In teaching there are many methods and theories about what constitutes good teaching practice and classroom management. My theory is that you should find something that works and go for it! Once you have got the fundamentals working for you then you have a basis for you to experiment with other ideas. The more I travel and speak to teachers about teaching strategies the more I see them get caught up in discussions about the latest theories etc without firstly mastering the basics. This teacher training blog is largely about getting the basics right and breaking the processes down into bite size pieces that can be easily implemented into the classroom.
Most teachers have a different routine to starting the year. My wife is a teacher and I was discussing this with her. She teaches with a very different style than me so her suggestion was buy yourself a new Day Book and a nice black felt tip pen. On the way home get your nails done and then when you are feeling great start to plan your year.
Success psychologists say that 99% of all results [both good and bad] are built upon routines
I’m not the ‘get my nails done’ kinda guy, and I prefer to use technology rather than a day book, but here are the four exact steps you should implement to increase student engagement and motivation and therefore reduce your classroom management woes.
Step 1: Have a clear vision for what makes up a successful lesson.
It is a fact that everyone wants to be successful! No one wakes up one morning with the dream of becoming a failure. We all want to win, but for us to know if we have won or not we need to first know what is goal.
The two most common mistakes that teachers make are:
1. They haven’t taken the time to articulate what is a win. When I talk to teachers I often ask them to clearly describe what their ideal lesson would look like but very few can. Often they speak in vague terms and such as the students are well behaved, or the students complete their work.
2. We assume that we all have the same goals and that our students know what those goals are! However this is not the case. Every teacher is different and has different standards and expectations. Some teachers expect their students to work in silence, while others expect that their students be highly engaged in discussion and love the noise that results.
In the Motivation Made Easy Course (accessible by joining our community) we look at the following principles in detail but will just mention them here.
- The goal should be set – shifting goals produce poor results
- A prerequisite of motivation is concentration – You can’t concentrate on too many things at once
- When giving a group goal – you need to know how each individual will contribute to that goal
- Goals must be linked to a higher purpose – your students need to see the value in what they are doing.
The first step to getting your year off to a great start is to take the time and clearly define what constitutes a great lesson and be able to explain it to another person in such a way that they can see the same picture as you. You should have a goal for behaviour, attitude, effort, and engagement. If you don’t do this step you will not be able to do the following steps.
Step 2: Build your routines
It is a fact that 95-99% of life is made up of habits or routines. If this is the case then it is no wonder that Success psychologists say that 99% of all results [both good and bad] are built upon routines.
Once you can clearly define and articulate what your goals are then your next step is to build routines into your class that will enable you to reach your goals.
In my classroom everything is done on routine! Why? Because I understand that for my students to be successful they need to have successful routines.
This is the routine that I have established for each lesson (I have 6 per day teaching High School but you could adapt it to suit yours). The students come in put down their things at their desk, go up the back and get their folders, and then sit down. While they are doing this I walk around the room discussing what I notice. Ideally this is not noticing their behaviour but would rather be clothing, hair cut or asking about hobbies, family etc. I make sure that during this time that I have spoken to and recognised each student individually.
I then mark the roll at 5 minutes after the start of the lesson without fail. Then when they are in the room, I introduce the lesson (no one speaks when I speak) and then I give them their goals for the lesson outlining my expectations about behaviour, attitude and class work and engagement. I then link the task to a higher purpose. For example “This task will bring you one step closer to completing your module” or “What we are doing today will give you practice before your next assignment.” Then I monitor their progress towards their goals and give constant feedback about how they are going (keep in mind that it is easier to make minor adjustments than major ones.)
What am I doing? I am training them in routines that will cause them to succeed. Now this isn’t just add-hock. I have taken time to sit down and articulate what is a win, and what routines will ensure that I win as a teacher.
Apart from helping you succeed your routines give your students a sense of security. The students know what to expect, and they have a sense of control which sounds like a paradox when they are essentially in a controlled environment; but there is a sense of being out of control when things are constantly changing.
What do you do to get your year off to a great start?