The paths to "Eureka" moments: Teaching Mathematics in Secondary Education

Posts tagged ‘Classroom Management’

Teacher Observation #2: Ms. K

Teacher Observation #2: Ms. K

12442583961705917736smiley eyes.svg.medSpecial Education Teacher Ms. K is a true example of teaching through organized instruction and creating a safe learning environment.

Ms. K has an established classroom routine each day. The schedule is written on a board near the front of the room:

1.  10 Minute Warm-up Exercise

2.  Vocabulary Review

3.  Lesson

4.  3 Minute Break

5.  Individual Practice

6.  3 Minute Break

By strictly following this schedule, Ms. K’s students can be at ease throughout the day, knowing what is ahead and what they are to be doing at all times. The vocabulary words, learning goal, and examples given during the “lesson” period of the day are all to be written down in their personal journals. This expectation is the same every day so that students are familiar with what they need to do in order to be successful. These journals, along with all worksheets and warm-up exercises, are kept in personal files that are set out on their desks prior to each class period and then collected at the end. Collecting the students’ work each day eliminate the possibility of forgetting or misplacing important documents in between periods or leaving items at home. In this way, the focus is on academic learning and students are able to devote their energies to the subjects being taught without worrying about paperwork details. 

Organization and classroom management meet through Ms. K’s ticket jar system. When students are demonstrating positive behavior in staying on task, Ms. K gives them a ticket which they then write their names on and place in the ticket jar. On Friday’s Ms. K draws a ticket from the jar and awards the winner with a prize. The more positive behavior displayed, the more chances students have of winning. Rewards become large-scale (class wide parties) when entire class periods demonstrate positive behavior and excellent study skills. Classes that accomplish this get a star on the chart in the back of the room. The class with the most stars at the end of the month wins a party!

Along the same classroom management theme, Ms. K creates a safe and learning conducive environment with her classroom decor, atmosphere,  and posting of classroom expectations. Soft Christmas lights line the wall space above her large window on the far side of the room. Seasonal decor embellish plain tables and counter spaces as well as empty windows. Colorful posters and student work are neatly displayed on most walls. As Ms. K has gotten to know her students, she has asked their preferences on noise levels and light brightness. As a result, some classes have music playing softly during warm-up exercises and individual work times. Other classes have the lights dimmed during individual work time. Accommodations like these are class specific and only changed when students can come to agreements on what they want their learning spaces to be like.  Students continue to take ownership for their environment by determining their own classroom expectations and then writing them on posters which hang on the front wall. Expectations like, “Listen to others” and “Ask Questions” are phrased positively and encourage students to engage in the classroom.

Ms. K’s organization and classroom management techniques have given her students the freedom and comfort of learning in a safe space that promotes their specific learning preferences. I hope to implement similar strategies in my own classroom so as to encourage students to take ownership of their own learning and promote academic growth.


Teacher Observation 1


Teacher Observation Reflection


Setting: Middle School Math Classroom

The teacher I am working directly with, we will call him Mr. T, demonstrates excellent teaching techniques and classroom management methodology.

Mr. T primarily uses differentiated instruction to enable the students to take ownership and responsibility for their own learning. The format of his class period might start with a 10min instructional period where he provides students with new material, then 15-20min of collaborative work on assigned problems (while he formatively assesses and answers questions while working with struggling students). After this, he would have 10min for students to demonstrate their work to the class on the projector, and finally the remaining time will be spent getting feedback (exit slips) and answering or asking questions. This format is student centered and very much follows a differentiated instructional approach.

Mr. T pushes students to take ownership of their learning by insisting and reminding them to ask questions, to see him during lunch for further clarification, and come talk to him after class if necessary. He teaches them to ask specific questions, slow the teacher down, and “manage the teacher” instead of allowing the teacher to “manage the student”. Furthermore, he sets high expectations for them. They are to bring their own supplies, (i.e. calculator, ruler, pencil) in this way, preparing for their learning. Students are also required to take notes and write key terms and important ideas in their math journals. By requiring students to practice good note-taking, Mr. T is preparing them for their future high school classrooms. He will sometimes stop the “math lesson” to discuss a reason for the classroom norms and how they will help the students in their future lives. For example, Mr. T has said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I see a lot of people looking down at their notebooks or out the window and Student1 is answering one of my questions. Now, here, the expectation is that when someone is talking, you look at them. You do this to not only hear what they are saying, but to show them honor. In this way, you communicate your respect for them and what they have to say.” Discussions like these are a proactive approach to classroom management. In this scenario, Student1 was talking, and while the other students were not talking over Studen1, they were not paying attention to what was being said. Mr. T uses opportunities like these to reiterate the classroom norms and to encourage positive behavior. Additionally, Mr. T takes the time to provide positive feedback when students are demonstrating the desired classroom behavior. For example, the other day a very shy student (Student2) raised her hand to ask a question during an instructional segment of the lesson. Mr. T stopped and thanked the student for asking the question. Later, as Student2 was working during a collaborative work time, Mr. T made it a point to go tell the student that he was proud of her. When she asked why, he simply said he was proud she had been brave enough to ask him a question.

So then, Mr. T uses his teaching time and classroom norms to create a positive environment of where the students are responsible for their own learning.

Classroom Management


Here is my Classroom Management Plan.

x + students = culture of learning (Find x)

What are the building blocks to a classroom community and culture of learners?

One key foundational block in the structure of a culture of learners is to make the classroom a place where students trust the teacher and believe it’s a safe place to take risks. In doing this, the classroom becomes learner centered (core competency L1). By creating a safe place, a teacher can foster and encourage a student’s self esteem, their confidence in the subject matter, and their willingness to grow as a learner.

As a teacher, I will establish my classroom to be a safe place where respect and trust is mutual between my students and I. One of the ways I will do this is by getting to know my students individually. I will conduct a class survey at the beginning of the year to determine some of their interests. I will maintain regular individual conversations with them through quarterly letter writing. In addition, I will also share about my interests and likes/dislikes in math so as to relate to them at a more personal level. Finally, all questions will be valued in my class. There will be no such thing as a “bad question” so long as it is classroom appropriate.

The challenges of creating this safe culture for learning will be many. With so many students, it will take effort to get to know them all and ensure they know they are valued members of our classroom community. However, as long as a constant effort is being made to respect my students, I feel they will be able to help in creating a place where learning can take place.

Questions to consider: Is a book club actually a helpful strategy to use in a math class?  What kind of jobs could I create that are more than just “classroom chores” in my math class?

(Prove/Disprove) Desk + Chair + Whiteboard = Learning Environment ?

Does classroom furniture make a difference?

The physical arrangement of the furniture in a classroom can be either a help or a hindrance to student learning. It is important that a teacher be aware of how students react to specific classroom arrangements so as to create the most effective learning environment within the given space.

As a teacher, “You are a placemaker, an individual who creates a place that supports teaching and learning to the greatest extent possible” (McEwan 2006). This can be done through the classroom set up. Specifically, rooms can be set up so as to be territorial or functional.

The classroom I am observing this quarter is designed in a flexible, yet territorial manner. Specifically, students are assigned specific seating in rows of rectangular tables. Sets of two tables are pushed together to form one 4-student desk. There are 4 rows of the 4-student desks with 3 sets of desks per row. The students face the white board and can easily move their chairs to work in groups. This structure keeps students focused and attentive to the task at hand, while allowing for the flexibility of different teaching strategies.

To one side of the room, there is a “quiet space”. This provides any student the opportunity to remove themselves from the noisiness of the class and work independently in a less distracting atmosphere. In this way, my mentor teacher has created a space that is conducive to multiple learning styles and removes unnecessary distractions.

By changing the seat assignments regularly, she gives her students the opportunity to work with multiple people in the class. This not only builds camaraderie amongst students, but allows students to learn from different people throughout the school year.

As observed in the classroom, furniture arrangement and structure are pivotal in creating an effective learning environment.