I have been doing lots of reading this summer on the subject of classroom management. One little bit of knowledge I have gained in my years of experience is that establishing rhythms, routines and habits in the classroom is what makes the bustle of creativity possible in main lesson. And, even more important, these rhythms, routines and habits need to be directly taught and regularly practiced. The first few weeks are the time to show the students mundane things like how we line up before school and how we hand out supplies as well as more complicated things like how to resolve disputes on the playground and what kind of language we use when talking to each other. Of course many of these topics go beyond the work of the first few weeks, but that time at the very beginning of the school year is most important.
I have received some great ideas for this work from the following books and I highly recommend them.
This book, Assertive Discipline: Positive Behavior Management for Today’s Classroom by Lee Canter is fantastic. What I appreciate most about it is that it lays things out in a very systematic way. It is very straightforward as it goes through methods a teacher can use for managing her class. Things as simple as suggesting that after giving the class an instruction, the teacher should watch and within two seconds give the class feedback like, “Oh, I see that Mary and Michael are taking out their pencils like I asked.” Doing this means that the students are hearing the instructions again without you repeating them, which has always been a no-no in my book. Following this, Canter instructs the teacher to follow up with anyone not following the instructions within 5 seconds. Though I am sure these guidelines will be more flexible in practice, it is good to start out with techniques that are so clear and straightforward.
Teaching Children to Care by Ruth Charney is another gold mine of information. It is so clear and really emphasizes teaching children the simple activities in the classroom that we might take for granted they already know and are familiar with. She goes through techniques of building classroom rules along with the children and how to keep your discipline and attitude towards the children positive. I am just thrilled with this book and I can already feel it shaping my interactions with the students.
The First Six Weeks of School is another positive, straightforward approach to teaching children the rhythms and routines that will sustain your work all through the year. It is so clear that it gives a day by day schedule of activities for the first six weeks that teachers can follow and it varies this schedule for differently aged students. There is a K-2 schedule, a 3-4 schedule and a 5-6 schedule. It emphasizes that these rhythms and routines are the curriculum for the first few weeks, which is a concept I had never considered until reading this book. Of course, teachers will adapt this resource to their own particular situations (I can’t imagine following someone else’s schedule for the day) but having a template as a guideline is very helpful!
I’m starting to dive into the fourth grade curriculum, as well, but that’s a separate post.