Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Section 4: Foster a Positive Classroom Environment

I am definitely losing steam with my "book study." My original goal when I started was to read and study each chapter, reflect on the questions at the end and post them here.
The thing is with about a month left until school starts I'm totally feeling anxious because there is still so much to plan and prepare!  I have even started having difficulty falling asleep because my mind is going a million miles per hour.
That being said, this chapter of the book has a lot to offer, it has everything to do with your classroom environment, from making the kids feel safe, routines and procedures, keeping them engaged etc. Lets get to the reflection questions.

1. I never really thought about the safety of my classroom.  I teach at a very small charter school, we only have 36 kids in 7th and 36 kids in 8th grade!  My classes are made up of 2 7th grades with 18 each and 3 8th grades with 12 each!  I LOVE this about my school!  So, I know my kids very well and I think that goes a big way in keeping them safe!

2. and 3. Oh boy!  Question 2 asks if my class is student-centered and how can I improve the layout so every student is fully engaged.  Question 3 talks about how well do you use the time that your students are with you.  This has been my obsession since May!  I can honestly say that last year Sept-April, it was absolutely NOT student-centered.  Rows ruled, I planned big presentations, told them exactly how to do everything.  Starting in May things began to change.  I made groups and had the advanced kids work totally on their own discovery style and the lower level kids worked with me in smaller groups.  While it was a million times better than what I was doing, it wasn't exactly perfect.  This led me to hitting twitter and google hard to find better ways to teach.  I ended up at a Flip Class webinar by Crystal Kirch and my life changed!
Right now I know that getting them out of the rows and getting them to actually work goes a long way in keeping them engaged.  My struggle is creating my class routine.
 In the past it was: 
1. Do now, discuss homework from last night
2. Lesson (I do, we do) then independent practice (you do)
3. and if time share out or exit ticket (which we hardly EVER got to finish.)

What I am thinking about now starts the day before:
1. Stop class activity 10 minutes prior to end, pose a difficult question relating to the next lesson.  Have students work independently writing/trying to solve the problem in their notebooks.
2. Homework is video with basic skill needed to solve problem given at end of previous class.  1st activity next day is discussing previous problem with group first than share out with class.
3. Practice skill (which used to be the homework)  Ask 3 than me, I meet with each student to assess. etc.  Students who finish the required practice set move on to choice of activities.

Ahhh I just love how that plan looks!  Now, some of the things that I am struggling with are, I don't plan on doing a video every day, what does the class routine look like when there is no guiding problem?  I want to group them by ability and I don't have faith that everyone will be able to do a google form that night so that I can do that before class.  I may have a do now question to quickly assess them in the beginning of class then change their seats.  I want to start using interactive notebooks, when does that happen?  Do they use them to take notes? Activities in class? These are the things I need to think about this week!

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