Back To CoursePsychology 102: Educational Psychology
10 chapters | 123 lessons | 9 flashcard sets
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Every teacher faces a challenge when it comes to managing his or her classroom. The decisions and actions a teacher takes in this area can be the difference between peaceful productivity and complete chaos. The actions and attitudes of the teacher during the first few class sessions set the tone for the rest of the term. Because it is so important, the most effective teachers create a classroom management plan well in advance of the first class session. Although some management techniques will change depending on the students and grade level, many of the underlying basic strategies of classroom management remain the same. The strategies we'll discuss in this lesson involve rules, the learning environment, student engagement and student-teacher relationships.
For most teachers, the foundation of a managed classroom is a clear set of rules and consequences. Teachers need to establish general rules of conduct to ensure the classroom runs smoothly. Imagine you teach a fifth grade history class. What kind of rules would you create? The rules that are needed change with every class, and most teachers agree that the students should be included in creating them. The general strategy is to have an idea of what rules are needed, but then include the students in actually creating them as well as the consequences for breaking them. When students have a say in the matter, they have ownership in what has been decided and are more motivated to follow the rules.
It's recommended that teachers devote a portion of the very first day of class to coming up with rules and consequences. Starting with a short list of categories, like 'General Classroom Behavior' and 'Use of Materials,' the teacher facilitates discussion, and the students create a set of rules expressed in their own language.
Most teachers agree that it's best to create only a few rules (5-8 is the rule of thumb), as it's too hard to remember a long list. Of course, teachers also need to determine how they will personally enforce the rules and consequences as well as how to handle conflict. We discuss strategies for discipline and reducing undesirable behaviors in another lesson.
This strategy for creating rules could also be used to determine routines for each class. Unlike rules, rituals and routines don't have consequences, but they are an important part of managing the classroom. They are the repeated activities that students learn to expect as part of your particular class. For example, you could create a routine in your history class where you always write the schedule for the day on the board, along with directions for an extra activity if any students finish early. Knowing what to do and being able to predict what comes next makes students feel competent, which not only helps them learn, but also contributes to a positive learning environment.
The learning environment greatly affects students and their learning, so it's also an extremely important part of classroom management. The learning environment is the way the classroom works and feels. It includes the physical environment as well as the social or emotional environment within the classroom. Teachers want all students to feel motivated, challenged, supported and physically comfortable. The right management strategies lead to a positive learning environment, which promotes productivity and respect.
The physical environment includes physical aspects such as desk arrangement, decorations, lighting, temperature, etc. This is the way the classroom works. Imagine that history class you teach again. How would you arrange the desks and decorate the room? Each physical aspect can affect learning and creativity as well as the ability to concentrate and maintain attention. It's important that the space be attractive, well lit, comfortable and clean. The physical environment is often the first impression of the class as students enter and conveys the teacher's approach to managing instruction and learning. For example, if you arranged the desks in your history classroom so they are clustered into groups and facing each other, it promotes interaction and shows that you - the teacher - value collaboration. If there are stations set up throughout the room, it indicates that the class will be engaging and hands-on.
When students walk into a classroom every day, they need to feel ownership. Their creations and projects should be on display, as the more they see themselves in the environment, the more they feel valued. They should also feel confident of where to find anything they may need, such as supplies or a place to turn in their assignment.
Beyond the physical environment, the learning environment also includes the social and emotional aspects of the classroom. This is the way that the classroom feels. Students thrive in environments where they feel safe and respected and where there is an atmosphere of purposefulness and confidence in learning. This is certainly not always an easy task for teachers, but there are many strategies that help to create this type of environment. One strategy is to build and maintain positive student-teacher relationships, which we'll discuss later in this lesson.
Another strategy is to give students an opportunity to express their opinion and contribute ideas. We already talked about including them in creating rules, consequences and routines, and that is a strategy that goes a long way towards creating a positive learning environment. It keeps them involved and invested in the subject.
On a related topic, one of the greatest challenges of managing the classroom is to keep students motivated and involved. In order for students to actively learn, they must be fully engaged and participate during the entire learning process. Student engagement involves more than just holding their attention. If you successfully engage your students, it means that they are invested in learning. They are truly interested in the material and take pride in understanding it and being able to apply it to their own lives.
I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised if one of your students asked, 'Why do I need to know this? When would I ever use this in real life?' You may have even asked that question yourself in a number of classes. It's because we are most motivated to learn if we see a clear purpose and relevance to our own lives.
One way to engage students, then, is to use authentic activities, which are activities similar to those students would encounter in the outside world. An authentic activity regularly used in history classes is genealogy research. Having your students research and complete their family trees helps them understand how dry historical facts actually affected their families and, in turn, how it affects them.
Another way to engage students and make the material relevant is to discover the things your students are interested in, such as TV shows, music, etc., and then incorporate those things as you teach new material. For example, in your history class, you could ask your students to write lyrics about Abraham Lincoln to the tune of the song, 'Gangnam Style.' This would be a fun activity that students would especially enjoy because it involves something from their lives outside of the classroom. You want to attach the learning material to their personal lives as much as possible.
The last strategy for classroom management that we'll discuss in this lesson is the relationship between students and teachers. Picture your history class one more time. On the very first day, what would you do as your students enter the classroom? Would you greet them at the door and shake their hands? It would be a good idea, as it communicates to them that you are interested in and have respect for each individual student.
Students are more likely to be emotionally and intellectually invested when they have a positive relationship with their teacher. They are also less likely to misbehave and create conflict, plus they receive more enjoyment from being in class.
So, how do you create that positive relationship? It seems obvious, but the first thing that contributes towards a positive relationship is just to get to know them. Beyond remembering their name, remembering details about them shows the students that you care. Communicating and interacting with them during class is also a must. They work harder and smarter when they know that their learning matters to the teacher. When students feel valued and respected, there is an interest in learning that reaches far beyond the material we teach.
In summary, effective teachers create a plan for how they will manage their classroom before the term even begins. Although specific techniques may differ between classes, the basic strategies remain the same.
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Back To CoursePsychology 102: Educational Psychology
10 chapters | 123 lessons | 9 flashcard sets