Mr. Barry structures each lesson very similarly. He begins by having all the students sit on the carpet. He then teaches them what they will be learning that day, asking a lot of questions. He never directly lectures, but rather tries to get each student to participate in his or her own learning. After, he will send them back to their tables to work individually on a task. He will also write all the instructions on the board in order for them to reference, so they are not constantly asking what to do next.
The beginning of the lesson is not always successful. When asking students to sit on the carpet, it allows them to sit by their friends and talk. There is a lot of chattering going on throughout the class every time that they move and therefore it takes away from learning time. Also, by having the students choose their seats on the carpet, they sit near the other students that they talk to the most. This once again takes away from the learning time because Mr. Barry must then spend time asking the students not to talk, as well as choose new seats for them.
However, the time that is not spent on discipline in the beginning of a lesson is very successful. He tries to get the entire class to participate by asking a lot of questions and getting them to raise their hands. He does not care if students answer a question incorrectly, as long as they participate. He will also keep an eye on students that do not appear to be paying attention and call on them. In this way, he makes each student responsible for being attentive and learning each day.
Mr. Barry also has very clear expectations and routines. He makes it very clear that students are expected to pay attention and participate. He encourages wrong answers and only cares that the students are thinking about what they are learning. He is constantly saying how all the students can learn more from getting the answer wrong, than just only getting the right answer each time. Even with a wrong answer, the students will be praised for raising their hand. He likes to see how the students are thinking, rather than know that they are not focused on the lesson.
He also expects students to work hard during their individual work time. Many students spend a good proportion of time at their desks talking to the other students and therefore do not get the tasks completed. In order to see how hard each student worked during the lessons, he checks in on each one of them at the end before they can leave for break or lunch or whatever activity comes next. He will go around to each student individually to see how much they have written or how many problems they have solved. If it is not enough and he saw that they were talking to their friends during the lesson, he will ask them to stay in for part of their lunch or break to complete more problems and to do the work that they should have done during class. This motivates the students to work during the actual lesson so they do not miss any free time.
Each lesson is also planned in order to meet the needs of all the students, who have a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses. He will give the same task to the entire class, but with different levels. During individual work time, the students are to start on the easiest level and work their way through, constantly moving up levels. For example, with maths, there is an easy, medium, hard and challenge level on every worksheet. Every student starts on the easy level. They then work through each problem during the lesson. Therefore, each student can go at his or her own pace and challenge him or herself. Some students will still remain on the easy problems at the end of class, while others will be working on the challenging problems. In this way, each student is able to learn at his or her own pace.
There is also a lot of disorder in the classroom, specifically when moving from activity to activity. As I said earlier, there is a lot of talking. It is another expectation that they move from activity to activity silently. When the students are talking, Mr. Barry will send them right back to wherever it is they came from and try again in silence. While this takes up a lot of time that could be spent on learning, it is important to creating order in the classroom.
Mr. Barry also must deal with a lot of drama between students. Many students do not get along because they do not include each other during break time. This always leads one student to be left out and feeling bad. I like the way that he handles these situations. Rather than talk to students individually, he talks to the group as a whole. Throughout my three weeks, we have already had two whole class lessons on friendship and the importance of not excluding anyone. This has led to great class discussions and has helped the students see situations in which they have actually excluded someone without realizing it. Last week, he also made a contract that talked about friendship and the proper way to treat everyone else in the classroom. He had each student read it and sign it and it is not hung up in the classroom. When the students are not being good friends and he hears about someone being excluded, he will remind the class of the document that they have all signed.
Overall, Mr. Barry is successful at managing the classroom. He works to create a classroom in which everyone is a friend and everyone is learning. While there are many issues that arise, like that of exclusion in friendship, or too much talking during work time, he works all these in to his lesson. He expects the students not to be perfect and he also encourages students not to be perfect. In this way, it creates a more open classroom and helps the students to enjoy being in school.