Monday, May 7, 2012

Quick Work

Oh the tedious, painstaking task of coercing students to class on time. It’s enough to make you want to raise a white flag and reevaluate your career choice.

Why can’t our students just seem to follow the rules and show up to class on time? Well, because getting to class on time is more complicated than you would think.

Allow me to clarify the Top 3 Notoriously Tardy Student Groups:

The Intentionally Late
These students are masters at working the clock. They have developed a strategic system that allows them to loiter, gossip, and hang out in the hallways right up until the very first chime of the bell. You’ll notice these students darting into your entryway while the bell is ringing, bragging, “I made it on time!”

The Forgetful Late
These are the students that despite a routine schedule in place for half a school year, will at any given moment show up for the wrong class, forget their materials, get lost in the building, or lose all concept of what day or time it is. You’ll notice these students aimlessly roaming around, or strolling without a purpose.

The Accident Prone Late
The world is against these poor students. You’ll often find them with a jammed locker, dropping their supplies all over the hallway, tripping, or stopping to tie their shoes in the middle of a crowd. You’ll know when you encounter these students, as they will tug at your sympathetic heartstrings.

Regardless of the reasons and excuses, however, the bottom line is that late students are disruptive and take away from instruction time. And after my first year teaching, I had had enough. I tried the nagging, the ignoring, the wishful thinking, and the calming breathing exercises, until I found myself starting to give up.

That’s when I took a step back and did some evaluating.

What I wanted:
·      Students to come in quietly
·      Students to immediately sit down, and start working before the final bell
·      Students who were ready to learn
·      (I can sense your silent laughter at my optimism)

What I knew I had to do:
1.     Give students a reason to be on time
2.     Hold students accountable
3.     Motivate 

So, I developed: Quick Work

What’s Quick Work? Well, it’s similar to Bellwork: That quick and simple task student’s work on as they come in and settle down.  But don’t disregard my Quick Work just yet with a, “Been there tried that.” Stay with me.

The Facts of Quick Work:
·      For starters, Quick Work is a routine. It starts on the first day of school, and it’s in place each and every day in my classroom. As the students walk in the door, they grab the day’s Quick Work sheet out of the folder strategically placed on the wall where students initially pass by
·      It's a 10 minute or less activity
·      It reviews a concept the students have already previewed or learned
·      It purposefully guides students into the day’s learning objectives  
·      It is always something fun and engaging (i.e., vocabulary crossword, brain teaser, etc)

How Do You Get the Kids to Be on Time for it?
·      Quick Work time begins before the final bell even rings and it is reviewed shortly after. So students need to technically begin their Quick Work as passing time is still going on. We do not review the Quick Work until every student has come in and began working. The kids do not like having to wait for each other, especially for someone who was slacking and showed up late, so this problem tends to work itself out pretty quickly.
·      Quick Work puts structure and consistency into the classroom. The kids know what to expect each day they walk in, reducing anxiety and the dreaded feeling of, “I wonder what she’s going to make us do today, maybe I should stall for one more minute.” 
·      Quick Work is never anything too new or challenging, which means students feel successful; they always know it’s something they are capable of doing. This also means that students can work independently, so there is no talking during Quick Work. Ahhh, a quiet classroom! (Well, for a little while at least!)
·      Students lead the Quick Work. When the time is up, all students share their work aloud, write answers on the board, share with a partner, etc. This sharing makes the students responsible and accountable for getting the work done.
·      Quick Work is always a fun activity. And we know Fun = Motivating, and motivated students show up to class on time!

How it Helps You – The Teacher
It can be hard for teachers in middle school to transition between classes. 5 minutes of passing time in my school sometimes just isn’t enough time for me to switch gears and get ready for the next class coming in. Quick Work will give you that extra 5 minutes to get situated and prepared so you can be on your A-game.

So now, instead of practicing calming breathing exercises as students are scattered around the hallways or frantically running through my door creating the beginnings of a  Classroom Zoo, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I have deterred the Intentionally Lates, and given some structure, consistency, and support to my Forgetful and Accident Prone Lates. Now I can look at a classroom of kids who are already in class, and working silently, before the bell even rings. 

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