Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rules and Procedures

In response to recent feedback from my administrator regarding my struggling classroom management, I'm reading Classroom Management that Works by Robert Marzano, Jana Marzano and Debra Pickering.  As a 2nd/3rd year teacher, I still struggle with it to some degree.  I think by the end of last year I was a successful manager of a mainstream classroom.  Getting a chance to teach remedial courses this year was an exciting instructional opportunity for me, but came with it's own behavioral challenges I wasn't necessarily prepared for.

While the bulk of help I've found from the book thus far is in the chapter on disciplinary interventions, I've decided to offer a summary and critique of each section of the book both for my own benefit (to construct and clarify my thinking) and for those who search Google before Barnes & Noble.

If you've read any of Marzano's other popular books, you know his research for them is largely meta-analytic - he takes numerous studies done by many researchers and mathematically combines the results to yield a larger number of subjects and narrow the statistical range of certainty that a particular strategy will be successful.  Very exciting.  At least, for me.  Yes, I'm serious.  No, nothing's wrong with me.  That I know of.

Marzano's (2003) meta-analysis concludes that successful design and implementation of rules and procedures results in an almost 30% decrease in class disruptions (pg 14).  According to Marzano, rules identify general expectations to be observed at all times, while procedures identify expectations for specific, repeated tasks, like transitioning or leaving the classroom.

While I have plenty of procedures, like expectations for reading workshop, expectations for writing workshop, or needing a rationed pass to use the bathroom, I think it's safe to say I've never clearly identified any specific rules.  There certainly aren't any posted in the classroom.  If I were to ask my students what the rules are for class, they would probably say something like "no talking" (because I ask them not to talk when reading or writing) or "whisper" (because I ask them to whisper when they peer revise in writing workshop) or "raise your hand if you want to talk."  None of these are general classroom rules, but procedures.  The rules I presented to them last week were these:
  1. Respect others and yourself: Treat others as you'd like to be treated. Put forth a full effort - don't short change yourself.
  2. Bring the right tool for the right job: Bring the proper materials to class.
  3. To everything there's a season: A time to sit, a time to walk, a time to listen, a time to talk. Do what you're supposed to be doing when you're supposed to be doing it.
Marzano also stresses that the proper implementation of rules and procedures is not imposing strict guidelines; rather, it involves "explanation and group input" (pg 16).  So, I both explained my rationale behind the rules and asked students to provide any feedback or suggestions they had for the rules on their conversation calendars for the day.  I was then able to individually respond to specific concerns and tweak the rules when it was warranted.

The next step I'm going to focus on in the realm of rules is referring to them when I use disciplinary interventions to reinforce them on a regular basis.  For example, "Jimmy, when you're talking loudly during reading time, it's not very respectful to the people who are trying to focus on their books." It will probably feel a little goofy saying that at first, and I might get some snickers, but I think it will help students be more aware and mindful of them.  I might even say it sarcastically so my students don't feel like I'm treating them like

Next week I'll address Marzano's chapter on disciplinary interventions and reveal the simple adjustment I made to my conversation calendars that completely and immediately changed the tone of my classroom upon implementation.