Exit Ticket

Today my 4th period class was out of control.  Students were talking over me, moving around the room when they need to sit and listen, and being purposefully disrespectful.  Even after the principal came in and talked to them their behavior hardly changed.  I spent a lot of time talking to student out in the hallway and I know many of the students didn’t even try their test.  At the end of class I didn’t let any students leave.  I told everyone that they wouldn’t leave until they correctly answered a question about what we were learning.  This worked to focus them and slowly students got right answers and left.  I want to continue this type of practice but in a more organized way.

When the students come back, I will start walking around with a clipboard with their roster.  Every a student gets a question right they get a point.  Every time a student is off task, they lose a point.  I will start out with requiring students to have 3 points to be able to leave my class.  If they are good and show that they are learning, they can leave when the bell rings.  If they are off task they will have to stay and continue learning.  I think this will help a lot with my 4th period class and it will allow me to only punish the students who are off task and not the students who are trying to work and never present problems.

I also think I really just need to take more tests away if students talk even once.  I’m hesitant because I worry some students will just not care and take the 0 but they clearly need a lot more discipline and a lot fewer chances.  Tomorrow if anyone talks I will take their test away and then give it to them during their AI time.  I think I can do a lot more to work with advisors to help make sure students get my work done.  Over the break I will make a calendar of assignments to share with the 9th grade advisors so students can’t pretend that they don’t have work.

I am pleased that passing out missing assignment slips during advisory has gotten a lot of students to come in and ask for missing work.  Hopefully that will help more students bring up their grade and learn the material.


Management, Pedagogy, and Differentiated Instruction

I haven’t posted in about two weeks, mainly due to having tutoring sessions right after class.  I’ve also had less interesting things to write about since it has mostly just been more of the same classroom management struggles.  Most of my classes in the past two weeks have involved a short lecture (<10 min) while students take Cornell style notes followed by group work on worksheets to apply the information from the Cornell notes.  After doing this for a few classes, I have decided I want to change how I approach this.  

My main issue is that my worksheets are long and students are either concerned with finishing it all or not interested in doing any work.  There are many questions and I end up bouncing from table to table to try to engage in a socratic dialog or give examples for the students to then apply to their work.  It has worked well for the groups that ask questions and go through this process but I meet only about 1/3 of the class at best and jump between helping some students out and managing behavior issues with others.  Many of my lesson plans have included a presentation segment, which has often not happened due to timing.  I want to change this so that there is less total problems people complete in class but students get the opportunity to present and teach each other more.

My new plan for non lab days is to have the same mini lecture to introduce new content and ensure that students have notes to look back on, but give each group one different problem.  The groups can work on their problem and then present to each other, and maybe have some kinesthetic or chanting component to aid learning.  They can then apply this concept to a short homework assignment that is given as they leave.  I want to place a large focus on presentation like I did in the beginning so that students practice speaking to each other and learn by trying to teach others.  To help with accountability I want to try randomly selecting a student to do the entire presentation if it is a small problem or randomly choosing different people for each component for multistep problems.  I will start grading these presentations so that students get credit for work and don’t shirk responsibility.

For labs I want to follow the advice of Hubbs and Madigan (and Elizabeth Cohen) and give roles to each student.  I can do this randomly with my cards and table board at the front of the classroom.  This will give everyone a role to play and include a leader (which may not be random at first) to keep everyone focused and on task.  Accountability is going to be a huge focus of mine.  I’m also going to take back the reins some and give students the procedure for the next few labs.  I gave too much freedom at once and my 9th graders were not ready for that.  

Based on my benchmark data, my two classes with behavior problems also are my lowest performing classes.  Even the good students that do all of their work and try to ask questions performed lower than my other classes.  This comes to no surprise since I don’t get through many aspects of my lesson with them and missed some of the greater pedagogical activities such as the graph walking/running/chanting activity.  I’m working hard on getting them back on track and my administration is helping a lot with that, but I feel really bad that students who really want to learn are losing that opportunity.  While I work on management, I want to plan lesson in a way that will allow students who want to learn to do work and learn the material without needed me to always focus on them and answer questions.  If I’m talking to students outside or trying to get students to stop distraction and work, I want my good students to have an activity that they can do to learn so they aren’t just sitting they getting angry.  One other teacher gave me the suggestion of textbook reading and taking notes/summarizing or textbook problems as a group since they can answer the questions by looking through the section.  By taking the emphasis off me in some way I can allow the students the opportunity to learn while I reprimand those that are off task and distracting other students.

Another thing I want to do with my books is reading jigsaw activities.  This would involve each table reading, discussing, and summarizing a short section (a page or two) then jigsawing to teach other students.  Each person will need to participate to understand their section and it will practice reading, discussing, and teaching skills.  I want to add peer grading to this segment so that students are accountable and the students who have been trying to work and have been putting up with off task students can have more of a voice.  I’ll add a few questions for each section so that students have reason to listen and can communicate understanding.

I realize that as I’ve been dealing with behavior issues the quality of my pedagogy has dropped and I don’t want that to continue.  I know that some students like my class because of the games and interactive activities that we do and I need to maintain that enjoyment, especially as content gets more difficult.  For behavior, I’ve been working on individual interventions with students during and after class, as well as phone calls home.  This works for students who do something big, but it is still not very effective when many students are chatting and I can always tell who is responsible.  Today was more effective than some of my past days, but there is still a clear lack of control and some students did little work.  I know my students names and that helps a lot for quieting them down, I just need to keep talking to them and their parents until they can work with me.

More Efforts/Thoughts for Classroom Management

Today I tried to talk to my difficult classes to restate my values and classroom expectations.  While I was able to successfully run the lab in my 3rd block class, my 4th block class was more unruly than usual and may now be my most difficult class.  They were never able to do the lab and some students are actively defiant, while others just seem to not care and are willing to talk over me and the other students in the class.  I’ve been thinking about a lot of different ways to approach this, and have watched some videos, but I keep coming back to the same idea of wanting engagement not just complacency.  I wonder if it might be worthwhile to really try to engage the most difficult students in reflecting on how they feel when students talk while they present.  It might be dangerous, but I feel like no discipline strategy will truly be successful in engaging the student in proper behavior unless it results from their own wants and needs.  In short, I think I want them to get fed up, pissed off, and outright mad when students talk over them.  I want them to realize that they have value, and what they say has value, and that any student who talks over them is saying that they don’t value them.  I’m not sure if this is a good route to explore and I’ll definitely try to talk to other people before encouraging this, but I just can’t get the thought out of my head.

Watching Engagement

The lab went really well today and I think the students made a lot of progress in learning how to analyze a graph.  These were my easy to manage students and with little effort I was able to have them all working to measure the distances and times for the cars’ motion.  It was nice being able to sit back for a second and just watch the class at work.  This behavior is my goal for all classes.  The students in each group were all working and engaged in the lab and finished very quickly.
When we got back to the classroom they graphed their data much faster than previous classes and we had a great discussion.  We a big circle presentation model and went through each group while the class listened.  During this time I was able to reteach dependent and independent variables, which was one of the most missed sections on the quiz they recently took.  It was really helpful having different experimental procedures because they helped us with our definitions.  I officially introduced the concept of slope and we explored what the slope meant in our graphs.  Today felt a lot like the work I did in the modeling workshop and I have high hopes for both of these classes.
My MESA class was also very on task today, but I think I need to do more work to develop a more detailed design process.  I think for this class it would help to have steps and maybe a graphic organizer to help structure their design process so that it gets closer to engineering design instead of just a picture.  I would like to find a very engaging project to introduce drafting in because I think drafting can be very dry by itself and this class breaks down a lot more when the class isn’t as engaging.  Today they started making roller coasters and while some groups were a little slow to get into it, there were times where I could just sit back and watch the class as they worked autonomously in groups.  I think this class lends itself even more to autonomous behavior, but I also need to make sure there is enough rigor to promote learning.
When I get to start the real MESA short projects, I think I need to start doing random groups so that the students mix up more.  Right now the groups were by student choice and one group, which is all girls, said today that they need a boy in their group to help build their roller coaster.  This group is great about being on task and working hard, and did well on the last assignment, but is slower to act and start building and I think that makes them see what they do as less impressive than what one other group does.  I need to work to make sure they can identify their talents and build more confidence in their ability to build projects in this class and I especially want to get rid of this negative stereotype about their gender.  
Before the senior class started I lined them up to talk to them before they entered the room.  This was partly to tell them all at once not to touch the MESA roller coasters, but also to help calm them down and re-establish the classroom norms before the day’s activities.  They were very good throughout the class and were all working hard during the lab.  They picked up the ideas about slope very quickly and should be in good shape to continue this unit with a high level of understanding.
Tomorrow I need to re-establish the classroom values with my 9th grade classes and work towards having a better classroom culture and complete the lab.  I’m going to give them one last opportunity to do the lab outside, but I doubt we will make it out tomorrow. Hopefully in time we can keep on working on it and get more freedom in the future.

Classroom Behavior

Today I had a lot of issues with classroom management.  Students were generally better about being quiet for a quiz but I in one class I had to wait almost 5 minutes to start passing out a quiz because students wouldn’t quiet down.  In one class I had to take a quiz away from a student who continued to talk once the quiz started.  I had a conversation after class with the student and hopefully that resolved the issue but I will keep a close eye in case this wasn’t just one bad day.  I think I need to make the students see real consequences for inappropriate behavior.  I had to repeat instructions several times and I need to figure out a plan for responding to large portions of the class being off task.  
The musical chairs activity was decently engaging, but my classes today made less of a connection between that activity and the unit conversion problem where they went from feet to inches for a student’s height.  As much as I like engaging the students, it needs to be engagement in learning or it isn’t useful.  I’m not sure what exactly went wrong with today’s classes as compared to yesterday’s classes, but one guess is that the more off task behavior throughout the lesson was evidence of the students thinking less about what they were doing.  Students were not as motivated to discuss the connection and make a quality presentation, and I think most of the presentations involved last second thinking when I got to their group, rather than reflection and discussion before the presentations started.
While the musical chair activity was more engaging than a lot of other activities we have done, the students today didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as the students who did it yesterday.  Some students were not initially to happy to begin, and these students then ended up being out early on and were once again sitting and disengaged.  I think if I redid this activity I might have one or two practice rounds to get the activity going with everyone and maybe hope to engaged them more by the time students start getting out.  Or maybe this activity just works for some and not really for others.
I think I need to start grading their whiteboard presentations to help them take the presentations seriously and put real effort into it.  Originally I worried about grading them because I wanted to promote good behavior without a grade as a motivation/fear, but by not grading it I’m giving it less value than other activities.  I’m going to work on creating a good presentation rubric to give to the students and use for their future presentations.  
I’m happy to finally have some graded assignments for the students and when I post grades on Monday for the assignments that they have turned in, I’ll see which students will have mandatory tutoring based on their performance.  I noticed that many students did not complete the first graded homework assignment (and some “lost” it).  It may take some time to show the students that not completing work will result in a much lower grade, but the combination of that and mandatory tutoring will hopefully drive the students to complete their work.  I still want to work towards motivation outside of their grades, but I also can’t let them fall behind while I try to build that motivation.  I anticipate a much higher percentage of completed work once students become required to come in after school and make up extra work.
After today’s PD time with Madigan, I realized that I do spend a lot of time with my more troublesome classes telling them not to do certain activities, which might be adding to their stress levels and make them enjoy school much less.  The one main question I had in the margin of the Cornell Notes was how do I manage a class and reduce the off task behavior, including particularly bad behavior (such as throwing things, taking pens or pencils, misusing classroom materials) without constantly telling them to stop?  Are there better non linguistic methods I can use to try to control them better?  Or is do I just need to find ways to engage them more so that they really want to do what I want them to do?

Musical Chairs and Unit Conversions

The musical chairs activity went very well today.  Students were good about listening to the instructions and made a clear connection between the musical chairs game and the height conversion from feet and inches to just inches.  I especially liked how one group said that the people who were left over were like the left over inches.  That comment showed that it was more than just connected two multiplication activities.  Both classes did well to see that feet were made up of inches just like groups were made up of people.
With the focus on my delivery of instructions, I think the fact that they were short helped students stay focused.  Instead of going through an activity to get the the game, they listened for less than a minute and started playing.  I also think it was helpful that they were already standing up and in a circle facing me while I gave instructions.  I think the act of standing up both focused them and gave them a bit of energy. The students seemed to really enjoy this activity and while it got competitive with the seniors to the point that it may have been a little on a rough side, it was still safe and everyone was happily participating.  I am interested to see how the classes tomorrow respond to the same activity since they tend to be less cooperative.
I also tried a new method of presentation today.  Groups made the same circle around the room and held their whiteboard so that everyone could see everyone.  I think this may be a better way when I want individual presentations at a time because once again the act of everyone standing up seemed to focus them, at least at first.  Standing students can’t put their head on their table and making a circle forces people to not be turned away from the speaker.  Also, having one row of students puts every student in the front, so that may help with the off task behavior. My one issue with having people in a big circle is that students like to open the door and look out into the hallways.  I’m not sure why, since there are rarely other people there, but it keeps happening.  My main concern is making noise and disturbing other classrooms/offices since I tend to talk loudly.  If I can work on that, I think this presentation style may completely replace the “one stage” traditional presentation.  I think I should have distinct names for each presentations style so that was the students practice them, I can get to the point where I just name the style and people move accordingly.
After these activities they worked collaboratively on a worksheet and I was impressed by how on task they were and how willing they were to ask questions when they weren’t sure of something.  I think it was a very productive day and I think both of these classes will do well with the combination of movement activities and silent/group work time.  These students seem to be able to talk while work, which makes them happy and more cooperative.
Today I think I did a much better job at “chunking” my activities.  Students had a quiz, then a short height measurement demo followed by a quick collaborative problem.  Then students played a game where they moved around while music played, and answered two short questions between rounds.  After the game, students had a few minutes of collaborative reflection to connect the two activities, followed by a presentation of what they discussed.  Following that students worked on a worksheet in groups as I moved around to offer assistance.  I had a good mix of individual, group, and whole class activities and moved back and forth between then.
My MESA class was not particularly engaged today.  While the topic was kind of cool (understanding bungee jumping), the experiment, which involved measuring the fall distance for different amounts of rubber bands was a little dry for the students.  One group was very off task and answered few of the questions.  The other groups were more diligent, though some were slow to start.  I expect a pretty decent writeup from most groups, but I’m worried one group might just not complete most of it.
Since my MESA students are 11th and 12th graders, I made a point to not constantly push them through the activity.  I want to work on building their own sense of responsibility and let them be off task and have to do more work later if that is their choice.  I’m not sure if this is the right decision or if I should wait until later to taper off how much I push them to be on task.  I do think it is important to give them the opportunity to be responsible (or irresponsible) and then see how that turns out, especially the 12th grade class since they will be completely on their own in college.  I am interested to see what quality of work I get on Thursday when we next meet.


Today I get a double reflection since I can’t seem to turn my brain off and get to sleep.  I’ve been thinking more about what worked and what didn’t between my classes and I feel like it has to do with my delivery of instructions (which is exactly what Madigan said two days ago, I need to work on listening).  The first time I did my chanting activity, I gave instructions quickly, without modeling what the students should do, and ended up instructing each group what to do as I walked around the classroom.  My initial instructions had little to no effect on the students and I had to repeat everything in small groups.  Because of that experience, I started spending more time going through what the students need to do in a step by step model where I did each step on the board in front of them.  This worked well with a few classes because they listened and had a better idea of what to do and I only offered some assistance.

My big issue here is that some of my classes will not just sit and listen and then follow instructions.  I should know this by now based on past behavior and today made it very clear.  After removing myself from the experience and thinking more, I don’t think the solution is to be more strict and work to really push them to be on task more.  That doesn’t solve my engagement issue, it only solves a complacency issue.  I don’t think I should push for complacency to get to an activity that I think will be engaging, I should work to find a way to just engage them from the beginning.

I think I worked with each passing period to hone my instructions, but just ended up making them longer, which means more sit and listen time for my students.  The whole point is to avoid/minimize the sit and listen time and get them up and moving.  I wonder if less clear instructions, followed by repetition at each table once they have started and realize they are confused would be more productive.  There would be less front loading and all information would be to fill a gap that the students recognize, rather than preventative information.  If I try to make everything clear to the point that students don’t struggle, they don’t get the wonderful focus that struggling can present.  Maybe more time giving instructions to each group that are specific to their graph would end up taking less time than trying to quiet the entire class and give generic instructions to everyone.

If I had one more class to do this specific activity in, one specific change I would make is to start by getting attention and running.  I don’t think my students are quite ready to be engaged as I lead them through a long graph analysis process and then see me run (and then run themselves).  But, if I ran and asked them how my running looked like my graph, I could use their responses to build that process.  It seems obvious now to start with the fun moving activity and end with the analysis.  You don’t get attention and buy in by saying “We will have fun later, but first we gotta do this graph analysis process.”  This idea of action then analysis also follows my general modeling method of observing something, then creating a lab to study it.

I know my mind is going all over the place (as it usually does when I’m trying to turn it off and go to sleep) but my basic idea here is to not try to get students to do a not fun activity in order to understand how to do a fun activity.  That just sounds ridiculous.  It would be better to shoot for fun, fail and laugh and be confused, then work on figuring it out and get back to fun activity done right.  This will be my new plan of attack and hopefully it will work better!