There’s nothing like the chaos of a classroom. Even the most well-behaved classes can turn your room into a bomb site in a matter of seconds. But here are six simple strategies for keeping things calm and organised – even if you are screaming inside!
Whatever your seating plan, you can allocate specific group areas within your class. These could be given plain old numbers, or you could branch out into something more exciting, such as names of authors or music artists. The key thing is that having a name for each group makes so many things easier: you can assign tasks simply (‘Dickens, you’re working on the context of the poem’); you can use groups for behaviour management (‘Ariana Grande have each won themselves merits for their good behaviour’); you can use them to dismiss classes at the end of the lesson (‘Group 5 have tidied up quickest, so you can go first’); you can collect in books in groups, making sure you keep them in order so they can be easily handed out again. And, of course, you can also use the groups for some easy differentiation – making sure each group contains a mixture of higher and lower ability students, to support each other.
The help desk
Everyone knows the brain-book-buddy mantra, but you can add a fourth to that: the helpdesk. It may not fit well alliteratively, but it works! Set up a desk in a corner of your classroom with dictionaries, word mats, SPaG guides and any other resources which may be relevant to the topic you’re covering. Keeping these resources tucked away in a cupboard, only to be brought out for specific lessons, doesn’t encourage independence. Instead, let your students take charge of their learning by letting them know they can consult the helpdesk whenever they are stuck.
Is it possible to get through a class without a student putting up their hand and confessing that they don’t have a pen/ruler/pencil/rubber? Dull the pain of the inevitable by making up supply boxes. They don’t have to be big – small takeaway boxes or margarine tubs work well – just large enough to hold pens, pencils, a gluestick, highlighters, ruler, etc. That way, when you ask students to cut, stick, highlight or anything else, you can send them in the direction of the boxes. A word of warning though: spot-check boxes at the end of every lesson, or you may find your supplies dwindle very quickly!
It sounds obvious, but it can be one of the first things to fall by the wayside when you have a chaotic class: reward and record good behaviour. If you praise a student or hand out a merit, write their name on the board, so that everyone can see it. It’s great for the student, and it means you can remember to log all the merits at the end of the class. If you don’t have time, snap a quick photo of the board on your phone, before wiping it clean.
A classroom can often feel out of control simply because the noise level has crept up. Have a visual representation of acceptable sound levels at the front of the class. This could be a simple volume dial, or something fancier – the key is, being able to refer to it quickly. (‘Year nine, we’re currently at “rock concert”. Turn it down to “acoustic gig” please.’)
Encourage independent working and self-assessment by placing a post-it board near the door in your classroom. The board can be used in the course of a lesson for students to ask for help – they place their questions on the board and you periodically stop to cover them with the class, or alternatively, send out some higher-ability students to help their peers. The board is also an excellent way to quickly assess progress in a lesson – get students to leave a post-it with an emoji showing their confidence level, as they leave the class.
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