Merrylee Primary is building an addition to accommodate the growing number of students. Due to spacing constraints, the two Primary 5 (grade 4) classes are located in “pods” or modular (temporary rooms). These are a bit smaller than the traditional classrooms, and so spacing issues are very prevalent while dealing with classroom management as well. Mrs. B has 31 students and groups the desks in order to fit everyone. There are five groups of desks (four groups with six desks each and one group in the center with eight). Mrs. B will wait until everyone is quiet before beginning a lesson or giving instructions. She told me that it took a few weeks in the beginning of the school year for the students to really grasp this concept. Now, students recognize when it’s time to be quiet, sit still, and listen. Also, Mrs. B will count down 5-4-3-2-1 until the students settled. If she made it to 1, she expressed disappointment and then counted down again. If students were ever chatty and I was present, that student would come over to me and talk with me about something academic: their latest math problems, the most recent book they have read, their science homework, etc. This allowed the student to talk, but orient themselves back to the focus of academics. The learning objective is written on the board for each lesson and this is used as a reference point throughout the lesson. Mrs. B often will go around asking the students how they are achieving the learning objective. This also keeps them academically focused.
The students were usually very well-behaved during lessons. I think it helps that they have breaks between each lesson block. The ability for the students to run around outside and socialize let them re-focus in the classroom. Transition time could have been problematic, with the students having to change from their indoor shoes into their outdoor boots and back again. However, Mrs. B always expressed that she expected the students to read quietly at their desk while the rest of the students come in and change their shoes. Sometimes some students didn’t actually read, but as long as they were quiet, Mrs. B didn’t really mind. She always announced how important it is to read, and I think the students understand that. This also gave the students some autonomy and choice in their actions, creating students who are able to make appropriate decisions. At the end of the day, the students know that they have to organize their desks and wait patiently until they are called to exit. Mrs. B will simply announce the end of the lesson, and the students will begin to clean up.
Overall, I’d say that the expectations Mrs. B has for the students has been enforced enough that the students hold these expectations for themselves. Mrs. B has rules of speaking respectfully to each other, and I even overheard some students politely remind another student to clean, read, or whatever the task was. If students were disrespecting each other, Mrs. B would speak to them directly and remind them of appropriate attitudes and actions, as well as remind them of the expectations she holds for them.