This week has been my first week taking over the World History I class full time. From the past month at my school, I’ve been able to get to know these students. First, the class is made of 23 students and is evenly split between boys and girls. The class also has a mix of ability levels. There are only a few IEPs and 504s, a handful of high achieving students, and then a number of students who struggle with history but excel in other courses. Interestingly, there is also a mix between rural and, what I would consider suburban students, who enter the class with vastly different life experience. Finally, I also have three students who openly identify as LGBTQ are proud of it (which is fantastic).
Now, I’ve known for the past month that this class was going to be a challenge. From what I have observed in the classroom they frequently demonstrate low level behavioral problems in the classroom itself. Students frequently talk among each other during instruction, occasionally have outbursts during instruction (like yelling out an answer or singing songs that do not relate to what is being talked about). During individual and group work, the same behaviors are even more common than during lecture. Finally, nearly half the students fail to complete homework at home or to ever bring it back to school.
My first day taking over this class did not go perfect, but it was also not a disaster. First, the students treated me better and behaved much better for me than they do my cooperating teacher. I think part of this is connected to the fact that I just started teaching their class. Because of this, it’s like I’m a novel presence in the classroom. I suspect that after a week they will be back to normal. Before taking over I laid out my expectations for them and what they could expect with me at the helm. I also laid down some rules. However, I think I might need to spend a few minutes reading over the class rules with the class at some point soon as they continue to talk during class on a frequent basis. My second plan of action is to write names on the board, which is school policy. After three strikes it’s a mandatory write up.
Another thing I noticed while watching my cooperating teacher is how long assessments take in class. Warm ups frequently lasted longer than 10 minutes and assessments took too long. One way I have started to counter this is writing time limits on the board. When I display the directions I also bold and underline how long I’m giving them to work on the assignment. Once that time is up we go directly into review even if students are not finished. They now know that even if they’re not finished, I will review all the answers and make sure they have them before we move on.
Third, I have completely reconsidered slot notes. Yes, I have elected to keep them. But, I have scaled back how many blank slots there are. I realized that I do not want students searching for the blanks during lecture. So, on each slide I have elected to only leave two to three words blank for them to fill in. That way they can get them done quick, listen to lecture, and think about content to answer and ask questions.
Finally, I have overhauled my warm ups for the class. Instead of asking multiple questions, I have been focusing on at least one lower level question and then a higher order question. Warm ups should not last longer than 3 minutes and should not derail class plans. Below is an example of the warm-up for tomorrow’s class. Today in class they completed the first side of this for Islam, using the notes they took on Monday. I asked them to leave this chart on their desk and they will get it back from me tomorrow. When they get it they will work on the back side of this and then we will go over it in class. Note that I am explicit about working quietly and that it will only last for 3 minutes.
Finally, yesterday I realized that I do not like always standing at the board to advance the slides like my cooperating teacher does. Instead, like my cooperating teacher from last semester, I like moving around the room and being mobile. So, during my planning yesterday, I ordered a wireless presentation remote so I can move around the class, advance the slides, and point to images on the power point with my remote. We’ll see how the students respond to that, but I for one will feel much more comfortable.