I’m posting this information on the Classroom Rules here for Diane :
Supplement 4 – The Classroom Rules
The biggest chore we have at the beginning of each academic year is to get a handle on classroom management. We must have that piece under control before even thinking about our instruction. Indeed, why even begin a program of instruction with a new group of students unless you know that you can first control their behavior in your classroom?
The good thing is that when we work from images in this new curriculum the levels of student engagement are so high that we start each class with a big advantage over what we’ve had in recent years.
Al the same time, heightened levels of student engagement are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee you a classroom management package that gives you full control of your classroom.
The classroom rules provided below are the result of trying out hundreds of rules, many of which failed. These are the survivors of 15 years of daily testing. You will learn how to use them in this supplement.
Here they are:
1. Listen with the intent to understand.
2. One person speaks and the others listen.
3. Support the flow of conversation.
4. Do your 50%.
5. Actors and artists – synchronize your actions with my words. 6. Nothing on desks unless told otherwise.
We write the rules in L1 so that there is absolutely no question in the students’ minds about what we are conveying to the class when we point to these rules.
We cannot expect children to know how to behave. We must show them what we want, often to the point of sitting down from time to time in a desk and modeling for them the desired behaviors. This is especially true with ninth and tenth graders, whose view of acceptable behaviors may have been distorted in their middle school classrooms, where they may have learned to act in ways that don’t work in comprehension-based classrooms.
If, in the first few weeks of school we use these rules constantly, at every turn, in response to every single infraction that we notice as we teach, we will rarely if ever have to use them again.
Whenever you notice an infraction of the rule, each time, do not let it go. Just do the following:
Step 1: Stop teaching.
Step 2: Look in a friendly way in the general direction of the student.
Step 3: Walk to the poster and put your hand on the rule they just broke.
Step 4: Read the rule – it’s usually Rule 2 – out loud.
Step 5: If necessary, explain in English what the rule means (see below).
Enforcing the Rules
Don’t go over the rules on the first day of class. The kids are bombarded with rules on that day. Just start in with Category A.
The steps above, where you learn to stop teaching and go through them, represent a positive confrontation process that you initiate to keep the good will flowing. Stay friendly but firm. I used to suggest that we actually smile at the offending student in steps 2 and 5, but I don’t anymore. A smile can be misinterpreted. The main thing is to keep some semblance of ease in your demeanor.
I am not friends with my students. By stopping on a dime at the first sign of misbehavior and constantly walking to the rules poster in those first two weeks, I teach them that I am not their friend and that my main job is to set limits with any children who don’t behave with respect in my class.
If we don’t set clear limits about what behavior is acceptable by stopping at each offense early on, we will lose the class by October. I’ve called that the October Collapse. At the beginning of each year, I promise myself that I will respect myself enough to immediately crush the least bit of misbehavior by stopping my teaching and going through the steps above whenever necessary, without enmity, whenever necessary.
Kids are perceptive and deceptive, and “friendly” kids in the first weeks of school often become our biggest enemies later on after they win us over. That is narcissism. They set you up by appearing trustworthy and nice and then when they have you in their pocket, they turn on you and if you are an overly empathic teacher you will pay the price. So, enforce the rules at every turn in every instance or pay later.
Again, we act each single time a rule is broken. There is no option involved here, no skipping over a single offensive behavior. You will know that you are doing it successfully when you find yourself stopping class and explaining the rules constantly in the first weeks of classes with all of your classes, maybe hundreds of times a day. Then and only then will they get the message.
If the rules are not the main subject of the first weeks of class, you may as well do a silly walk on out of your classroom and stay gone, because nothing significant, except lots of headaches and heartaches by you, will happen in that classroom that year.
If the rules don’t work with certain kids, and that happens a lot at the start (perhaps as much as one or even two students per class) then get on the phone. Call anyone, first the parents, record notes from each conversation, and then if nothing happens go to the administration. You know the drill. Use the phone or email or even text messaging.
Enforcing these rules is really a question of accessing your personal power. The students want to know in each of their classes, “Is this teacher going to exhibit enough personal power to stop, from the very beginning of the year, each little side conversation or ill-timed comment from me during class?”
Such side conversations and comments can grow like brush fires. The students are watching. I4s2 the teacher going to grab the fire extinguisher (the appropriate rule) in the instant that it happens, extinguishing the first flames when it is easy to do so, or not?
Don’t take such behaviors personally. Just respond to each spark with a bigger spark of your own in the form of walking to the rules poster every single time.
Do NOT respond with a spark of your own in the form of anger. That is just stupid, as anyone who has been teaching for more than one week knows.
If a child is not o.k. with the rules and cannot change their attitude, they can change their schedules. With certain kids, you must attempt to change their schedule. Failure to do that – get a schedule changed – has been the cause of deep emotional distress all year later on, not just for the teacher but also for the other students in the classroom, including the offending student. Students don’t want or need that kind of classroom drama, and we are the only people in the room who can protect them from it.
Confront administrators and counselors who won’t help you. Don’t give up.
When you don’t confront these bullies – that’s what students who make rude comments in your classes are – you are sending a very clear message to your other students that they aren’t important enough for you to assure their right to learn in a quiet and focused setting. That’s the wrong message to send them.
Use the Classroom Rules and some form of an interpersonal skills rubric (discussed below) to help you find your personal power and use it in your own classroom. Don’t back down to any counselors, parents or administrators in getting the schedule changed. They will tell you that it is your responsibility to teach the offending student. It is not.
Intimidation of teachers by other adults in the school when they are making professional decisions that are in the best interests of their individual classes is rampant right now in our nation’s schools. Teachers back down as well from ignorant counselors, whose own hands are tied, and chaos ensues. Do not back down with certain students!
Such irresponsible counselors and administrators must be taught to make the right decision for the overall mental health of the building and you are the only one who can educate them on this point. Find someone in the building who can help you and make the phone calls home. Document everything.
If there is no adult capable of helping you, consider leaving the school. It’s a question of your own mental health.
When must you do all this? When must you raise a ruckus with parents and administrators to get those really rough kids out of your classroom? If you don’t do it in the first few weeks of school, it is too late.
Below is a commentary on each of the Classroom Rules. You might want to have the following text handy about each one before launching into CI, so that you are ready to give those constant little explanations of the rules each and every time a student fails to comply with one of them. Children need repetition.
- Listen with the intent to understand. Such a foundational behavior as this one is rarely done except by students in schools. Instead, many students listen with the intent to pass the test. If your students do not cultivate this first and most important of the rules, if they think that your class is, like most others, a game built around testing, then they must be constantly reminded to listen with the intent to understand. Point at it, smile, and enforce it. If the kid can’t do it, tell them to fake the behavior until they can do it or invite them to leave the class.
- One person speaks and the others listen. Left unchecked, some students will take only a few weeks before they have nearly complete control over a classroom. When you see a side conversation, explain that you are going to be doing most of the talking this year because you are the only one in the classroom who speaks the language. Do not waste your time talking to the child – that doesn’t work. Go to the adults who have the power to change the student’s schedule or who can support you in disciplining the kid. This bears repeating— much damage has been done because teachers have trusted a student after a brief talk in the hallway or after class to change, when the child has, over the years, made almost a profession of lying to adults about changing their behaviors in class. Go to the adults. On the topic of seating charts, wait a few weeks at the beginning of the year, seat the students left to right in front of you in a “wide” pattern and not “deep” and away from you in the classroom and then, after two weeks when you know where your problem areas are, divide the groups that have become comfortable being together and put them as far away from each other in the classroom as possible.
- Support the flow of conversation. This term was invented by Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg in Chicago. Students who have never or only rarely experienced actual reciprocal back and forth human conversation in a class (this ability is formed at the dinner table) cannot be expected to be able to support the flow of the conversation in the class. They have been taught that sitting in a class requires that they only be physically present. Therefore, they must be reminded in class to support the flow of language in the classroom.
- Do your 50%. We have to listen to our kids and they have to listen to us—each has to do their half. Comprehensible input is a two-way street in which we both do equal work, which then adds up to 100% effort by the group. I constantly refer to this rule when I see a student not paying attention. It is because this is a completely new concept to many kids, who have been taught to think for years that their teachers do the work while they passively write things in notebooks, or not, if they choose not to. Writing things in a notebook does not constitute learning in a language classroom. Interacting with the teacher via eye contact does.
- Actors and artists – synchronize your actions with my words. Actors can be major distractors if not reined in. That is one reason I don’t use props, or rarely. Studies have shown that most of human communication is visual. Therefore, an actor with a prop can completely draw the class’s attention away from the language and onto the actor and prop. Be very careful in choosing actors. Avoid attention- seeking students. Quiet focused kids of good will who are kind make the best actors. You feel their strength and positive listening energy next to you as you teach. Kids who lack self-control are very hard to teach next to. Actors absolutely must be corrected or told to sit down if, during a story, they make a single move or do anything that you have not said—that is why we have this rule. So, whenever you notice an actor pretending to be a rocket flying to the moon when in the story they are still back on earth because you said nothing up to that point about sending them to the moon, stop the actor and point to this rule. With a smile, of course. Artists, as well, must have the patience to not get all creative and star4t4 adding details that have not been established by the class. It is just as important to find patient artists who work quietly and independently and who wait to see what emerges from the class’s ideas as it is to find artists who have drawing talent.
- Nothing on desks unless told otherwise. This is if you have desks. It is a lot easier, when a class enters the room, to remind a class about a rule than to say in a threatening way to one student, “Take that backpack off your desk!” which can immediately become confrontational. Just don’t allow anything on desks. This nothing on the desk rule especially includes coins, pencils, etc. As output, writing in a comprehensible input class is rare, so kids need to see the “unless told otherwise” part of this rule. This rule is a big one in terms of classroom management because, in many schools, backpacks on desks are code for I’m-going-to-be-on-my-cell-phone-in- class-today. Enforce this major rule before class even begins, as they sit down in their desks to start class, every day.
One most critical point about managing your classroom in the first days of the year, actually in the first ten minutes of the first class of the year:
If your voice isn’t the only focal point for all those new students in those first days of school, that is like pouring fuel on a fire. There are just too many factors going on in those first days – most having to do with students testing the teacher. Be on your guard. Teaching is not important now – pointing to the rules is.
You can never have those first days of school back. You must either get Classroom Rule 2 up and running at every turn and get your first cards discussions going in complete silence or you might as well metaphorically pour gasoline and throw a match on the floor of your classroom.