Question About Classroom Management

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33 thoughts on “Question About Classroom Management”

  1. 1 big question. Are you having trouble the most with students who had traditional french for year 1 and now your teaching them year 2 with tprs? I would focus doing tprs with year 1 students first. For management, have your rules posted and always point and smile at EVERY a infraction. Look up jGR or mGR for what expectations look like in a tprs classroom. My first month was all expectation. At the start pf every class I would remind them that they are being graded “right now”. I would project the rubric for grading. I went to a training not long ago with Alina and she reminds them everyday her expectations. Consistency will pay off.

    1. Hi Steve,

      All of my students actually had a TPRS teacher before me, and she was big on asking her stories with little to no planning or preparation. I feel like that is very difficult for me to do but I have pushed myself to try it. I teach grades 6, 7, and 8, and my students from last year – who saw me try and fail at TPRS over and over – are now very uninvested in TPRS and CI because I did not do things the way their teacher did as I was (and still am) learning the ropes.

      I’m still struggling with my year 1 students because all they want to do is shout out and argue over the details of the story. We get stuck on the character’s name for twenty minutes and I constantly have to stop and redirect in L1. By the time the end of the class rolls around, we have decided the name, what they look like, and where they go. No reps of necessary structures. We always go over TPRS expectations, but I struggle to enforce them when there are so many of them who are shouting out and getting out of hand.

      I’m currently reading about The Invisibles, and some of my issues are addressed in the book, which is awesome. I still struggle with general classroom management to some degree though, and I know that I have to overcome this in order to ensure the whole concept works in my classroom.

      Would you be able to share your rubric with me? This might be super helpful! Thanks so much for taking the time to help me out – I appreciate it so, SO much!

      1. Rachael there is a rubric that Mike Peto put together in LA over the past few years and David Ganahl also in LA tweaked it a bit. They can be searched here as mGR (Mike’s Great Rubric) dGR (Dave’s Great Rubric. In my view, they should replace the long standing jGR (jen’s Great Rubric that Robert and I and jen and Annick Chen put together a number of years ago. If you are looking for the best possible assessment rubric, I would search mGR and read those articles here for how to do apply it and all like that.

  2. Bonjour Rachael,

    I woke up this morning and thought of you and your situation. I teach French and Spanish in a public middle school with 36-39 kids in my classes. I have always taught middle school, and this is my eleventh year teaching. I haven’t taught languages all that time. But I have taught French and Spanish for a total of five years, here and there, all with CI and stories. I hope maybe I can help you too. It really is the best way to teach them! You are on the right path!

    Here are some thoughts I have:

    1. Start small. I would start with your best classes. The ones who can listen and play the game. The others I would put on a nice boring regimen of worksheets. The grosser the better, conjugating verbs or suchlike. And at the end of the period, if they work hard, let them play Silent Ball for five minutes. Silent Ball trains kids to work together to stay quiet. It is God’s gift to middle school sanity. Plus it is setting the expectation and proving the kids that they can be silent together, which is so necessary for CI to work, cause they need, above all, to LISTEN.

    2. Make the one or two best classes super fun and word will spread. Middle school is full of rumors. I would start them ALL on worksheets, for one day, then the next day I would, in one or two classes, move to CI for the last fifteen minutes or so of class. It will feel like a game to them. In fact, I would call it the Invisibles Game. And for the last 15 min. I would do a One Word Image and have two kids in class draw the character. But before I began the “Invisibles Game” I would lay down the rules: One person talks, and if people talk over when they are not invited, then we stop the game and go back to the worksheets (conveniently already started in class that period!). Tell them (talking in English) this is an imagination game, an improv game, a theatre game, an art game, whatever. You can see us doing this in my Year One classes here: (Starts at 7:12, before that it is the calendar) and this is the continuation here: (I think there is some overlap). In this class (September 14) the boys are fomenting a revolution that will happen the next day – there are just 25% garçons in the class so they were feeling left out of the jobs. So we have two “Professeurs 2” – Scarlett and Oska, a boy. They take turns deciding details for the story. 😀 You can hear the boys fomenting the “gender equality” revolution in French class during the turn and talk. 😉

    3. Keep working the good classes. Let them start each day in worksheets and if they ask, Can we do the Invisibles Game, then say well, I guess so, after we do this first part of the sheet or whatever. Put the artwork in a prominent place so the other classes can see it as they work through their worksheet diet. When the other classes ask what it is, then say they are from a class that is ready for a French game that is mostly silent, like Silent Ball, called the Invisibles Game.

    See if this works. If not, at least you will have ONE or TWO classes to practice with. Maybe jumping in in all of your classes is too much! You are in this for the long haul and so it may be best to work on your skills one or two periods with your sweetest classes first.

    1. Tina,

      You are absolutely amazing. In just a few minutes of watching your video (and the calendar part at that, because it’s a brilliant way to teach those important structures!), I realized that there are so many things I could do differently based on your delivery. #teachergoals 🙂

      Your kids are so quiet and attentive – I would kill to have one day in my class look like that! How do you get them that quiet in the first place, and do you have a link or an explanation to Silent Ball? I am so excited to dig into these ideas more in preparation for the week.

      Thank you so much!!

      1. Silent Ball is so simple I think they should teach it in every grad program. Kids sit on their desks or chair (I have no desks). They toss a beanbag or small ball. Underhand!! No one talks. If you make a bad toss (overhand, pegging, or uncatchable) youre out. Sit in desk or or on floor. If you don’t catch a good toss you’re out. If you make noise (talking, snapping, clapping – they try to get attention like ” toss it to me” – NOT ALLOWED.!! 🙂 ) they’re out. If they argue with me they’re out. This can easily eat up ten to twelve to even twenty minutes in utter silence. It’s funny when a kid gets out for reacting to the game vocally.
        When eight to ten kids remain sometimes I toss out a second object just to mess with them.
        Sometimes I “raise the dead” and let the Out kids be In kids again.

        1. I love that! I’m going to try it this week and see if maybe there IS a part of them – somewhere deep down in there – that knows how to be silent! 😉 I definitely see the connection between this and moving into CI.

    2. Tina has a strong case here for teasing students to want to get your CI instruction. And as Steven says, being consistent.

      I would also avoid responding in L1. (It sounds like you are responding to students in L1 a lot, if I’m reading you right.) When you are in your L2 session, stay in L2. Don’t beat yourself up because your students are speaking in L1. It’s okay. As much as we don’t want kids to speak in L1 I think it’s much more important for their language gains that we stick to L2 as we say we’re going to do. Try to find a sense of joy in reminding kids or telling kids to follow the rules. They will appreciate and respect you for that. Don’t let them get you upset, especially not at yourself. Believe me, I used to agonize over how I felt inadequate because I couldn’t get all my students to not blurt or speak in L1 (I teach in Chicago Public Schools). It’s not worth it. As long as everyone is involved in the instruction, and the air in the room is positive, I really don’t think a little side conversation here and there or a blurting here and there is such a bad thing. There is only so much we can fight kids, and some kids really don’t need us to be fighting them about this stuff at all, they have enough stress in their lives outside of school. Of course, every school has a different culture about this kind of thing, so know that a completely silent classroom is easier to come by in certain schools.

      Finally, be observant of who in the room is really causing the disruptions. Praise those students that have social clout and empower them to influence their peers who are truly disrupting. Talk to the true disrupters, the ones that suck the air out of the room as Ben would say, talk to them in the hallway. Let the good camaraderie building between you and a few others become contagious, something every other student wants to get juiced up on.

      Be sure that your students see that you are having fun with them while you are consistently redirecting behavior and slowly bringing them together as a group, even if that sense of fun is subtly expressed.

  3. Something that has been working really well for me is using Class Dojo. I use my iPad or phone to award or take away points. If you’re not familiar with it, each kid gets their own little monster, chosen randomly. Then you can set up positive behaviors (I use giving signal, output, one word response, cute answer, and generally being on task) and behaviors that need work (blurting, English, off task). What really works is I project class Dojo during class and the kids love it. They get immediate feedback on what they’re doing. I also use the weekly report to inform their grade based on the interpersonal communication rubric.

    This is really just a tool to use with other management techniques but it’s been a life saver for me. Also, I just checked my email and a parent had emailed me asking about their student’s grade. I was able to pull up a pie chart, save it as a PDF, and send it to the parent. Such a great tool!

    1. Hi Shawna,

      This is a super idea! I have heard of Dojo but wasn’t sure how to implement it into my classroom, so this is a great way to do so. Thank you 🙂

  4. I’m also struggling in my 8th period alternative class the kids like to call out and get up out of their seats. But, I’m going to try these techniques. Thank you!

  5. I have a situation that I would like the input of the PLC on.

    I am teaching 4 classes- Spanish 1 Regular (2 sections) and Spanish 2 Basic (this is a remedial or “studies” class) (2 sections). In Spanish 1 I am doing OWI/Invisibles along side Berto y sus Buenas Ideas. In Spanish 2 I am doing OWI/Invisibles alongside Brandon Brown quiere un perro.

    My Spanish 1 is going great! One of my Spanish 2 classes (which has some kids which are known troublemakers in other classes) is going great.

    There is one class however, which, over the last three times we have met has gone from bad to worse.

    I have been consistently using the classroom rules and stopping to pause and point at the rule when it is broken. I am also using Craig Sheehy’s “Daily Behavior Log” which is a 5 step tiered process. This week I am rolling out the interpersonal rubric with a letter home to parents about it (it took this long because I wanted to get an admin to approve it first so I don’t have blowback from parents.

    This class continually violates the rule “one person speaks”. They use the fact that they know I am going to stop and pause and point to waste class time. Often just 4-5 kids will start talking at the same time. One or two kids actually has kind of made a joke out of the fact that I point to the rules, which is kind of frustrating. So far I have kept my cool which, in the past, I have found is the way to control kids in this track (Basic).

    I have three kids who I told that I will call parents next violation of the “daily behavior log” and they have reformed themselves.

    What should I do with this class? I definitely have some that are eligible for a call home next offense according to the Daily behavior log. But my concern is that it’s a general class attitude that has developed. I am doing mostly NT with this class so I don’t think it’s the targets that I sometimes “teach” to and the misbehavior is often happening during the NT invisible activities.

    Should I whip out some DICTATIONS? One thing I know is the kids hate the textbook (they had a textbook teacher last year). I was pondering going back to teaching grammatically for a day or a two just to drive home the point that they need to APPRECIATE this class. I don’t know if that is the way to go….

    I own all of Ben’s books so if you could point me to something in the books that would be helpful.

  6. I’ll think about the books. There is also a thread here on the PLC, one of many, that addresses this kind of pushback from kids. The series of articles is called Pigs Can’t Fly and you can search it. I wrote it when I was in direct opposition with a class because of two (under the radar but they knew what they were doing) oppositional defiant boys. Those articles are perhaps too strong in their advice for what is going on here, but this is all the same a bad situation, worse because as you say here Greg:

    …a general class attitude … has developed….

    The way I read this and I hope I’m not reading too much into it is that one or two kids have silently found a weakness in you, that you are too lukewarm on the rules, and they are starting to exploit that for popularity with the decent kids, and are winning. The decent kids appear to you to be oppositional because of these few kids.

    That is my first reaction to this so I’ll hit “post comment” to try to not write a book on this because the thoughts are flying….

  7. So Greg my strong guess is that it’s just a few kids (or very possibly just one) who has been able to pull the class along to his side of things without you noticing it. It’s a power move and some kids are just experts at it. They later become lawyers. But to make money, not out of love for justice. Selfish kids. Not good. Snots. Very often oblivious of how they play the white privilege card in all their classes all day.

    You can tell who he is – I’m guessing a boy. He is the one who is smirking and just below your perception playing you for popularity points, but not below the perception of the class. He’s playing you and your good will. This kind of passive aggressiveness is very dark, far worse than just simply coming out and being visually oppositional defiant. The question is what to do.

    (I very well could be wrong here on the one or two kids, but it’s happened like this to me many times.)

  8. Talk to some of the decent kids in the hallway. Go there. Tell them you need their help. But be careful whom you choose. Anyone aligned with the dark core person(s) will report back to them. This is really a battle for control of the class. You are going to have to win it. You will.

    1. Greg would know Alisa but my feeling is that the perps here are too “soft”. They would get out of it. Those subtle offenders are too good sometimes. I say Greg ferret them out, make sure the class knows that he knows who he/they are, and once it is known that Greg has these bozos in his sights, settle in for a nice month of worksheets. Who in our CI community wouldn’t jump at the chance to get down and dirty with some relative pronouns? We don’t because we have professional integrity but who wouldn’t love it? I slather at the prospect of explaining to kinds how prepositions impact relative pronoun formation. Take the chance when you can bc when this class gets done with its one month grammar sentence things will change chez Greg.

  9. Something has happened with the way you are doing the rules. It’s hard to know what is is, bc it is working in the other classes – it nearly always works – but that class, bc of its dark and invisible energy, has flipped the rules on you so that when you go to Rule #2 the way we discussed this summer they are mocking that process. So I would stop that for now. I wouldn’t go to the rules anymore, but softly and with strong direct eye contact bring it up with the most visibly defiant mocker. In class. Each time it happens, along the lines of, “Hey Steve I get it. You think that the rules thing is kind of dumb. Maybe it is, but the only way I can figure to teach you guys Spanish is to speak it to you and if I do that then you guys can’t, since I’m the only one in the room who speaks it. Does that make sense to you? So now when I try to get you totally focused on the Spanish there is a feeling that doesn’t feel good. I think we are very close to my calling it a day on trying to talk to y’all in Spanish. It just hasn’t felt good to me, so tomorrow let’s go ahead and get back on the grammar train. That will get them focused for the rest of the period since you said that they don’t want the grammar book. They will expect you not to go to the book the next day. It is because of their privilege that they will think that way. But DO go to the grammar book the next day. Without fail. Then stay there for two weeks at least, more like a month. Make them bemoan their cute little experiment in mockery. You can’t do that in a few days. Win. This class doesn’t deserve your instruction in the TL. One might ask about the innocent kids. So what? They are in the wrong class at the wrong time. Your focus now should be 100% on those few clever (they think) kids who need to be brought about 20 rungs down the ladder and until that happens nothing happens in the way of CI.

    I’ve got more. 40 years worth. Can you tell?

  10. Thanks for the input. I like that abandoning going to the rules with that class and the explanation.

    Our school changed the discipline policy this year and we no longer have detentions but “referrals” which the dean then determines the consequence. A lot of teachers that have been here awhile are kind of confused as are the kids because there is this perception that “we don’t have detentions anymore”. The consequence that is then issued is to be considered private and the teacher never finds out what happened. We are encouraged to call parents first which is what I will start tonight. I think that might do it for most of these kids.

    I have to think about the going to the grammar book for a full month. I’d like to do that but now I’m in a situation where I am kind of expected to teach with CI. I do have Martina Bex’s “grammar in context” book, so perhaps I can use that along with the Descubre textbook just so the good kids in that class are still getting CI but it’s not as fun as the invisibles.

    1. If a class is not able to do CI, why, even if you are expected to teach with CI, would you do it. This is an exception. That’s my opinion, anyway. I would do it. For at least two weeks. Otherwise, where is the incentive for that class to change how they treat you?

    2. If you have to do CI, maybe do it “bare bones” style. Tell them that they’re not ready for the other way, and once they are, maybe you can try it again. Do some CI but also lots of grammar, worksheets, boring stuff. Talk about it all in Spanish – that’s CI, just not compelling. 😉

  11. Ok, this all makes sense. Called two parents today and will do two more tomorrow.

    I’ve been reading some David Allen lately so I’d figured I’d be systematic about it. After school
    I went through the roster with a highlighter and identified the troublemakers, those kids that can be swayed depending on the situation, and the good kids. Came up with about 4 trouble makers and about 5 others that can be swayed, wiht the rest falling into the good category.
    Out of 21 kids. That’s 19% troublemaker, 24% can be swayed, and 57% the good kids.

    We will see how this works out. Tomorrow I will do the other things you suggested. I’m also rolling out the interpersonal rubric.

    If this does not turn around during the next class, I’ll do the uncompelling grammar thing for two weeks. Your advice hasn’t been wrong yet.

    1. I’ll be very interested to know how the rubric affects the equation. It has power to change. But only if you are mechanical about it. No favors. Those four kids in that class are used to getting passes for smiling to the teacher. If you don’t rip them in terms of the rubric on what they are ACTUALLY DOING IN YOUR CLASS, then they will have gotten away with it again. I am guessing they are all white males from families with money.

  12. Ok, I had a “sit down” with that class today. I tried to put on my pissed coach’s face (I was a JV coach for soccer a coulple years back and I learned something from the coach). I passed out the rubric and I also got in the face of the kid that was mocking the rules quoting almost exactly from what Ben said above.

    Will do more parent calls today.

    I told them if not complete turnaround today from here out I am going to the textbook. This weekend I will prepare myself to follow through on this threat (need to find my grammar materials which I have on an external hard drive somewhere.)

    1. Keep us posted. This is a fairly big deal. How did that kid react? What you did today was something he wasn’t used to – having the spotlight turned around on him. Nice job. It takes courage to confront these little people, and yet it is what they crave. And need. To grow up. So keep at it. Report in daily if you can. We also have the Tina/Fred Jones nuclear option if needed.

    2. Yes! The soccer coach mindset is great. Their b***s*** has to be addressed every time until it changes. Slap Ds or Fs in the Gradebook. You have your admin’s back. You’re calling the parents letting them know. You are more than transparent. You are The Man. Make sure these kids know that. They’ll learn.

      It’s real tricky for us to turn these kids who’ve played the school like a game since 5th grade or so because they can’t play us. They can’t cheat or mock understanding or just do all the work at home before the final exam. Nope. Since they can’t play us, they feel uncomfortable. It’s sad. Like perhaps they’ve never been able to bond with a group of people before.

      I was also thinking, while reading this thread, Greg, about having students experience us talking at length, without stopping to ask questions, in L2. I wonder if this class would do better with you telling stories instead of asking them, with you giving personalized statements, not questions, and answers (I remember Eric Herman using that term here a couple of years ago). You know, maybe the whole eliciting responses from the class is too much interaction with you at the moment. How many sentences could you string together to talk about the calendar or the weather without requiring a response? I bet a lot. Or Circling with Balls… or a story script. Just talking to them, instead of with them, could settle them down and help them experience what it’s like to listen and acquire. But maybe you’ve already done this.

      1. Sean put his finger on something true there Greg, in my view. The idea of a teacher thinking “I’m a teacher so I guess I have to ask questions” may not be so true when our main goal is to build community so we can address the standard in a natural, unforced (no questions) way.

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