Monthly Archives: December 2013

Standing, Stretching, and Breaks

This year I’m teaching in what I believe is a very small classroom for secondary art.  We’re in the type of classroom you teach math and English in, sitting at the same small desks.  While I am just thankful that the school has art classes to begin with, this just isn’t the ideal set up.  Students not only have less space to spread out and work larger, but they are less inclined to stand up, move around, and seek the advice of students who are across the room.  I personally believe that all these things are just as important to learning and becoming more confident in creating.

When I was in graduate school we used to make fun of our professors, who would tell us that students can really only pay 100% attention for about 20 minutes, but then spend the next 2 hours droning on and on about theory.  In the past few weeks I’ve begun to remember how hard it was to sit for that long, and have noticed that about halfway through our 90 minute classes, that the kids start to get restless.

So I started to make them get up.  It’s a part of their participation.  They have to all stand up, give it a good couple of stretches, and then walk around the classroom and take a look at everyone else’s artwork.  I give them 3-5 minutes to accomplish this.  I figure I’m killing several birds with one stone by doing this.  Not only are the kids getting a little brain-break and a good stretch, but they are experiencing their peer’s work, getting new ideas, and are able to reflect as a group afterwards (with me leading the discussion) on what they liked about the work they saw and how they can incorporate those ideas into their own art.

I’ve noticed that the second half of the class goes by a lot quicker when we do this, and the kids work more consistently. It’s been a great addition to the day, and I’m pleased that what was a joke during graduate school turned into a really useful tool in practice!


Classroom Management

I believe that one of the most important things I teacher can do for their classroom is set strong ground rules and then abide by them.  One of the ‘jobs’ of a student is to find the boundaries, and if you don’t have any they won’t know when to stop.  It is the teacher’s job to clearly build the fences that teach students appropriate behavior in the classroom.  The skills that you can give to students in the learning environment will transfer into the working world, and we want our children to be able to grow up and reach their potential.  They can’t do that if they don’t learn how to focus, settle down and be productive in addition to the content and skills of your course.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that we aren’t just teaching art, or English, or math anymore.  We’re teaching life skills.  We’re teaching our students how to behave in public society-as contributing members of their community.

Here are my classroom rules:

1. Be respectful of myself, your peers, and your self.

  • No talking when the teacher is talking
  • Respectful and school-appropriate language only
    • Examples of inappropriate words: cuss words, ‘shut-up’, ‘this sucks’, etc.
  • Constructive Criticism only
  • No touching other people’s artwork without permission or if found on floor/knocked over
  • Always be on time
  • Always be productive
  • Always listen and be aware
… and since no list of rules can be complete without a set of consequences:
2. Discipline Progression
  • 1st warning
  • 2nd warning (that I will move your seat to the front of the room)
  • Seat moved
  • 3rd warning (that parents will be called
  • Parents notified if this is a consistent problem for multiple class periods
  • 4th warning (that the principal and parents will be called)
  • Administrator and parent notification if student shows they cannot be respectful of the learning space and are distracting peers-last result
I will be honest.  The be rule there is respect.  Everything under it is just outlining ways to be respectful, or reminding students what kind of behavior is disrespectful.  Most of the kids respond with great behavior once they understand that as well.  It’s never about holding anyone on a short leash, or being in control.  It’s about teaching respect.  That’s it.
Also, I have to say that I have rarely had to involve parents in the discipline process, and only once had to notify an administrator.  Usually the kids respond very quickly when they realize that not only do I know who they like to sit next to, but I also know who they’d rather not sit next to… and in such a social class, the threat of moving to a new seat or a seating chart for everyone is usually enough to keep the bad behavior at bay.
What are your classroom rules?  Are your consequences different?