5.5 Learning Environment – Managing Student Behavior by Monitoring.
Student disruptions during instructional time are normally minor, misplaced behaviors. Whether whispering to a friend or fiddling with supplies, it can be difficult to fully engage a class of 25 plus students for more than 5 or 10 minutes for an activity. This is why it is important for a teacher to be mindful and observant of student attentiveness and to use differing strategies to re-engage off task students. Throughout EDU 6130, Classroom Management, I would take away one or two strategies each week to apply immediately in the classroom the next day and test to see if they worked.
During my internship observations, my field supervisor would note and point out to me different students who appeared to be following and tracking with a lesson but whose work or minds were in fact distracted or confused. Throughout this autumn I tried several different methods to manage their behaviors. One way was splitting up a whole class discussion into pairs or triplets, allowing students to speak in smaller groups. Another was using informal assessments such as ‘thumbs up or down’ and putting hands on head when finished with a task. Sometimes I would even provide students a ‘brain break’ between activities to stretch and get their wiggles out.
By far though one of the most effective methods I have adopted is the use of nonverbal eye contact and physical proximity. I used this once with with one of the most talkative 3rd grade boys in the class. His seat was located on the opposite side from the document projector, a side where kids were typically farthest away from the teacher during instruction. During a particular math lesson I noticed this small chatterbox whispering and giggling with his seat partner. It was then I wandered towards this side of the classroom after putting a problem on the board, still talking to the whole class, but putting myself within proximity of the talking student. As Fay & Funk note about their intervention strategies in the classroom, “the teacher must be circulating the room” in order to effectively monitor all students (1995, p. 310). While still asking questions, and taking hands from across the class, I gently laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder, turned to look at him and smile. The boy’s mouth had frozen open mid-syllable. Disruption diffused. Part of what makes using proximity effective is the standards and expectations a teacher represents. Those principles and beliefs are then put in direct contact with students, and with a positive relationship with them, can allow students to adjust their behaviors without calling them out or embarrassing them.
This one intervention may not always work, in fact Fay & Funk created a list of possible interventions teachers can easily use without say more than a short sentence to students, using nonverbal communication.
Managing student behavior is more than simply telling students what to do, or catching them doing something wrong. It is about establishing and using positive rapport between the teacher and student so that the two work together to create a better learning environment for all. The best part about these strategies is that they can be easily shared and experimented with in hopes of having a similar effect in other classrooms.
Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with love and logic. Golden, CO: The Love and Logic Press.