I have been teaching for the past eighteen years and have used all types of classroom management styles, but one of my favorites is a "Getting to Know You" activity that the students do not realize they are doing. The first day of school is always one of my favorite days. Waiting for the new batch of eighth graders to walk through the door is very exciting to me. The students at school know me as the "giraffe lady" because my room is decorated in giraffes. I want my room to have a welcoming atmosphere to it, and I feel that the way I decorate does this. Most important are the photographs of my family and Antonio Banderas (which I will explain about later.)
My first step to developing classroom management is creating a comfortable atmosphere in the classroom. As students walk into the room, I become their "favorite teacher." I tell them, "Find a seat, anywhere is fine. Sit by a friend." As they sit down I see them looking around the room and see their shocked faces (I have a large giraffe collection.). I have giraffes on shelves, on the wall, and even on the floor. I know what they are thinking, "SHE, IS STRANGE!"
The bell finally rings and I walk into the classroom listening in on a few conservations.
"I'm going to like this class!"
Another student responds, "She's letting us sit where we want, she's nice."
A student looks around the room and remarks, "She's weird, did you see all the giraffes, why does she like giraffes so much?" The best one is when a student spots the pictures of Antonio Banderas, and wonders aloud, "Who's that man in that picture, is that her husband?" Then I hear someone else say, "Hey isn't that the guy that plays on Spy Kids?"
Then someone will notice the photographs on the wall behind my desk and I hear, "Who's that man, what about all those kids?" What the students do not realize is that I am giving them time to "talk" and get to know each other, and they are learning about me without actually talking to me. I will give them time to ask me questions later on in the class period.
My second step to developing classroom management is learning my student's names as quickly as possible. That is why I put them in alphabetical order. After giving my students a few minutes of "talking time" I say, "Welcome, students, I'm Mrs. Parnell and this is English class, make sure you're in the right class." I announce, "I like my room in alphabetical order during the first few weeks of school, this helps me to learn your names right away." The students sit there with unhappy looks on their faces; I just became their least favorite teacher. I know the next phase in my plan will set this in stone.
"Okay students, put yourselves in alphabetical order." They look at me confused.
Finally, someone will say, "Are you going to tell us where to sit?" I say sure "A" is the first seat in this row and so on...." Then I say, "Let's get busy you only have seven minutes, put yourselves in alpha order."
The students do not realize that the whole time I am taking mental notes. I am watching to see whom the first brave person is to get things started. This gives me insight into who the leaders are, who are my followers or hesitant students. They are also getting to know each other because they have to ask each other their names. It always amazes me when I hear some of them singing the alphabet song.
The last step of my classroom management style is letting the students learn about me. Once I have the students in alpha order, I ask them if they have any questions of me. Hands go up and I am asked, "Why the giraffes?
"Who's that man in that picture, is it your husband?"
I have to make up a story about why I like giraffes, because I really do not have a reason other than I like their color and long lean bodies. I tell the students that I like giraffes because they are unique, good mothers, and they are examples of strength.
Next, I explain why I have the pictures of Antonio Banderas on the back wall." I do not like yelling at students so when you are off task, I talk to Antonio. He always listens to me." Inevitably, I always have a student whose sibling had me and that student will say, "She's not lying my sister said she actually talks to him."
Finally, what do I do with the resistant student? This is where I let peer pressure take over. I tell the students that they have to get the student to cooperate. If it is a boy, I go over and whisper to one of the girls to talk to boy "sweetly" and that usually works. I have never had a girl that was resistant and did not cooperate at least during this activity.
Through the "Getting to Know You" activity, I have set my class expectations; also, the open questioning time and my class decorations have given my students insight about me. I have set classroom rules in a subtle way, when I explain why I have photographs of Antonio Banderas (besides he is good looking.) I have been using this classroom management for the past eight years and it has been very successful. I will continue doing the "Getting to Know You" activity for several more years.
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