Monday, April 23, 2012

A Classroom Zoo

Our worst fear as teachers = An out of control classroom. In a moment of vulnerability, let me confess my fear of A Classroom Zoo is due to one self imposed reason: A Classroom Zoo indiscreetly shouts, “Bored Students Gone Wild!” 

We know that when students are motivated, they are engaged, they are trying, and they are working. And when students are unmotivated, they become disinterested and seek entertainment. Which is why shouting to a friend across the room, incessantly starring out the window, humming song lyrics that aren’t playing, or sharpening a pencil 16 times in 4 minutes all seem to be appropriate behaviors. Too many instances of this at once, and you have yourself a Classroom Zoo.

So how can you keep students in line and to attention while also keeping them motivated?

--> Pillar 4: Give Students Control

So are you saying to Give Up Control to Gain Control? Exactly!

So take a deep breath, and prepare to loosen the reins (just a little!) 

1.     Give Students Choices

If you want students to be active contributors in your classroom, and avoid A Classroom Full of Crickets, then they must have some choice and involvement in their own learning. Would you speak up in a staff meeting when no one was addressing you or listening to what you had to say? Well maybe some of you would, but honestly, what would be the point? Give the students a reason to sit up and look alive because you are asking for input and they have some decisions to make. Show them your classroom allows for collaboration. Besides, no one enjoys responding to a list of barked orders, nor are they fun to dish out on a daily basis.  

The choices you give your students do not need to quake the ground of your classroom. Students can choose the order in which they complete their work, their method of presenting, or whether they want to work in groups or alone. You may be pleasantly surprised that when you allow a child to make choices about their learning, they use their strengths appropriately and produce better work that they will take ownership of.    

2.     Share The Power

For all the control freaks out there (myself included) not delegating and micro managing every aspect of your classroom may be a difficult transition. But you’ll find that as you do, even if the reigns are only loosened slightly, you’ll become more relaxed in the long run. Sharing the power with your students gives them the opportunity to take on responsibility and work with independence. So loosen your grip, and give your voice, and your feet a rest once in a while. Let students attempt to tackle a concept or assignment on their own through inquiry or working in groups. How nice it will be to take a step back, put some trust into your students, and watch them flourish!

And of course, don’t confuse giving students control with completely losing structure and consistency in your classroom. We know how essential our Healthy Classroom Environment is, so remember to loosen the reins, not let go!

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