Classroom Management

Dr. Brocato believes the key to classroom management is engaging instruction. She believes in using Studio Based Learning to engage learners as apprentices.

I once had the opportunity to hear a talk about the work of Harry and Rosemary Wong at the Mississippi Professional Educators Annual Conference. They believe procedures and and routines are the key to classroom management, and there work has been proven to turn classrooms around.

I think we can’t necessarily narrow down the one key to classroom management, but I do think that the people who have tried both methods sincerely wanted to create change in the classroom. They want to create safe learning spaces for the students they care about.

I believe in my classroom that I will use a combination of procedures and engaging lessons. Sometimes, I think it is sometimes difficult to create math lessons which cover the standards and engage the students. I think I am more confident in creating procedures.

Once I am in the classroom, I think it will be best to create procedures and attempt engaging lessons. I will observe my students and adjust according to what they need and hopefully include some of what they’re interested in.

 

Design Thinking/Reflective Thinking

Prompted to compare and contrast these two types of thinking by our Sketchbook, I began to think about the definitions of each. Based on our text and what we have learned in class, it seems to me that reflective thinking happens when we make connections between personal experience, prior knowledge, and current experiences or research. I think design thinking works more like the scientific method. We have an idea or a problem. We do some research and ask some questions. We create a solution or a theory. We test it, and we might have to make some adjustments, or we might reach a conclusion.

Design thinking and reflective thinking are related. With each, we have propose, critique, and iterate. I think in design thinking, there must be time for reflective thinking where you can connect what you’r learning with prior knowledge. With Reflective thinking, I think you must eventually use the process of design thinking. But I think that the most important difference is how they occur.

I think reflective thinking must be spurred by something new. Maybe a new event happens, and you reach back into your prior knowledge, and you realize that doesn’t work the way I thought it did. Then, you begin discovering new things and learning. In design thinking, I feel like your thinking is more active. You are actively searching for new ideas and new reasons to learn.

As teachers, I believe we need to be active thinkers, or design thinkers. As it applies to social justice, I think we must actively be engaged in the needs of our students. We have to create new teaching methods which are tailored to them. We have to individualize what we’re teaching so that they, too, may be active, design thinkers.

Inclusivity

Being inclusive is something I wrote down on my identity wheel as an important part of my personal identity. As I continued to read through our classroom sketchbook, I found a page titled Organization Inclusiveness Stages. (pg. 34) There were pieces of this handout that empowered me, pieces that I questioned, and pieces that challenged me. I believe that after thinking about it quite a bit, I have been able to grow from it.

  1. I felt empowered by the statements of the “inclusive” section of the chart. It said “Current insiders actively recruit newcomers and value diversity. Insiders are willing to change themselves and the culture to make room for new people with diverse perspectives, ideas, and ways of working together.” I want my classroom to be filled with this type of insiders. I want the students in my classroom to learn to welcome diversity like this.
  2. I questioned the idea of “explicitly telling those with less power how the power is structured in a group.” The idea here is to bring along equity. I know communication is key, but I feel like the reality of this would involve some tough conversations and a whole lot of grace on both sides.
  3. I was challenged by the idea that “Language can shape perceptions” and “We have to consciously work to find ways  to value all experiences.” To me, that last statement is a call to action, one to be taken seriously.

Thanksgiving Themes in the Classroom

At the end of last week, many people shared their thoughts on Thanksgiving and how the themes of Thanksgiving can be translated into the classroom.

An atmosphere of safety and trust: I, too, am very grateful that I get to experience Thanksgiving each year with my family, and I recognize how important it is that help our students experience a safe environment where they feel comfortable creating and collaborating. I really enjoyed Rafe Esquith’s book Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire. It talks about ways to create this safe trusting environment in the classroom, and I really liked his ideas. He talked about introducing the students to the 6 Levels of Moral Development at the beginning of each year. He creates high expectations for each of his students by asking each of them to act according to their own moral code.

A place where my needs are met: Some of my peers, Kay Kay and Kari, have mentioned how they think it is good for a teacher to keep extra supplies in their room so that the students always feel like they have what they need. I have had multiple teachers who kept pencils, snacks, and even extra feminine products in their classroom for students who needed them. I hope to do something similar in my own classroom.

A place where individuality is celebrated and collaboration is welcome: I also wanted to mention how Thanksgiving can be used as a theme to celebrate diversity. In one of my other classes, some girls did a presentation on a book which they would use in a third grade classroom. It talked about how many cultures all around the world celebrate the time of year which we harvest crops. So while we recognize it as an American holiday where the natives and the pilgrims made peace, I think it is important to add a cultural perspective. (or even a more realistic version, instead of the fairy-tale-like story we tell our kiddos) There can also be an element of cross-content added if we talk about seasons and the earth’s rotation as reasons for the harvest time of year.

Multiplication Facts: The Struggle

As part of our learning experience in Planning for the Diversity of Learners, we are required to tutor in one of the surrounding schools for an authentic classroom experience. I was paired earlier in the semester with a 5th grade teacher, at Overstreet Elementary School. Each week, when I go to visit, she pairs me with a student to go out to the hallway and work on multiplication facts with. I have worked with ~10 students this semester. Each one of them is unique. They solve problems differently. They have different attention spans. They know different amounts of their multiplication facts. They are different races. They are different genders. They have different home lives. Some of their parents are willing and able to help with their homework; others aren’t. But they are all in Mrs. Brasher’s 5th grade math class.

I’ve learned a little about each of the kids that I have had the opportunity to work with. I usually introduce myself and ask them about their day to start off our tutoring session. We’ll work a few multiplication problems. That’s when I learn about what type of problem solving abilities they have developed and what they know or don’t know. Sometimes they share personal information about what their parents do or don’t do to help them at home.

I am sure there are many ways to teach and to model multiplication. In fact, multiplication has been modeled to me several ways, and these kids have even created some of their own. But I worry for them and for their classmates. I worry that maybe the students need more individualized attention. Maybe they need to be ale to test out their own creative multiplication models. Maybe they need to ask more questions, but they don’t know how.

I think one of the biggest things that is missing from the classroom is modeling question-asking and then expecting questions from students. We need to help them and let them think.

 

Disadvantages of Not Individualizing Instruction for High- and Low- Ability Students

One of our class texts is Dynamics of Effective Teaching by W. Wilen. Today, I read “Chapter 7: Primary Instruction Methods”, and I thought one of the discussion questions was particularly thought provoking.

It says: “Research shows that teachers generally do not teach their high- and low- ability students differently. What are some disadvantages of not individualizing instruction more for these groups of students?” (pg. 261)

I remember that my classmate, Kimberly Bates, gave a presentation on the book Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools by Amanda Lewis and John B. Diamond, and her presentation was directly related to this idea. She talked about advocating for students to move up to higher level classes. Because often, when they are placed in low level classes, the teachers set lower expectations. When teachers set lower expectations, research shows that the students do not perform to their maximum capability.

I believe this is the prime disadvantage of not individualizing instruction. Wilen’s book goes even further to say, that this causes the students to internalize what the teachers expect. (pg. 232)Then, they no longer believe they are capable of achieving more.

 

 

What does it mean to live mutual?

Over our Thanksgiving break, I saw a commercial for Mass Mutual. It reminded me a lot of the Regions pamphlet that Dr. Brocato brought to class. I’ve rewatched it several times, now, and I’ve included the link to the MassMutual Youtube channel if any of you are interested in watching it.

In the video it shows a retiree comforting and ICU baby, a mom buying a car for a teacher, a students’ invention that helps a girl play a violin, and strangers hosting a wedding in their home. You will notice that the people in each segment of the video come from very different places in life. They are different races, different ages, and they have different abilities and talents. And I get chills just from a 1:00 minute video about how they all come together.

I think that living mutually means trusting one another, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, and choosing to help the people around you so that we can succeed together. I hope to create a model for this some way in my classroom.

Recently, I worked on a lesson plan which involved the Jig Saw Method. This method was created Elliot Aronson, and he used it in Texas when the schools were being integrated. This is what he had to say about using it in the classroom, “Within a few weeks, long-standing suspicion, fear, and distrust between groups produced an atmosphere of turmoil and hostility. ” This is just one idea I would like to use to help create a sense of trust and an environment of mutuality in my classroom.