This post is in answer to a question from a reader: when you have a large class, how do you maintain order with all of those teenagers moving around the room? Good question!
1. The key to all classroom management is laying the ground work from day one.
Spend some time this summer thinking about your lines in the sand: what will you put up with and what is out of the question when it comes to student behaviours? Go into your room ready to be firm, fair and consistent, and make sure you establish routines and expectations during the first few weeks of school. Then, when it’s time to get them up and moving during station work, gallery walks or any group collaboration, they will know your expectations and hopeful be ready to meet them. I’ve written another blog post about classroom management tips that give more detail on this–check that out HERE.
2. Decide what noise level you are comfortable with and stick to it:
When I was younger, I used to worry if my class was too noisy, because people would think it was out of control. Experience has given me more confidence, but more importantly, it has taught me that learning can be noisy. In fact, a classroom of engaged kids, talking it out, is a classroom where the learning sparks are flying. (Of course, there are times when students need quiet to think, and you should schedule quiet time as well). When kids are moving about or doing group work, there will be noise, but sometimes they will get too loud –usually this is a sign that they are off topic. Make sure that when they are moving around that you are too. Drop by each group of students to observe or participate in the conversation. Make sure they are on topic and if they aren’t guide them back. When they know that you are going to stop by, they are less likely to lose focus, so resist the urge to grade papers while they are working!
3. Make it clear that if they abuse their moving and/or collaboration time, they will lose it.
Kids love the chance to work together and/or to get up and move. If they know that they will lose that opportunity, they are much more likely to behave. I have had classes that didn’t focus or that got too noisy. I would give them warnings during class and/or at the end of an unsuccessful one. Then, if the next time didn’t go well, we went back to seventy-five minutes of quiet seat work for a week. They soon got the message that I meant what I said. I would then try shorter periods of “noisy” work to let them earn back the privilege. For most classes, this will work.
4. The set up of your classroom may need to be adjusted.
I have my classroom set up with the desks in a double horseshoe, with lots of space in the middle and
front. This allows room to move and it’s also pretty easy to move the desks into groups for them to work. I took this picture one day when they all left the room for a walk and talk (that’s a great strategy to use when they need to dig deeply into a problem or idea, but don’t use it until they know the routine and you trust that they will stay focused when they leave the room!)
When I do learning stations, the desks get pulled together to create the required number of stations, and then students just move clockwise around the room. When we do gallery walks or any kind of group collaboration, I tape chart paper to the walls around the room so they have to work standing up. When this happens, we just push the back row of desks toward the front row. The students have done it so often, that they know the routine and will usually do it themselves without asking, when I start putting the paper on the walls.
5. Let your admin know what you’re doing and why:
If you are worried about what other teachers or admin will think of the noise in your room, explain to them what you’re doing and how important you think moving and talking is to the learning process. After you have the routine established, invite them in to see what’s happening. Before you know it, other teachers will start adopting the practice, and your halls may look like ours do, with students out talking and walking and learning.
Just take the chance. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work the first time, adapt and try again. Good luck and please post any ideas or concerns you have in the comments! And, if you’d like to find out when my digital course on classroom management opens again, you can sign up to be notified here.
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