Friday, September 21, 2012

Reflection on Class Organization and Structure (571)

Because I participated in the in-service days at my site before starting the school year, I was fortunate enough to help plan and present a classroom management plan with my co-teacher (CT).  
We enforce all the school rules, emphasizing this in our syllabus. The school sets most of the disciplinary procedures, including tardiness (lock-out), cheating (expulsion), and eating and drinking in the classroom (not permitted). After a short presentation on the first day of school that highlights the most important parts of the syllabus, the syllabus is sent home with the students to read and sign. Parents also must sign as well. Students are assigned to return the following day with their signed syllabus forms. Three main, over-reaching rules are discussed and displayed, on a large poster hanging in the front of the classroom: Follow the Rules, Be Respectful, and Be a Problem-Solver. Mr. Butler and I discussed what consequences to enforce when a student broke a rule (basically, any behavior that disrupts learning). Those included a warning, followed by a 2-minute “time-out”, serious discussion, and phone call home.

We strive to create a positive environment. The classroom is clean and organized and arranged to promote group collaboration. Eight lab stations surround the classroom, which is filled with eight tables and desks, arranged in “T” shapes. Four students fit at each “T” table. We assign seats and each group of 4 or 5 is one lab group. Students change seats every 6 weeks. The seating chart is instrumental in helping to remember student names, take attendance, and keep track of participation. In addition, the walls are covered in student work. Groups often “compete” to create the best poster so their poster will be hung on a coveted spot on the wall. There are also posters I hung on the wall from my personal collection, including: “Bacterial Cell”, “Animal Cell”, “Plant Cell”, “Cell Respiration”, and “Photosynthesis”. Students can pick up their graded assignments from a bin marked with their period number.

The students use their lab stations about 2-3 times each week. The classes are very activity-based. Students are very busy most of class, and there is very little time for misbehavior. Every class is structured the same, and students being to expect this routine: Warm-Up (5 min)—Summarizing their notes (Cornell-style) from day before, and/or answering a prompt with a short essay (3-5 sentences); Anticipatory Set (introduce the day’s topic in an interesting manner and engage students in discussion; 5-7 minutes); Present Content (students take Cornell notes; 10-15 min.); Activity or Lab (20-25 min); Cleanup and Closure Quiz or Exit Ticket (5 min). It’s a fast-paced class!

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