Observation Focus: Class Management
I saw the teacher use many interesting class management strategies throughout the week. The desks are set up in one region of the classroom in the following arrangement:
Student Responsibilities: The teacher expects the students to contribute to the organization of the class. For example, they have timed multiplication or division tests each day. The teacher hands out the answer keys and red pens while the students are working. Students exchange sheets and check each other’s.
Clear Instructions: The teacher gives all students opportunities to contribute by giving tasks to members of each table (made of four desks). For example, after the timings, and after students have had one minute to check each other’s timings, she might say, “Friends closest to the door, please gather the red pens and put them away. Friends closest to my desk, please gather the answer keys and put them away. Friends closest to the flag, please gather the timings and put them in the second math bin. Friends closest to the window, please get markers and erasers for everyone in your group.”
Clear Expectations: After giving clear (but brief) instructions, the teacher also gives clear (but brief) expectations – every time. For example, “While you do this, voices should be off and you should return quickly to your seat. You have 30 seconds.” She uses a variety of expectation words for voices, such as: “Remember, ‘spy talk’ only.” “Boards flat, hands clasped, bodies toward me, eyes on the board.” “Pockets on seats.” “I should hear whispering only.” She also has posters listing expectations for math centers.
Transitions: The teacher gives clear instructions and expectations before students begin to move, and counts down “Let’s have seats in 10, 9, 8, …” She also uses a variety of phrases to bring students back to attention – for each phrase, she begins and the students respond: [“Focus, focus.” / “Everybody focus.”] [“To infinity!” “And beyond!”] [“One, two, three, eyes on me.” / “One, two, eyes on you.”]
Ensuring Students’ Engagement: The teacher consistently uses many different strategies for ensuring students are engaged and feel like they are part of the work.
She sometimes draws names from a cup; sometimes calls on students; sometimes has students whisper to their elbow partners; sometimes has students whisper in her ear. In the whole-class brief lessons, she often uses manipulative and brings volunteers up to hold them or use the SmartBoard.
She consistently gives wait time, asking students to indicate when they are ready in a variety of ways: “Thumbs up when you think of an answer.” “Share with your elbow partner – let’s have right partner share first.””Finger on your nose when you are ready to share.” “Finger on your ear…” “Silent unicorn…” “Silent mustache…” etc.
Experience Focus: Planning and Implementing a Task
I adapted a task on pages 169-170 of Van de Walle1 to be a 10-15 minute teacher center. I saw that students had good strategies and mostly were engaged.
Two students particularly would not try the task. I asked the teacher about strategies to help them try, and she explained they were both somewhat shy so I might need to let them get used to me. She also explained that one student had good days and bad days, and so it wasn’t always easy to keep her engaged.
I noticed that when I interacted with the students, I spent too much time redirecting their attention to the task. Some students may need to warm up, but I need to practice my teacher moves and group management skills when I interact with the students. Especially when it comes to expectations about using the materials or finding an answer.
I will remind students of expectations with resources briefly before beginning an activity. I will also give more attention to consequences so that students can see the boundaries. I will continue to encourage students to explain their thinking and to look for other strategies.
1 Pages 169-170: Van de Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S., Lovin, L. A. H., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2014). Teaching Student-centered Mathematics: Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for Grades 3-5 (Vol. 2). Pearson Higher Ed.