In my second grade classroom at St. Joseph’s Marist College, students are encouraged to follow strict routines in regards to their daily schedule, behavior, and manners. For example, each time a teacher enters the classroom, all students must stop what they are doing, stand up, and once the teacher says “Good morning, students” they must respond in unison with “Good morning, (teacher’s name).” Additionally, students have different jobs each week which have become a natural routine throughout the day. One student must report the weather during morning meeting. Another student is in charge of turning on and off the lights each time they enter and leave the classroom. Three students are in charge of passing out the particular notebooks at the start of math, phonics, handwriting, or an exam. These jobs, among others, both help the student develop responsibility and help the school day run more smoothly. At the start of math class, the three “book helpers” know to begin passing out math notebooks establishing the transition from one lesson to the next. Although I was not at St. Joseph’s when these expectations were communicated to the students at the beginning of the school year (January), it is obvious that the students naturally follow these routines to the point where they only need a gentle reminder from time to time.
The students are also expected to follow certain routines within each lesson, depending on the subject. As I mentioned before, during math class the book helpers pass out the math notebooks. The teacher then explains that day’s lesson, puts an example on the board for the students to copy in their notebooks, and then puts up the remaining problems for the students to complete in their notebooks after the example. The students are expected to follow the same steps taken in the example to complete the remaining problems and record their work and answers in the exact same way. Expecting the students to complete the work like this helps them understand the proper way to solve the specific type of math problems. However, I have found this strategy to be slightly problematic, as students often are more focused on how they record their work than they are on how to solve the problem. They are often penalized for poor handwriting, not skipping the correct number of lines, or completing problems from left to right instead of from top to bottom of their pages. While carelessness in the presentation of their work makes students more prone to math mistakes, I found that the students became so distracted by the need to present their work perfectly that they would not end up showing a clear understanding of why they followed the steps they did in order to solve the problem. This was often the case when I worked with students one-on-one or in small groups after they tried completing the work on their own. I would ask them questions like “How did you know to not put these three dots in a circle?” when solving 23 ÷ 4. These three dots that did not get put in one of the four circles were the remainder, but students struggled to explain why they should not put these three dots in three of the circles and leave one of the circles with fewer dots than the other three. They were correct not to do so, but many students only knew they should not “because that’s what we did in the example.” I think that a balance between emphasizing attention to the presentation of students’ work and working with students in a way to help them fully understand why they can solve math problems the way they do is the best way to both minimize error and increase student learning.
One classroom management strategy used in my classroom that is also commonly used in many U.S. classrooms is the name chart, where students can move their names up or down based on their behavior and efforts throughout the day. All students start the day with their names on “Ready to learn!” and then can move up to “Doing well!” and “Outstanding!” or down to “Make better choices!” and “Think about it!” What I like about how my CT uses this chart is that she often tells students to move their names up after doing well on a worksheet or in-class assignment. This does not necessarily mean that the student got all the answers correct, but it meant that the student showed significant effort, was focused on their work, and tried their best even if they made mistakes. This helped remind students that positive behavior is not limited to good manners and being kind to one another, but also being responsible and being the best student they can be. I also appreciate when students ask to move their names up after completing work because it shows me that they are aware of how hard they worked during that particular lesson. When students either ask or are told they can move their names up, this encourages the rest of the students to check their own behavior and “reset” if they need to. On the other hand, if a student is told to move his or her name down, this also gives the rest of the students “reset” if their behavior is unexpected or out of line.
While classroom management strategies like the name chart and weekly student jobs are fairly familiar to me from experiences in schools in the U.S., I have found many of the routines during each particular lesson to be new and unique, such as the routines during math class. Navigating these differences originally made it difficult for me to maintain effective classroom management during lessons that I taught at the beginning of my semester because of my unfamiliarity with what the students expect of me and what I should expect of the students. However, throughout my time at St. Joseph’s I have become more comfortable with the routines and expectations in my class, helping me use effective and consistent classroom management strategies during my lessons and throughout each school day.