Engagement and Classroom Management

Today I had a lot of issues with classroom management.  It started off with my AI period where students were off task and threw stuff out the window.  I think I might need to spend these periods for a while just monitoring behavior rather than also working and trying to model working behavior.  I was reading and as a result I didn’t see much of what was going on in the classroom.
My next class was the class that was normally the rowdiest and they were especially bad today.  It was almost impossible to get their attention and we didn’t get anywhere close to finishing the activity.  It was really too bad because there was only a little bit of normal work time to get ready to do the fun moving and chanting exercise.  I think it would be useful to find a way to more quickly get into the moving around activity, and then if we find we aren’t sure how to do it, there might be more motivation to spend the time figuring the graphs out.  Or maybe I could find a way to make the students trust that once they explore the topic they will do a fun activity.
The next class was not as bad but they also were very resistant to remain on task and quiet down when I needed to make a quick announcement.  We got through the activity and a few students who were very resistant until I kept chanting in front of them managed a smile when they finally gave in.  I think many of these students didn’t quite enjoy the whole period but had some enjoyment towards the end.  Still I think my classes yesterday had a much better day than today’s classes.
I think this activity was good, but I want to find better ways to have more rapid engagement and really hook them early on.  For this activity I would need to find a way for them to understand how to participate in the activity with much less front loading of information.  It also didn’t help that these students needed to finish up a worksheet since we didn’t have time for it during the last class.  I have to catch them up as quickly as they can so they have to keep playing the catch up game.
The next class period should be interesting for both classes.  I will have their first real homework assignment and their first quiz to start looking at what students are individually understanding.  I also think my next activity will go well because there is no front loading of information.  Instead they will do a short “musical chairs” type activity and then use that experience as an analogy to unit conversions.  We can go right into this activity and hopefully keep their attention and help them enjoy class.  I think a lot of the issues with engagement and classroom management are linked and I just need to keep on trying out new things and taking notes until I find something that works well.

Moving and Chanting: Release Your Inner Graph

I’m having issues with Firefox and posting, so this was what I wrote yesterday.
I didn’t end up blogging yesterday since I went home right after we were all released for the day.  From that day, I continued the use of my “Speed Dating” style of presentation and found that both of my last two classes were pretty off task when I wasn’t near them.  Those classes had an odd number of groups and so I took a station and had a group present to me and offered any clarifications to help them out.  I later realized that this meant I only clarified for half of the groups.  I think I need to make sure to have a whole class report out after the speed dating so I can make sure that everyone has a chance to hear my comments.  I think it may even be worth while to have a pause station if I have an odd number where the groups just stand and catch their breath or maybe have a prompt to think about so that I can move around to each group and help make sure the rest of the class is more on task.  I need to find a good way to hold everyone responsible for learning during this time so that they are on task even when I’m not looking.  One class had most people prefer this style of presentation with a few people preferring the “One Stage” traditional style.  In the other class almost everyone preferred the “Speed Dating” style.  I like to make class more fun and engaging so I will keep working on improving this technique.
So far today I have just had one class and I worked on a skits and chanting approach to understanding graphs.  The “skits” were really just students walking or running, based on the behavior of the  graph, but they seemed to respond very well to it.  Once I worked with each group, they were able to figure out how to represent their graph and performed well.  I think the chanting helped bring the energy way up and will help them start to learn names for their graphical relationships.  I originally asked students to find a reason or real life example for the graph behavior, but I didn’t push it when students did not include this in their presentation.  I think this might be useful to help stretch their minds more, but it might be ok to have a bit more simplicity now and stress this more when we repeat this exercise during the motion unit.
Things I need to work on:
I had a little mini-lecture to model how the students would start analyzing their graphs before making their skit.  This seemed completely ineffective because I had to go around to each table and work with them individually to communicate those ideas.  One big mistake was that I drew up everything on the graph while they were doing other work so that it was ready when I presented this mini-lecture.  I really should have done it in front of them.  For my next physics class I will try doing it while they watch and then randomly calling students to complete it in front of the whole class to help identify and remedy confusion or misconceptions.  I don’t know how comparable the two classes will be since this morning I had 9th grade and this afternoon I’ll have 12th grade, but I’ll also try it with all my 9th graders tomorrow.
I need to introduce rapid Think Pair Share during my mini-lectures to increase engagement and help make sure students think about what I am saying.  It should help make students more accountable and give them short breaks to take it all in.  I’ll try that with random equity card calling in my next physics class as well.  I also want to try adding in whole class responding together after those few students answer to get the others involved and add more repetition for memory.
Madigan says to introduce Cornell Notes to my students and make sure they are taking notes with the questions that they have throughout class.  I’ve been pretty disorganized about their binders and notebooks and need to get a system going so they can easily do this and I can easily check up on them.  I think this will help with understanding because writing helps keep students remain on task and helps students remember (and gives me a better tool to hold them accountable and see if they are doing work).  I’m going to spend some time thinking about how best to introduce Cornell Notes and model proper note taking.  It will be good to start practicing Cornell note taking in this unit so that they are ready to go when the next unit begins.  I’m going to try giving specific directions on what to write and how to write it during the observe/measure/manipulate discussions and others to help them see how to organize information, then I’ll back off slowly.
I need to work on adding positive narration, both for behavior and when students present information.  For today’s activity especially I need to have a specific positive comment for each student after they walk/run for their graph.  I’ll try to do this during Physics 4A today and then reflect on it for tomorrow’s classes.
During my Physics 4A class we did the graph skits again and they seemed to really enjoy it.  There was a bit of struggle with the first group but they accepted it and other people seemed to have fun.  One student even said as she left that it was fun that day.  Most importantly they really seemed to understand it.  When a parabolic relation student sped up to a walk but then just walked at a constant speed another student said “you look more like a linear relation.”  The other student identified that the behavior didn’t seem to fit and then identified the graph that better fit the behavior.  This is what I want all of my students to be able to do.
Fowler mentioned telling the students that these strategies of chanting and moving are based on neuroscience to give more credibility and let the students look at their learning and understand how to improve learning and memory.  This may help motivate the students to participate and give them a reflection into their own learning.  I really like reflection (obviously) and metacognition so I’m going to make sure to fit that into my classes tomorrow so that they are more aware of what they are doing.
I really liked that the students were able to show more of their personality through how they moved, and I’m sure I smiled more today than any other day so far.  That must be a good thing 🙂

Student Presentations and Engagement

This post is in two section: one was written during lunch and the other was written after school.

My first period class was very well behaved during the class presentations.  I think posting and constantly reminding them of SLANT (Sit up, Listen, Ask questions, Nod your head, Track the speaker) helped considerably.  Students would turn to face the speaker when I reminded them of SLANT and having is posted up near the board helps them to see it when people present.  Thanks to Ms Perez (and Teach Like a Champion) for the idea.

While I like that they are behaving, I still worry that the group presentations make the learning experience too passive in the current state.  Everyone gets a chance to go up and be an active participant, but most students were still just sitting and listening during this time.  I would like to find a way to help them start asking questions more and make the presentations have more of a discussion component.  In my next two periods I’m going to try making the presentations more like a speed dating format that involves two circles that rotate so each group presents to a new group and presents multiple times.  This might get chaotic, but it will get everyone out of their seats and the passive component for a given person will only be one presentation worth of time at one time (if that makes sense).

I was able to pick up some cut outs of the planets in our solar system with pictures and basic facts to help decorate my room a bit more.  Several students have shown at least some interest in astronomy and maybe more will vocalize any interest they have given the new decorations.  It still isn’t much and is only in one corner of the room, but I think it is a step in the right direction.  It also helps put a little more of my own personal touch on the room since it is near my desk and astronomy is a big passion of mine.

After School
I tried out the multiple presentations (speed dating) style of having groups present in my last two classes today.  In my physics class (last period of the day) almost everyone said that they preferred this style of presentation better to the one group at a time at the front of class style.  It wasn’t too difficult to explain the procedure of moving around and they followed it pretty well.  I don’t know for sure how on task they were since I couldn’t listen to every group at once, but I could tell that some groups definitely did present to each other and some groups were off task at least some of the time.  From what I can tell so far this solved the energy problem in my room, but I need to figure out if the students are actually engaged in the presentation process and are able to learn.

In my 3rd period class (MESA) I also used this process of presentation and had very mixed results.  Some students reported that they really enjoyed moving around and talking to people.  They liked spending more time talking and they liked moving rather than sitting.  Other people did not like presenting multiple times and reported that they would prefer to have the normal one group at a time in front of the class style of presentation.  Some people said they really did not like presenting at all, but preferred the smaller group presentation to the full class one.

I also made a point in this class to give students time initially to think in silence before talking with the people at their table.  I wanted to give a quiet space to the students who really like to think and focus for a while before sharing with others.  This also had mixed results.  Some people said they liked it, while others did not.  Some people asked for more time in silence than I provided them.  This class clearly has a lot of different learning style preferences and will definitely take work on my part to make sure everyone gets the space they need to think and learn.

My overall impression of the day was that everything was higher energy.  The first class, with the more traditional presentation style had more students engaged in the process, but it was in short doses when they presented.  They did not ask each other many questions or get involved with any discussion with other groups.  When I changed things after lunch there was much more energy and discussion between groups.  People asked each other questions about their graphs.  My last period physics class all agreed at the end that the amount of mass does not affect a pendulum’s period, and almost everyone agreed that the length of string did affect the pendulum’s period.  Students seemed to hear and remember other presentations better.  However, there was also more off task behavior.  MESA will be a challenge since there are very different learning styles and mixed feelings about each style of presentation.

Need to Improve: Engagement, Connection, and Persona

Reflections on Teaching 8/27

I need to learn my students names.  I cannot interact with them effectively if I do not know their names.  I think I made a mistake jumping into a fun semi-science related activity on the first day without doing a name game.  I think it would be valuable to do a name game for as much as half the first period so I can get to know them and their names.  In the future I think I’ll spend the whole first day on name and getting to know the students.  Maybe I should have had them make name tags for me to use over the first week or two.

I need to engage the students more.  Equity cards will help make sure all of the students are participating but I want engagement, not just participation.  How can I tap into the natural curiosity of young people to make them feel safe to ask questions and blur the lines between random questions and questions that are on topic about physics?  I want to have more students engaged at once.  I want students to have fun.  Using the cards to call people up to work helped me to learn some names but I still need to learn a lot more.

My third period class was out of control again and I had to stop and just get two minutes of silence while they thought about what to contribute next.  It probably took at least 5-8 minutes to get those two minutes of quiet but I think it might have helped and been worth it.  The back on track forms seem to help keep people on track better because it seems firmer than just a warning or acknowledgement of misbehavior.  Hopefully I can use them to see who is off track often and can follow up with them individually.  I would like to figure out some better strategies to keep is class on task and build the respect for when other students are participating.

I think involving students in the “lecture” portion of the day helped get more people involved and allowed me to sit at the loud table, which definitely helped quiet them down and focus their attention towards the board.  I think this will be worth doing so the students can get more autonomous and take some control over the classroom and their learning.  However, only two people up there still means many students sitting unengaged.  I would like to get most of the students doing something active throughout the lesson.

I need to get my room better organized and colorful.  I need a place to put the days assignments so that absent students can catch up and collect what they need on their own to help make them take ownership of their work.  My walls are mostly bare and that needs to change.  Once I get words on my word wall that area will start to look nicer.  Hopefully my advisory students will bring things in for their board to add some personality and pride. The Sienna flags will help too.

I need to plan more for tomorrow and this week to make my class more enjoyable and assist with student learning.  I’m excited to see how tomorrow’s discussion will turn out, but I am worried that the students currently are not that engaged when other students are presenting.  I need to find a way to work on this or my lesson structures will not be successful.

This Blog

This blog will serve primarily as a place for me to reflect and write about my experiences as a teacher.  My main focus here is to use this as a journal that others may read if they are interested in following my experiences.  Hopefully this process will make me a more reflective person and improve my ability as a teacher.