Incentive Based Classroom Management

One of the pressing issues on my mind when I started my student teaching experience was effective classroom management.  How would I get the students to sit and listen while not going crazy and throwing tomatoes at the front of the classroom.  As someone had said in my methods class earlier this year, its like being on stage, doing improv, and you have to be “on” every period.  But I wondered if there were strategies to use besides just being “on” while I was up in the front of the class, “on the stage”.

This is where the incentives based classroom management system my cooperating teacher and I implemented comes into place.  Its based on college football, specifically when a player has a game changing play, at some schools they get a little sticker that goes on their helmet.  Well, if a student makes a game changing play in the classroom, they can earn a sticker for the class “football helmet”.  In all there are six stickers the class can earn.  Some of the stickers are for attendance (90% of the class), no tardies, and making sure everyone turns in their homework.  If they fail at any of these categories, then a sticker gets taken away.  As they see this sticker disappear for whatever reason, a communal feel appears among the students.  If someone was late that day, and that is the reason they lost the sticker, the other students encourage the tardy student to get to class on time, or they encourage each other to turn in their homework, etc.

There are thresholds then for the amount of stickers they get.  If they get to a certain number of stickers, they may earn a class pizza party.  Another level might allow them to watch a movie of their choice (that is history related) in class.  So they have something to work for, and they even feel a little bit of competition with the other classes, trying to see who can get 50, 100, 0r 150 stickers first.

The system seems to work well, and the students get really into it.  If they are having a particularly bad day, and they have lost a bunch of possible stickers off the bat, we allow them to have a good class and try and some of them back.  This could be through answering difficult questions in class, maybe helping out, etc.  Either way, the system has a communal aspect to it, and the students seem to really enjoy it.

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It’s Like Tai Chi

Hello again, world.  This was our first week with students, and I have to say it was a great week.  We spent a portion of the week setting rules and expectations for the students while they are in our classroom, as well as getting them to analyze and critically think about history.  We discussed how history seems to repeat itself using examples such as the comparisons between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, the Great Depression vs. the Great Recession, and the assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.  The students seemed to really enjoy the conversations and the topics presented in class.

One of the big conversations I had with my cooperating teacher was on classroom management and effectively communicating with students in an urban education setting.  He described it like tai chi.  There is give and take to every situation, and an authoritarian style of teaching probably won’t work as well.  So it is imperative to create positive relationships with these students from the beginning, so they view our classroom as one with positive connotations.

Its been really great to work with my cooperating teacher thus far.  He has been extremely helpful and supportive, sharing with me his resources and asking for my constructive criticisms for the classroom.  Next week, we will start co-teaching as we move into unit 1, which will be starting with Manifest Destiny.  Following that, I will pick up the class with a unit that covers slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction.  I look forward to creating the unit plans for this class and working with the students on a closer level.

The biggest challenge for me will be creating a unit that is engaging for the students while gauging how fast I can move through the material.  I think this will come with time, but I will need to make an effort to slow down the lessons if I think the class is moving at too quick of a pace.  Making sure the students grasp the content will be the most important thing, so I will have to balance engaging material with the speed of the classroom, which will come with experience.

But so far, so good.  I will update you with how our lessons went this week, specifically the mini-Document Based Questions (DBQ) activity we have planned on whether or not it was right of the United States to go to war with Mexico in the mid 19th Century.

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The First Week

Well…the first official week of my student teaching has ended, albeit, a week without students.  It was three days of teacher institute, and I’m thrilled to report that everything went great!  There were numerous meetings to go to, and countless things to learn about the school, but all went extremely well.  Everyone I met was helpful and most had a smile on their face.

One of the big recurring topics this week was the Washington D.C. Public Schools and their chancellor, Michelle Rhee.  She has been a pretty polarizing figure in her tenure with DCPS, with the implementation of new teacher evaluations.  With these evaluations, a large portion of the teacher workforce in DCPS has been fired due to being labeled “ineffective” teachers.  Many people seem to think that this way of evaluating, based on the Charlotte Danielson model, will start to be used across the country.  Regardless, it was somewhat of a wake up call, and the motto of the teachers at my school seemed to be one of proactive nature.  Trying to understand how the evaluations work and making a strong effort to become a better teacher and sharpen the skills of their craft.  So this was a good conversation to have as it made us all aware of a new trend for keeping teachers accountable.

Starting Tuesday, the students will be in the building.  I look forward to the start of the school year and working with the students and staff as time progresses.  My next goal is to try and find some kind of club/extracurricular activity that I could possibly get involved in.

Stay tuned…

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Book recommendation

As I move forward toward my goal of becoming a social studies teacher, I think it is important to analyze and consider new ways of presenting information to students. Consequently, I recently finished the book “A Nation Among Nations” by Thomas Bender, a professor at New York University.

The goal of the book is to contextualize American history, and take it out of the traditional narrative that is used in many schools. Instead, Bender seeks to re-frame our history by discussing it from a global perspective. By doing this, Bender impresses upon the reader the sense that the United States is not an autonomous nation, rather one that is entangled in the social and political discourse around the world. He stresses the importance of understanding American history from a worldview because it can better shape an understanding of how things have come to be today.

I think this is a fascinating point of view as teachers try to make their students citizens of the world and active participants in an ever changing global economy. Hopefully, I will be able to incorporate some of these ideas during my student teaching this fall.

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Welcome to my blog!

Hello everyone.  My name is Pat Riley and I will be student teaching at Amundsen High School in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood for the fall of 2010. I will be teaching Contemporary American History, starting just before the Civil War, as I work towards my Type 9 certificate with an endorsement in History and hopefully Business. In my former life, I worked in public relations and business development for a law firm in Chicago, but decided to pursue a career in education. Prior to working in public relations and business development, I received a B.S. in Kinesiology with a focus in Sports Marketing from Indiana University.

I look forward to keeping you abreast of my student teaching this fall as well as other thoughts and comments related to education.

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