Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Setting the Tone Recap

Before school started, I was a little apprehensive about how to set the tone for the year.

After writing that post, I thought Marzano (2003) might have something in Classroom Management that Works.  Turns out there's a whole chapter on "getting off to a good start."

While there hasn't been enough research on setting the tone for Marzano to do a meta analysis, the chapter did confirm the direction I was already leaning towards: thaw slowly.  Hit them hard at the beginning of class and lighten up towards the end as warranted.

Turns out that's totally the way to go, at least compared to what I've done in the past1.  Overall, I've had the best week of my career, including classroom management.  I think it's partially this slowly thawing attitude I've adopted and partially the techniques I've taken from my summer reading of Teach Like a Champion2.

The rules I outlined in my previous post are posted prominently, but the procedures are posted in this PBIS matrix suggested at an in-service last spring.

Calendars are still a big part of classroom management, building report, and utilizing exit slips.  My students are now getting 10 points a day and it's 50% of their grade.

I've been most surprised by the willingness students have to adopt some more prescriptive, acronymic, draconian, measures3.  I have a poster that shows students how their desk should look (Lemov, 2010, p 159).  I frequently use SLAT, which stands for sit up straight, listen, ask and answer questions, and track the speaker (Lemov, 2010, p 158).  I'm am surprised by how quickly 7th graders are willing to sit up straight when I ask them to; I was expecting a lot more push back.  My 8th graders make fun of it, but do it all the same.  My students seem more alert and, with tracking the speaker, more attentive of each other.  If I call on a student to answer a question, they can't refuse to try, because the expectation is established that they ask and answer questions.

I more energetic and more dedicated to selling my content (Lemov, 2010, p 51), and it rubs off on the students.  My calendars have a daily rating for whether students felt they learned something new and if they were bored.  I haven't put the data together in a spreadsheet4, but by eyeballing it students feel they're learning more and are less bored than last year.  This is partially my energy and confidence, but I think also the amount of content we hit on in a day.  To paraphrase Lemov, just like it seems you're moving faster when flying in a plane close to the ground, in class there are numerous reference points students see in a day and it creates the illusion that we are moving faster (Lemov, 2010, p 226).

Works Cited

Lemov, D. (2010). Teach Like a Champion. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Marzano. (2003). Classroom Management that Works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

1. Oooh, big surprise. Go back
2. Great New York Times magazine article on this book.  Some might complain that it boils teaching down to 49 techniques, but I do think great teachers are made not born.  There is some value here. Go back
3. I'm not sure what word describes SLAT and the desk poster.  It feels weird to me. Go back
4. I tried this for one week last year.  It takes long enough to grade the calendars each day alone - when am I going to analyze data?  If I ever figure it out, it's a post in it's own with some awesome citations of K. Anders Ericsson. Go back

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