Saved By The Bell

Saved by the Bell

Saved by the Bell!

Before we continue, I have to let you know that this is rocket science or a breakthrough in classroom management 😉 As a teacher, I have a pretty even keeled temperament. That being said, it’s never a good thing to raise your voice too much inside a classroom. First things first, nobody likes to be yelled at, kid or adult. Second, raising your voice happens, but make sure it doesn’t happen too often. Thirdly, dinging a bell is much easier. This is a new strategy that I’ve tried out this year. I didn’t want to have to contend for attention or be confrontational when trying to get my class back on task.

Things to remember, you will have to raise your voice or change the tone of your voice at some point in time. That being said, if you establish expectations for when the bell is rung, rational individuals will comply. I let my students know that I don’t like yelling and/or raising my voice in class at the beginning of the year. In an effort to prevent the before-mentioned, I needed them to know when the bell rings, it’s time to regain focus and/or their attention. For the most part, it works. It’s by no means a fool proof idea.

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Student Interaction During Direct Instruction

A little humor goes a long way during Direct Instruction...

A little humor goes a long way during Direct Instruction…

During direct instruction, I try to let the students interact as much as possible. I also try to infuse some humor because a little humor goes a long way when battling for a teenagers’ attention span. There are two factors that may limit the previously mentioned things, behavior and time constraints. Both of the  factors, behavior and time constraints, can be problematic and lead to a teacher driven lesson for the day. I’ve told the students more than once – the more they talk the less I have to talk. They see me two times a day for Language Arts/Literature as well as Language Arts/Writing, so I like to keep the mood lighthearted but structured. Kids at this age (11-14) don’t do well when they aren’t in a structured environment. When I say structured, I mean creating a routine as well as an environment where kids know they are expected to work. I coach football and running a classroom is much like running a practice with obvious differences. Having a clear objective and activities on a daily basis helps with that previously mentioned notion of structure (i.e., Display Lessons on Whiteboard). Continue reading

Would a Flipped Classroom Work in Junior High School?

To Flip or not to Flip???

To Flip or not to Flip???

I have heard so much about the Flipped Classroom Model that I decided to look into it for future reference. I will say that I’m not completely sold on it, but I think it’s worth looking into. By basic definition a Flipped Classroom is, “A pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. The video lecture is often seen as the key ingredient in the flipped approach, such lectures being either created by the instructor and posted online or selected from an online repository. While a prerecorded lecture could certainly be a podcast or other audio format, the ease with which video can be accessed and viewed today has made it so ubiquitous that the flipped model has come to be identified with it.” – EduCause Active learning and student engagement are terms that are thrown around a lot, but they are the main reasons I’ve been looking into this fairly new idea. That being said, upon delving into this type of model, I’m not sure if it can be used with this age group. I’m also not sure if it’s appropriate or productive to use at a high school level, at least during 9th or 10th Grade. I could be wrong, hence, the reason for this post…

There are glaring issues that are keeping me from attempting this on a large scale. The first being, not everybody has internet access at their house, so assigning activities that have video content becomes problematic. You may be thinking, we live in an information age, so everybody should have access to the internet. Yes, in a Utopian society, we all have access to the internet as well as wifi hotspots. However, all people don’t. Furthermore, this puts a lot of responsibility on kids that are in the age range of 11-14. I know I wasn’t ready or responsible enough to basically teach myself the lesson the night before as well as be prepared to be actively involved in class. However, the more I read about the model the more I think about things that I could do with this model working in my classroom.

At a Junior High age range, one is still in a battle with taking ownership of their own education. To automatically assume, kids will jump at the chance to take ownership of teaching themselves lessons via power point presentations and/or screencast is assuming a lot. There is the other side of the coin that will in fact jump at this opportunity to teach themselves because they learn better in smaller/quieter settings. The question still remains, would flipped classrooms work in Junior High School? I think they can, but I’m not sure if they will on a large scale as they do in higher education. I think I will attempt this on a small scale in a trial and error basis because if you think about it, teachers already flip the class on small scales when they ask students to complete assignments and present for credit as well as using those assignments for discussion starters [i.e., current events for homework – present & submit in class]. Still, the previously mentioned doesn’t fully embrace the concept of flipping classrooms. I’m not particularly sold on assigning a lesson via power point presentation because, again, it becomes problematic for those that don’t have internet access and for those that simply don’t do the work… Continue reading

Display Lesson Plans on Whiteboard


Basic blueprint as to how the class will flow for the day…

It may seem like a fairly simple concept, but it can save a lot of time and energy explaining to the class what is on the agenda for the day. By no means is this a revolutionary idea or original for that matter. I saw this being done during a practicum class that I sat in on at Tucson High School. One major difference, he had a smart board – I clearly don’t have that (see pic for visual). However, I make do with what I have because it gets the job done.

During bell work, I go over what is on the agenda for the day. It cuts down on questions and/or kids feeling like they have absolutely no clue as to what is going on in the classroom for the day. I have two white boards, one for Literature & Writing. It works out perfectly. Each morning during prep time, I come in and set up the classroom for instruction, and I update the material that is populated on the whiteboards with current information. The white boards consist of bell work, objective, activities, and homework for the day. Again, this isn’t a revolutionary idea, but it does involve a little extra effort during morning preparation time.

Another reason that I’ve continued this practice, it helps out in classroom/behavior management. If students know expectations, it takes away the excuse of not knowing. It also sets the tone that we are in class to work, and the work is clearly laid out for you to follow. Just so we’re clear, this is a visual way to get your students on task. This may not be applicable for all classrooms and/or teachers. It has been working for two years in my classroom, so I thought I would share.

Egg timers aren’t for cooking in the classroom…

Egg Timers keep the classroom moving...

Egg Timers keep the classroom moving…

I cannot recall how I came up with the idea to use an egg timer to keep things moving in my classroom, but I’m sure it was in a practicum class during my teacher certification program. One thing I do know, this is by no means an original idea. I have a total of 60 minutes for each class period. One might think, seems like myriad of time, so what’s the rush? Indeed it’s a lot of time, but I like to use all 60 minutes in an effective fashion. That being the case, if I don’t monitor my time correctly, I would fail at that task. I could just look at a clock on the wall, but I don’t have one. The no clock thing wasn’t intentional. However, during my first year, I realized I had a few “clock watchers.” I used to be one myself during my younger days from time to time, so I wasn’t offended. It’s important to note, this isn’t a fool proof method of time management. There have been times that I have run out of time in the classroom due to student discussions, direct instruction comprehension issues, or extended question & answer segments in class.

I’m digressing – let’s get to the method itself. There are a couple of reasons that I use an egg timer, but it’s mostly about time management in the classroom, but it also has a level of behavior management which usually go hand in hand. In order to give you better insight as to how a typical Language Arts/Literature class goes, I will layout the schedule as follows: bell work to start class in which in which I take attendance & settle kids (5 – 7 minutes total), daily reading comprehension worksheets in which instruction is given w/ a 5 minute per sheet (2) time frame as well as a call and response for comprehension check (12-15 minutes total), popcorn reading of current reading selection while using active note taking skills (30-35 minutes total), and a reading journal w/ comprehension check as ticket out of class (10-12 minutes total). As you can see, these are typical time frames in which I keep the class moving forward to meet the varying objective(s) for the day. As mentioned earlier, this isn’t a fool proof system, but having an egg timer to keep yourself on the tight schedule helps. That being said, I have to be flexible because if I’m not, it doesn’t leave extra time for student interaction and/or extra questions. To simplify, every time we move forward in class, it’s done so on a time table that is monitored by the old trusty egg timer.

The second reason I use the egg timer in class is for the fact that it helps with classroom behavior management. Students Continue reading