• Aaron Daffern

Take CHARGE of the Classroom #15: Planning


This is post #15 in a 20-post series designed to disrupt outdated behavior management models and help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. This post contains excerpts from my book Take CHARGE of the Classroom.


A teacher’s level of preparation has a direct inverse relationship with the amount of misbehavior in the classroom.


Often when teachers complain about the behavior issues they face on a daily basis, they don’t take time to examine their ownership of the problem. When there is downtime in the classroom due to disorganization and lack of preparation, that flows right back to the teacher. If you want to minimize the behavior problems you face on a daily basis, a good starting point would be to consistently have your materials ready.


Before you leave each day, take five or ten minutes to look over your plans for the next day. Yes, it’s 4:00 and you want to leave. However, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make sure you have enough copies, your materials and assignments are organized and either obvious or labeled, and your lesson plans are visible in a prominent location.


More than simply laying out your materials ahead of time, teachers that want to take charge of their classrooms must also take time to learn the lesson material diligently. It is alright to reference the teacher’s manual on occasion, especially when teaching something new for the first time, but it should never be used as a crutch or a long-term solution. Not being confident in the content signals to students that what is being discussed or taught is not that important.


The easiest way to think about lesson preparation in this light is that of a performance. You are the main act and you have a captive audience that will either cheer you on or start throwing things if you bomb. You would never go on stage without memorizing your lines or rehearsing thoroughly. Why would you teach a lesson with any less preparation?


What can you do tomorrow?

Get ready. Commit to focusing on preparation for the next few days and note how it impacts your students. Make sure your materials are set out the day before and go over the lesson to become familiar with the key ideas.


Be a star. Treat instruction as a part in a stage play in which you perform your role for (and with) the students. Be sure of your content and the key moves of each lesson so you can execute them comfortably and adapt mid-lesson as needed.


What does this look like in the classroom?

Classroom tasks are well-planned, as evidenced by:


· Necessary supplies being readily accessible to students who are comfortable using them;


· Materials (e.g., manipulatives, activity cards, handouts) being prepared in advance; and


· The teacher giving directions effortlessly with minimal errors.

Students are much less likely to vandalize their own property than someone else’s. They’re not going to deface something they treasure nearly as quickly as they might something that has no meaning for them. If students are not caring properly for your classroom, whether through their behavior or through their treatment of your classroom’s tools and supplies, that might just be your problem – it’s your classroom.


Taking charge of the classroom, we’ve already found out, is highly oxymoronic. The more power you give away, the less your students struggle with you. In the same way, the best way to take care of your classroom is to make it everyone’s job to take care of it, not just yours.


Think about it. Your classroom is a shared learning space, an area that students will inhabit for 180 school days over the course of ten months. If they don’t feel any sense of belonging or responsibility, that’s a long time for them to be cooped up together without starting to pick at the carpet or draw on their desks. If you can extend the responsibility for the classroom maintenance and success to the students, you have a much better chance of making it through the year in one piece.


There are some standard jobs that you can utilize, like board eraser, homework collector, or pencil sharpener. These and others like it will help keep things running smoothly and increase the feeling of ownership that students have. More than simply assigning them, however, a real opportunity exists to take these roles and responsibilities to the next level by bringing the students themselves into the conversation.


It would be well worth your time to hold a class meeting or two to discuss how everyone is responsible for maintaining a clean and orderly learning environment. Let them brainstorm which tasks need to be done and how often. Instead of simply jotting down everything they suggest without comment, push back on some of their ideas to make them justify why each one is needed.


Start by accepting just a few proposals, letting students know that you want to see how they do with these jobs before adding new ones. By taking it slow and leaving the addition of more jobs up to them, you put the students in charge and place the burden of responsibility back on them.


What can you do tomorrow?

Employ your students. Use classroom jobs to build buy-in. Explain the functions, set up systems to check for faithful execution of duties, and even take student suggestions for new classroom jobs as long as they can justify them.


Visualize. Take five minutes at the end of a day to consider the next day’s lesson. Walk through the sequence in your mind, noting areas that need to be tightened up or materials that still need to be prepared.


What does this look like in the classroom?

Classroom tasks encourage student responsibility, including:


· Helpers assigned to daily managerial tasks;


· Classroom roles being updated and turned over according to an understood and equitable system; and


· One or more students serving as classroom supervisors.


To read more posts in this series, click here.


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