It's a hard job sometimes
Posted 09 September 2004 - 05:33 PM
(Ok, I admit it . . . I have had a pretty easy time in the classroom so far with behaviour issues being fairly low down on the list of pressures. A stern word was usually enough to scare the life out of most.)
So I now teach a bottom set yr 9 who have significant behavioural issues. I am a pretty good classroom manager so know how to deal with most situations but need to think more broadly about selecting activities to keep the class on task and motivated.
I went in with a seating plan (taken advice from HOY), explained my expectations and reasons behind them, stressing the need to respect each other by not talking all the time, butting in, laughing etc. Explained that we would aim to cover a big range of topics using a variety of methods some of which would rely on their co-operation like group work and role play - trying to hook them at the start. The aim of the lesson was to consider how Britain was different 1750-1890. They were given 2 pictures essentially to play spot the difference with. After a pretty bad start with moans about the seating plan and other generally off task comments I said, "ok, lets start afresh- clean slate. You now know where you are sitting so lets go out, line up outside and come back in and start again giving you a chance to make a good impression on me". This worked to an extent but the lesson wasn't great overall.
Don't get me wrong, they did learn and could talk about the differences quite competently (I ended the lesson asking for summary statements to answer my key q which was on the board). What was lacking was a real focus on the work - they showed each other no respect, talked while others were talking, turned round, mocked each other when answers were given etc, shouted out, demanded attention if I asked another student to answer. They werent even phased when I let the lesson extend 10 mins into their lunch time! I felt so bad for the good ones that I tried desperately hard to include.
I know I did a lot of things right, my classroom management skills are pretty good - tactically ignored some behaviour, pauses, moving around, only criticised inappropriate behaviour not the person etc. I also have very high expectations (and the school has demanded zero tolerance) But I need to think about how to approach the lesson before I next teach them - last lesson tomorrow.
The next few lessons
The usual conclusion to the picture study is to write an account by a ninety yr old woman of how things changed during her lifetime. I was thinking of giving this bottom set some sentences about each period to sort before getting them to use them in a sort of writing frame.
Next week I am introducing the concept of Empire so I thought I would do this by bringing in tea bags, cotton, chocolate etc to go for a visual approach.
Basically I am looking for strategies and approaches from those more experience with this sort of class as it is essential that I win them over at the start and create a working atmosphere I feel comfortable with.
Feeling like a student again
Posted 09 September 2004 - 05:56 PM
The task you suggest sounds a good way to go. With Year 9 you need a quick starter activity and anything that gets their brains going is ideal. How about an A4 piece of paper with different items - some from 1900ish and some from 1750ish. Give them 3 minutes to work out which is which - and those that finish quickly have to pick two and explain why.
You could then go onto your main task. I imagine the big issue here is their lack of knowledge. Using a sentence sorting task sounds like a good one. Perhaps you could add some extra sentences that are absolute (and obvious) nonsense to add to your current ones. The task could then be to identify which sentences would be useful and then arrange these in the order that they'd like.
Alternatively you could get the students to create a storyboard / timeline - folding a piece of A4 up to create six boxes. With a prompt sheet they can then either create six captions at the bottom and draw their own image. Or you can give them the images and they create the captions.
You can do lots of things with images. For example, when looking at the problems that faced Elizabeth I with my lowest ability group, I gave them a page of images - they had to cut out and stick in the images that they felt could be a problem Elizabeth faced - see the worksheet here.
At the end of the lesson it would be good to have some sort of challenge for a small prize - just something silly like a sweetie or anything. You could knock up a quick wordsearch for them to do, or indeed give them the images from today's lesson. There are loads of fun activities which you can dream up. If you've gone for a storyboard, they could show and explain what they created.
The reason for lots of activities is that if one goes wrong, you can call the class together and move onto the next one.
Obviously I don't know your students, but the best tactic I've found is to imagine you a someone totally bored who knows absolutely nothing. You then think of a few activities to stimulate and enthuse the students.
A few lessons like this and you will be able to stretch and extend them further.
Edited by Andrew Field, 09 September 2004 - 06:38 PM.
Posted 09 September 2004 - 06:35 PM
Posted 09 September 2004 - 07:26 PM
Am working on phase 2, the sentences, now.
Posted 09 September 2004 - 07:32 PM
There are some marvellous activities you can do - exactly the same as with other classes - when you get them onside. Looking at primary sources and suchlike - 'translating' them into contemporary language is a really fun and entertaining task.
'Active', hands on activities work really well, but the best thing is simply a variety of materials. If you have access to a projector or computer suite you could use online materials as another variety too.
One fun starter or plenary is to create a wordsearch using http://www.puzzlemaker.com. In fact I've even done this as the main class activity. I had a series of questions relating to sources but gave them a wordsearch with the answers in. The best thing about Puzzlemaker.com is that you can create the same wordsearch three or more times. If you then photocopy and muddle them all up, students are forced to do their own work rather than copy off their neighbour.
All the games and quizzes I've put on the site have come from having Year 9 on Friday 5.
Posted 10 September 2004 - 04:27 PM
I have to say I actualy find using lots of different resources a nightmare in this sort of class as the constant stopping and giving out sheets etc seems to be an excuse for the rude off task discussions to start. Towards the end of the lesson when they were doing the written work, the majority were actually working quite quietly.
Issued 2 'misconduct marks' 1 for persistent talking and turnign around in spite of being moved and a warning. The other for a girl who was out of her seat talking to a mate in spite of them being to sit at all times.
roll on next week . . .
Into to Empire
Do you think my expectations are too high? (I am soooooo out of practice!)
Posted 10 September 2004 - 05:09 PM
I have to say I actualy find using lots of different resources a nightmare in this sort of class as the constant stopping and giving out sheets etc seems to be an excuse for the rude off task discussions to start
I agree with you - I did find however, that by copying the resources onto different coloured paper, I could hand out all resources at the beginning of the lesson and then instruct the students to only use the yellow sheets (for example). Of course some students would look at all the sheets and try to jump the gun, but by rewarding those who follow instructions to the letter you can get around this.
I found that this also worked in lessons at KS4 with low-ability groups. Then I would have the activities on a table at the front of the class in piles of different coloured paper. The instructions were clearly marked on the sheets, and students had a brief overview at the beginning of the lesson to let them know what the end result should be. I could then keep track of who was doing what in the class by looking at the colour paper in front of them. Also I varied the degree of difficulty, so some would complete the first sheet quickly but find that they had to spend progressively more time on each activity (Everyone could do the blue sheet, most could do the green one, and some could do the pink one)
This did help with discipline. They all knew what they had to do, and they got on with it (on the whole!). For latecomers this was ideal, as they could come in and get on with it. I could approach them at my leisure to tick them off about lateness.
I won't say that this solved all my problems, but it did help.
Posted 10 September 2004 - 06:28 PM
If they are all shouting out how about establishing some class rules. We have a 'discussion rule' which is constantly referred to:
1. Hands up 2. Only one person talking at a time 3. Active listening.
Sounds stupid, but when baby-like reference is made to the 'discussion rule' it really works.
You certainly shouldn't adapt your expectations, but I guess you have to appreciate they they won't improve immediately. However, such classes do recognise when effort has been made to help them and it does pay off.
Exactly as you suggest Anne, experiment with things like different coloured paper. Year 9 boys can be so pleased that they 'manged to get on the yellow sheet today!'
With paper-giving out being an excuse for discussions you again can experiment with different techniques. I find giving a worksheet out face down and asking the class to watch out for any 'cheats' works well. "No turning the paper over early or you get a penalty delay". One always turns it over, the whole class spots 'em and they get really upset that they get a 30 second penalty delay. This, somehow, creates a sense of urgency in the task and they are anxious to get on.
Nevertheless, classes like this will always be a challenge. In my class this afternoon, while we were discussing the best images to use on a key for a Native American map, one boy decided to eat his bus pass. It was even laminated.
Keep at it Mrs B! You sound more pleased today - even if it didn't meet your expectations, things are going in the right way.
Posted 10 September 2004 - 07:34 PM
Absolutely correct. With SN classes OVER-STIMULATION is a big problem. With reticent or lazy normal children, enthusiasm and interesting tasks - or exploding and yelling - solve the problem. With SN pupils they are at best ineffective, and often make them worse.
I went in armed with resources and enthusiasm but too be honest it wasn't great...
I have to say I actualy find using lots of different resources a nightmare in this sort of class as the constant stopping and giving out sheets etc seems to be an excuse for the rude off task discussions to start.
You have to be calming. Listen with Mother is the key. I usually start the lessons sitting down, and spend a few minutes talking with the pupils in a calming way. They are usually desperate to tell me something, but it's just a matter of calming things down.
True, but not the answer. If you tried to do this all the lesson it would get them bored and that would lead in itself to trouble. Very often these pupils have a very short concentration span, and it is unwise to leave them doing anything too long.
Towards the end of the lesson when they were doing the written work, the majority were actually working quite quietly.
So how does that fit in with not over-stimulating them.
I would suggest the following:
1. Familiarity is essential.
2. Routines and consistency are vital.
3. A 'different' activity does not need to be a fiddly, elaborate or amazingly exciting one.
My lessons with pupils like yours would bore the pants off able classes, but the SN pupils love them!
A typical JDC SN-class lesson would have some or all of the following (in what follows, you will sense the actual words I use to the pupils):
a. Start with a chat, preferably one related to the theme of the lesson (but not essential, is a pupil has come in talking about another valid topic).
b. Tell them WHAT they are going to do this lesson (blow-by-blow in practical terms of what they will be doing - listening to me/ reading the textbook etc.)
c. Read the textbook round the class (see below). Perhaps a sentence each. Lots of praise.
d. If I'm feeling silly, do it in a silly way - eg keep asking one pupil, but only let them get one word out before moving on/ try as a class to read it out 'round' the class but each child only says one word/ keep choosing the same child again and again/ tell them to read every other word/ read in a certain silly voice etc. etc.
[d2. At this point, with younger pupils, I would do some literacy work. Pull out some words with phonic similarities/ some key words etc. Rub out some letters and let them come forward one and put it right. etc.]
e. Read the passage out again TO them. They HAVE to follow. Shout out a name every now and again anf they have to tell you the next word or it's (some random punishment I have no intention of enforcing).
f. Establish understanding by Q&A. Lots of different ways to do this. Divide class into groups (choose the three alpha characters and let them choose sides/ tutor groups/ boys v girls) and have a quiz with lots of different KINDS of rounds - they choose the victim/ they choose a representative/ etc. Ask questions and pupils - as they get the answers right or wrong - can stand, stand on chair, stand on desk etc. Close your textbook and let them ask you questions about the passage etc. Have written four open questions on the board and let them talk about them with their partner before having a colloquium to share ideas.
g. Have our 'writing time'. You know I always like to have ten minutes working in silence writing. It's really important that we manage to do this. So I am going to get my ten minutes. You know what I'm going to say, don't you! I want to finish the lesson with [something nice - a quiz/ a video/ a drama] but we have to do our ten minutes writing - so every time you speak and disturb my ten minutes, I'll have to take it out of your fun time at the end.
Always offer three alternatives for this writing time - and let one of them be copying neatly ('I know some of you would much prefer to do that, so you can). Other can be more adventurous, up to free writing against a frame, but provide a graduation of tasks.
With some classes, I play 'our writing music' during this time - Mozart.
Everybody has to select a task they can do without help (except that autistic pupils need help to choose the task). I am not interested in anybody saying anything for ten minutes.
While they are working, either physically, or just verbally from my chair, I go round the class telling pupils how well they are doing v. their own problem, and how pleaed I am with how hard they have tried to tackle it today. How much I love this class. How much I look forward to these lessons. I punctuate these with saying that I should shut up and let them get on because I'm disturbing them.
At utter random, and certainly not every lesson, I say: 'I think we all deserve a sweetie!' and I produce a bag of lollies, and we all do the work sucking a lolly.
h. OK! Work over! time for fun. How fast and quietly can we clear away. And we just do something we will enjoy for the last ten minutes.
Notice from the above:
1. No resources except the TV and the textbook.
2. I spend most of the lesson sitting beningly at the front!
3. Less attempt to do 'interesting' activities (though i ring the changes within the lesson) than have a 'happy' environment - these pupils, like toddlers - come to love the familiarity ('Oh I LOVE it when we do this').
4. Praise and recognition of any achievement.
5. Genuine affection. Relationships rather than disicipline.
6. Set routines for each element. Every SN child in Greenfield will be able to tell you 'Mr Clare's rules for watching a video' or 'Mr Clare's rule for reading round'.
Benign does not equal soft. You were right to confront this. These pupils are capable of perfect behaviour, and that is what you must be working towards. After years of this kind of thing, pupils strive to 'do things OUR way'. If any pupil comes in disruptive, I simply exclude him/her. I am not going to have anyone spoiling OUR happy lesson.
Issued 2 'misconduct marks' 1 for persistent talking and turnign around in spite of being moved and a warning. The other for a girl who was out of her seat talking to a mate in spite of them being to sit at all times.
My rules for watching a video are utterly draconian - first person to anything to attract my attention goes next door one way to copy/ second person to so much as shift in their seat goes next door the other way to copy/ third person and I assume the class is bored with my video and we will ALL copy. (I've never got beyond 2)
they showed each other no respect, talked while others were talking... mocked each other when answers were given...
This MUST stop. I always explain that we ALL have limitations and problems in this class. They could make me look silly playing football. I could certainly make them look foolish academically. So nobody mocks anybody in this class. Nobody mocks when someone gets something wrong, or finds something difficult. We need to forgive somebody who is having 'an off day'. And everybody has to understand that everybody in this class has some problem, and that sometimes they will have to sit there whilst I help that person, and they will do it happily because next lesson it will be their turn.
Sometimes, when we are reading round, I will bring a person forward, and work one-to-one reading (or following while another person reads out) as though the rest of the class were not there. If you are kindly and helpful, it can be really successful.
Mr Clare's rule for reading is that nobody calls out any comments when someone is reading out but me. This is the one thing I really shout about. Nobody but me knows the precise problem of that pupil with reading. Nobody but me know when to give help. If I have decided that I want a pupil to struggle with a word because I think they can get it on their own, and some fool shouts it out, then they have deprived that pupil of a learning opportunity.
I think the clue is that I am incredibly fatherly, and we build up over the weeks a loving family, all rooting for each other, and all taking joy in each others' successes, and hopefully perpared to forgive occasional failings.
Posted 10 September 2004 - 07:57 PM
I realise that the issue could indeed be one and the same, but there could be an important difference which changes your approach to the lesson.
I'm pleased you suggested that 'reading around' task above John. One I use is getting students to read around but they choose when they feel that have read enough. For some reason this always encourages them to read more - and they are desperate to show off their reading skills.
Posted 10 September 2004 - 08:05 PM
Actually, I forgot to say that you don't get the finished article first lesson you do this. This approach works for all categories of SN - academic and behavioural - except perhaps very able SpLD pupils. But it can take three years - Yrs 7-9 - to get a naughty class absolutely there.
And, actually, in my case, it has taken 30 years at the school, and having taught their parents like this! Being cynical, the fact that I am older, a grandfather and the Deputy Head helps, too.
And even so, with a new SN class, I would expect to take a month or so gradually introducing my ways and rules. You cannot do it all in one lesson.
I have always said - and have probably already said in some thread or other - that one of the key differences between a young gun and an old lag is that the inexperienced teacher often starts off quite well, but things tend to deteriorate as the year goes on. The older experienced teacher sometimes can have trouble at the beginning, but by the end of the year he has them doing things his way.
Posted 12 September 2004 - 06:12 PM
to summarise - very useful discussion, is helping me a lot, would like to keep it going for a few more lessons
Posted 04 October 2004 - 10:34 PM
Last time I finished this particular day in the "cycle" on my knees, physically and emotionally. I had worked incredibly hard all weekend to prepare a series of lessons (an investigation into the causes of WWI) for my year 9 group and they had blown lesson 1 out of the water.
Tonight I'm not quite so crushed, but......disheartened, and not a little concerned.
I'll try to keep it brief.
I teach in a challenging secondary modern school in the south of England. The class in question is now 29 strong, and of higher ability within the cohort. I am an NQT and as such have the smallest, least attractive room (though I have tried to create a pleasant environment), which only seats 30. The group contains 9 AEN students, most of whom have behaviour issues. This is a school with a major accent on improving behaviour, having previously been in special measures.
This class is more able and more literate than most I teach, but they are incredibly disruptive - constant low-level disruption, shouting out, "dissing" each other. Today it took 20 minutes to get through a straight forward "true/false" starter exercise and we didn't get to the "meat" of the lesson until the last 20 minutes. The result is that they get much less work done than other smaller but supposedly less able groups, and I leave the lesson exhausted.
I am following all the classic guidance (!) and the school's own behaviour management policy rigorously, but I can't seem to create a positive, respectful, engaged learning environment. The one thing I am aware of is that we now have "history" and every lesson I think they and I are waiting for the first student to be ushered outside. The thing is that, whilst I recognise that it's necessary to let some stuff go, there are a significant number of students who seem unable to remain quiet at appropriate times. It's all very well "ignoring" low-level disruption but some students then don't know what's going on - especially in a big class, my view is that they need to be quiet while I'm outlining what they are going to do. The truth is that a hard core appear bent on doing as little work as possible.
As well as the low-level, there are one or two very disruptive students - one who is on his final warning before permanent exclusion and another who has diagnosed chronic ADD. She shouts out constantly, talks ALL the time and gets exasperated when, on the rare occasions she puts her hand up, she isn't immediately called upon.
Do I have to learn to "not sweat the small stuff"? Am I being too hard on them? Can I "start over" with them?
Practical limitations are in place. I can't reduce the class size. I can move to a larger room for one of my two lessons a fortnight but this would mean setting up in a very short break between lesson in a room 5 minutes away, as well as introducing a new routine.
I have spoken to my HOD and some colleagues and know that I am not alone in having difficulty with this class. I'm aware there are no miracle solutions but I would appreciate your advice and suggestions of strategies that might help me to start looking forward to teaching this class.
(Did I say something about keeping it brief!?)
Oh, and by the way.....I have them for a split lesson tomorrow - half and hour either side of a half hour lunch break.
I look forward to your replies.
Posted 04 October 2004 - 11:53 PM
We all had classes like that when we were NQTs - the cleverer ones are the worst, because they are cleverer in their naughtiness.
My main advice would be:
1. Keep on struggling - this class will teach you more about teaching than you learned in the entire PGCE course!!!
2. Do NOT relax your standards - if anything, tighten them up.
Much of what has been said above still apllies, but not all of it.
With more able pupils, the dynamics are changed.
You need to interest them without giving the disruptive pupils the opportunity to destroy (e.g. no games with lots of little parts they can throw about).
You need to make the lesson academically fulfilling, establishing relevance to their position, and maintaining interest.
Do not let the starter take so long again - move on to the meat of the lesson promptly. If you set a starter task, give a limited time and stop it whether they have finished or not.
Allocate times to each element of the lesson, and stop them when the finish time has arrived. tell them before how long they have, and warn them that this is what you are going to do, and then be sure to your word. In this way DRIVE the lesson forward.
Allow the word 'failed' to enter your vocabulary for pupils who fail, but make sure that they don't need the outcome of the last task to do the next adequately.
For the rest, all the classic things:
- prepare your lesson as a discrete machine-gun set of 'events' (e.g. a starter, a time of reading, a short explanation, a time of discussion, a time of writing, a time of drama, a time of performance, a video clip, etc.). When you have worked out your sequence, write down the side what the pupils will be doing during each 'event' - make sure that it involves as much difference and change as possible, and that they don't spend too much time doing activities which are, essentially, the same thing over and over again. 'Ring the changes'.
- get the majority on your side (you cannot beat a whole class - you MUST divide and rule),
- lots of praise (and rewards) for those who succeed (not for those who disrupt - as an attempted bribe).
- a time of silent work within each lesson - offer a number of choices of varying difficulty and let the pupils choose what they want BUT insist they do the work they have chosen in silence.
- stand your ground/ don't let them bully you.
- don't raise your voice over the top of talking. If anything, speak quietly so they they have to listen to hear you.
- STAY POLITE AND PLEASANT. However much you are pushed, do not be driven back into abuse or insult - it will turn off the pupils who ARE prepared to give you a chance. Try not to shout/lose your temper - that is what they are trying to achieve (occasional explosions never did any class any harm, but it is their rareness that give them their power). Remember that many of the pupils are lovely children, that most can be lovely children in the right environment (which it is your job to create), and that even the most awful ARE redeemable. Stay positive, and do not become one of those dreadful moaning/bitter teachers who seem to bear the pupils a grudge - I had one wonderful NQT, an older woman, who after even the most horrific lesson would say of what the pupils had done: 'Well, that's their job, isn't it?'
but I would also emphasise two things:
1. be aware WHY you want the discipline you want. Watching some teachers, you'd think that they were teaching discipline. But discipline has no value per se. You want good discipline because without it the pupils who do want to learn cannot do so. Most of the pupils in the class DO want to learn, especially if you're trying to do interesting lessons. Believe in your content and in its importance.
2. There comes a point where you cannot 'win' certain pupils. But you must stop them harming the learning of others. Insist on good discipline for the sake of learning, and let it be known that you will do everything you can to stop other pupils damaging that learning.
There is a tendency, when faced with a disruptive class, to retreat into dull, 'punitive' tasks. Do not allow the yobs to drive you back into this. Believe in your teaching, and put on offer a diet of interesting learning. Even if they ruin every lesson - you have to convince the majority that it is worth taking part in this lesson, and that the teacher is right to want good discipline so that they can enjoy the good teaching he offers.
Finally, do not worry if you 'lose' a battle. That happens even to me, today still - with all my experience and position in the school.
Remember Phyrrus (of the phyric victory).
Remember that the pupils hate conflict and confrontation, too (even if they do not show it to you).
So, even if you lose, make them work for their victory.
And then, tomorrow, bowl back into the room as though you had won yesterday, and 'go for it' again!!!!
See if they have the will to continue the fight.
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