Real Strategies from Real Teachers

Adapting to a New Group of Students

Starting off the year is challenging in numerous ways, but for me, it’s been interesting to see how each class takes on a different tone or personality.  With that in mind, I’ve found it’s helpful to have some classroom management ideas in your back pocket so that you can flex to the needs of the group of students you have.

Here are a roundup of ideas that were shared in a recent online conversation amongst Loyola Maryland faculty, students and alum:

When students like to wander around the room:  Wandering can be a major distraction.  So, how are teachers regulating these distractions while ensuring students are getting what they need?

“You have to decide if you want to allow ‘free movement’ in your room and students just get up and do what they need (i.e. get supplies, tissue, etc.) or if you want every student to raise their hand and ask before they move. It goes both ways… always raising a hand is disruptive to you, but then at least things are controlled.” – Rachael Degnan, Middle School Math

“Direct instruction is NO MOVE time without permission, individual or group work is FREE MOVE time…I still reviewed that concept with 11th graders. I also still have to remind some of them of it.  For the extra squirrelly ones – I ask them to pass things out for me.” – Angie Single, High School English

To give detention, or not:  Detention works for some, and not for others.  Sometimes it can be more of a punishment for the teacher.  What other options are there?

“If you use detention, you need parent contact regardless.” – John Lambert, High School History

“I definitely recommend reaching out to parents to build those relationships and make them aware. Earlier the better to start building home/school connections.  You [also] want to work on building relationships with your students to figure out what works. Your students need to know that you’re on ‘their team.’ Once they trust you, you may start to see some improvement. Also, students are known to be more on task when they are engaged. Implementing engaging lessons and student-centered activities is important.” – Laura Alpaugh, PDS Coordinator at Loyola Maryland

Peer feedback, how does it work?  Peer to peer regulation can work well in a cooperative classroom.  What strategies do teachers use to both regulate group behavior and ensure they practice this important skill?

“I use a ‘Rate my Partner’ check sheet which I think is similar to what you’re talking about. I have them rate their teammates 1-5 with student-friendly language, so 5 = “contributed and participated the whole time” and 1 = “goofed off the whole time and did not help.” It’s not quite feedback, but it is a nice transition to evaluating peers.” – Rachael Degnan

“You [can] also use ‘Praise, Question, Polish’ to review peer work. Name something they did well, a question you have, and something to improve. That evens the playing field for students with different ability levels.” – Rachael Degnan

“When I started it this year they seemed to be confused about it’s purpose.  I think students are increasingly independent and struggle with cooperative learning; its structure that you can build throughout your class.” – John Lambert

Have other problems or challenges you want to hash out with teachers going through similar situations?  Join the conversation in the TeachersConnect Community to ask your question.