Monday, June 2, 2008

Classroom Community Day One: Information Sheets

Charlie commented on my post where I did Clay's meme:
My question is what are truly effective ways to address bullying in schools. It seems students suffer so much and so many are unaware of this going on. How do we address it to make it stop? I've googled the bullying sites and seen the nifty programs but it still seems like too little.
My philosophy of teaching stems from my social experiences as a middle school student. To prevent bullying in my classroom, I plan to use the first month in a classroom for community building.

The last time I had a classroom of my own I was student teaching during second semester. So I haven't tried using these methods on my own. But other teachers I met during my college years have used the methods I'm detailing here.

Day One: Ask students to fill out an information sheet about themselves.

This is a nice way to get to know a few details about your students at the start of the year. I also use this day to take pictures of all my students which I then turn into flashcards and begin to learn students' names. Learning names is one of my weak points, but by doing this I usually know all their names within the first two weeks of class.

My information sheet looks something like this:


Class period:

I own a: tape player CD player mp3 player/ipod cell phone

I have access to a computer at home: yes no

I have access to the internet at home: yes no

Number of siblings:


Sports I like to play:


After school today I will:

This weekend, I will:

I think I am:
The second section helps me with a couple of ways I might try to bring technology into the classroom. When I grade writing, I like to read and think aloud and record for the student. Based on the responses I can decide if I want students to buy a tape or a CD-RW. If many have an mp3 player I might e-mail them the files or put them on a password protected website. I also want to know how fair it is for me to ask for typed work depending on the amount of time they have to complete an assignment. I'm also planning on using Twitter to break down the schoolroom walls. From this information and the student's age, I can also start to think about the socio-economic status of my students and their previous successes in school. This will inform my teaching but also just a few of the challenges I might face in helping to build community.

The third section I take and start making a grid for every class. Each grid has a space for every student with some of their facts written in, but without their name. Of course I don't put in any information that might have been shared in confidence.

On the Day Three, I'll pass out one copy of each form to the students and give them about an hour to fill in all the spaces. I might start the class with a quick icebreaker. I also might choose to associate a small grade with it and make a few different versions of the sheet to discourage cheating, but usually just saying "don't use this time as an excuse to talk to your friends" and "don't copy off of each other's sheets" works well enough. I put myself on the grid too and try to complete my own sheet modeling the activity and getting to know the students as well, finding the ones I share common things with (I don't usually remember who is who from filling out the grid during the previous two days).

Day Two: Two Truths and a Lie Name Games

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