble understanding non-literal language?
  • Do they lack basic communication skills?
  • Do they have tics?
  • Is it difficult for them to make eye contact?
  • Do they express emotions inappropriately?

Not all children with autism will express all of these traits and some will express all of them and more.

2. Autism does not Signal a Lack of Intelligence

Many parents have sat through IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meetings where they listened to professionals discuss their child’s lack of intelligence. For example, in a recent initial IEP meeting for a newly-diagnosed child with autism, the Child Study Team leader said, “We’ll give him a series of tests to see where he is, but I’m sure he’ll be low,” simply because the child had been diagnosed with autism. Imagine how surprised she was to learn that not only did he not score low, but he was working above grade-level in multiple subject areas. Kids with autism may struggle academically, but often their struggles do not signal a lack of intelligence. Rather, they signal their struggle to adapt to the educational system. In many cases, kids with autism solve problems and communicate differently than what is expected. Sometimes teachers and other educational professionals think they got the answer wrong, when really they just thought about it differently.

3. Autism Often Confuses Other Kids

Recently Sesame Street introduced its first autistic character, Julia. 7 Things to Remember When Working with Kids WIth Autism Sesame Street AppWhile Julia represents a character that many children with autism can relate to, she also serves as a tool to help teach other kids how to interact with kids who have autism. Kids don’t always know how to act around kids who are different or who don’t do what’s expected. Teachers can use models like Julia and other activities to help kids understand what autism is and how to interact with their peers who have autism. After all, everyone has differences. Some of those differences are just more noticeable than others.

4. Autism is Unpredictable

One thing about working with kids with autism is that you are never quite sure how they will react. Sometimes, you’ll expect them to react negatively to a loud concert and they’ll be fine. Other times, you will think a certain activity will be easy for them and it will become a major challenge. When you work with kids with autism, you must be flexible. You must also learn to recognize their cues so you can adjust a situation to avoid making it a bigger problem.

5. Autism Requires Predictability

Imagine living every day without knowing what’s going to happen. For kids with autism, that’s often a reality. They are not always in control of their emotions and navigating life can be confusing. Surprises lurk around almost every corner. However, the adults in their lives can help limit those surprises by developing routines for them to follow. For some kids, just knowing the general schedule of the school day will help. For others, parents and teachers will need to develop a thorough schedule that includes the smallest of events, such as brushing their teeth and going to the bathroom. If the schedule is going to change for any reason, adults should also try to take time to warn the child about the change in advance. For example, a child expecting to do math at 10:15 may be upset by the fact that he gets to out for early recess instead. Even though recess is fun, the disruption to his routine could outweigh that fun.

7-Day Planner

6. Autism Requires Parents and Educators to Work as a Team

Educators have a lot of students to focus on, but when working with a child with autism, it is essential that they take the time to develop a relationship with the child’s parents and work as a team to ensure they are working in that child’s best interests. Educators should respect a parent’s position as an expert on the child, while parents should respect an educator’s professional expertise and observations in the classroom. Educators must also be careful not to criticize parents of autistic children for making decisions related to their child. They must also take into consideration the child’s autism when making observations about the child’s appearance or behavior. For example, a note home saying “Please ensure your child wears socks each day” may seem innocent, but it may not take into consideration the fact that the parent is encouraging the child to become more independent in dressing himself and letting him go to school without socks when he forgets is part of that process.

7. Working with Kids with Autism is not as Difficult as it Seems
Some of the information above may overwhelm educators. “I have 25 students in my class. How can I spend this much time on the needs of one?” At the end of the day, it’s not that hard. Just as you get to know your other students, get to know your students who have autism. Learn their quirks. Get to know their personality. Focus on their diagnosis, but at the same time don’t focus on their diagnosis. Just treat them as human beings.

There are lots of resources available to help educators work with children with autism. One of them is the School Community Tool Kit from Autism Speaks. It contains a wealth of resources, information sheets, worksheets, and activities to help the many different people in a school community understand autism.

For educators looking for help with behavior modification, check out Insights to Behavior, a free resource full of activities to help educators create behavior plans for students, as well as find activities to help with some of the social and emotional challenges kids with autism face.

You can find additional books, videos, toys, and information sheets in the Autism Speaks Resource Library. If you’re looking for more educational resources, you may appreciate Help Teaching’s Life Skills or Study Skills worksheets or use Help Teaching’s Test Maker platform to develop test, quizzes, and worksheets that can meet the needs of your autistic students.

Are you a parent of a child with autism? Is there anything else you want educators to know? If so, please share it with us in the comments.

Tapping into Your Students’ Individual Intelligences in the Classroom

Tapping into Your Students' Individual Intelligences in the Classroom
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences changed the world of education. Before Gardner proposed that a student could have an affinity towards more than one intelligence, a student was usually put into one category that would define him for the rest of his life. The thought that “Johnny is good at math” or “Susie is good at music” grouped kids into categories that, while likely accurate, implied they were weak in all other areas.

Gardner realized children have the potential for eight different intelligences.  These aren’t to be confused with learning styles, but rather Gardner simply meant that we all have different areas in which we excel. As teachers, we should find out each student’s capabilities and individualize our teaching as much as possible.

During the first week of school, have your students take a multiple intelligence test at the literacynet.org website or the bgfl.org website to find their strengths. From there, use the data to help incorporate new ways of expression in the classrooms.

Once you know where students’ intelligences lie, you can help them build their strengths and find their weaknesses by giving them choices on how to present an assignment, project, or test, instead of using the same kind of assessment for every subject. Giving students control over their assignments can create a strong sense of pride and ownership.

The following are descriptions of the individual intelligences to help you, as teachers, recognize these in your students, and ideas to help encourage and use them to assess understanding in the classroom.

1. Musical

Those with musical intelligence are more inclined to play an instrument or sing. They are able to understand, hear, and respond with understanding to rhythm, pitch, meter, melody, and other elements of music. Composers, arrangers, and professional musicians share this trait. Music centers can include CD’s, books on composers, blank composition paper and pencils to create their own music, or music software. Teachers can also present a song at the beginning of class that would go well with the lesson, for example “We Will Rock You” for a Geology lesson (the lyrics may not have much to do with it, but the students’ excitement will be at a high level).

Assessment options:

  • Finding music to go with a story or lesson in class
  • Creating or rapping a song about a lesson
  • Help Teaching’s  music worksheets available

2. Spatial

Those high in this intelligence are able to mentally and physically understand, manipulate, rotate, and transform 3D shapes. This intelligence is associated with architects, engineers, and physicists. Strengthening spatial intelligence is important for all students and can be done by practicing with graphs, spatial rotation exercises, and maps.

Assessment options:

  • Creating a montage
  • Designing a sculpture
  • Creating a 3D puzzle
  • Making a map of a lesson or concept
  • Hands-on net printables at HelpTeaching.com

3. Bodily-Kinesthetic

Students with bodily – kinesthetic intelligence use their bodies to create or solve problems. Those that like to touch and feel different textures, are physically coordinated, enjoy dance, sports, and/or other types of movement are strong in this intelligence. Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is associated with dancers, sculptors, and actors. Teachers can help build this intelligence in the classroom by having students work with their hands, create letters with their bodies, or dance and find rhythms with their feet.

Assessment options:

4. Interpersonal

These students are comfortable with others, like to interact with people, and are sensitive to others’ moods and feelings. They tend to be peacemakers in the classroom, are empathetic, and what others would call “a natural born leader”. This intelligence is associated with psychologists, counselors, and politicians. These students benefit from group projects, mentoring, and being around others.

Assessment options:

  • Oral explanations
  • Role playing of a lesson or concept
  • Work with another student to solve a problem and work out the steps together
  • Worksheets on Peer Relationships and Social Skills available at HelpTeaching.com.

5. Logical-mathematical

Students with logical-mathematical intelligence are rational, logical thinkers and have the ability to reason. They can see the logical relationships between actions and also the relationship between symbols. This intelligence is associated with accountants, engineers, and scientists.  Those with this type of intelligence enjoy solving mysteries and puzzles, working on experiments, working with math problems, and principles of science.

Assessment options:

6. Linguistic

Those with a higher linguistic intelligence have strong verbal skills, a larger and advanced vocabulary, and like to order, play, and understand the meaning of words. They are also sensitive to meter, rhythm, and inflection of rhymes and poetry.  They are also good at entertaining and persuading with their words. This intelligence is associated with writers, poets, politicians, actors, comedians, and journalists. Linguistic intelligence can be strengthened through crossword puzzles with vocabulary words, playing Scrabble or Boggle, giving speeches, and having debates in the classroom.

Assessment options:

  • Essays
  • Writing a poem about the lesson
  • Journals
  • Write a newspaper article
  • Explain the lesson to the class in story form
  • Allowing a student to teach a lesson

7. Intrapersonal

Those with intrapersonal intelligence are very aware and in touch with their own feelings, and often need to be alone to process their thoughts, study, and plan.  Philosophers, theorists, and writers are associated with intrapersonal intelligence. This should be cultivated as much as possible in every student, as introspection and self-reflection will help them make better decisions for themselves in life. Teachers can use a quiet, reflective time in the classroom for students to write down thoughts and feelings, autobiographies, goals for the year, or journal writing with specific topics to get the students to think inward.

Assessment options:

  • Essays written from the perspective of a literary or historical figure
  • Scrapbook reflecting what they have learned from a lesson
  • Questionnaire designed for higher order thinking

8. Naturalistic

Students with a naturalistic intelligence are good at spotting differences in plants, flowers, clouds, rocks, and other items that exist in nature. They are usually interested in the environment and may be told they have a “green thumb”. Archaeologists, landscapers, fisherman, animal trainers, and forest rangers are associated with this intelligence. Students can learn to care for a class pet or plant, classify and sort objects in nature, and visit pet stores and zoos to cultivate this intelligence. We have a multitude of  Environmental Science printables that can aid in the classroom on Help Teaching’s Earth Science Worksheets page.

Assessment options:

  • Reports from the perspective of an object in nature (the life of a rock)
  • Growing a plant from seed
  • Making a photo scrapbook of different animal habitats
  • Allowing them to teach a lesson

There is no “one size fits all” assessment for students, and teachers should make the effort to allow their students to excel in areas in which they have a high intelligence. Strengthening and fortifying their weaknesses will help them be well rounded individuals, and may allow a student to find an area they are strong in they never knew existed.