The Longest Lesson


Classroom management is a struggle for every new teacher. Personally, I think it’s a struggle for almost any teacher, because I think it’s something that we learn more about every year as we progress through our careers. I’m no exception.

Today, I definitely proved that. I managed to turn a 35-40 minute lesson into an hour and a half without even trying hard! For the first time today, I taught a lesson from the social studies textbook on Ancient Greece. It’s a fascinating subject. Well, to me it is. My sixth graders…well, that’s another story. It started out alright. I had a plan: students would read for a paragraph or two, we’d discuss it a bit, and then we would work together filling out the worksheet on the effects that Grecian decisions had on the advancement of the society. That was the plan. What I hadn’t counted on were the derailing questions from inquiring little minds. They wanted to know everything from what a tyrant is to why England doesn’t have a king. Or why did England have more than one queen named Elizabeth. They decided Hitler was a tyrant (which, of course, they’re right about) and that Alexander the Great was the son of Aristotle (I had to set them straight there). While these questions were derailing, though, they were on-topic and were all part of them discovering connections between history and themselves.

Personally, I loved it. But, there is a time limit in which I have to teach, and I didn’t realize it, but at least a third of my class had checked out halfway through. Luckily, my mentoring teacher was taking notes for me and gave me some immediate feedback after the lesson. She told me that choosing a few key people on the outskirts of the room to focus on (body language, social cues) would help me to determine how long my lesson should be. In other words, if kids are getting bored, it’s time to move on and revisit it later. Varying the way I ask questions, or ask them to answer questions will also help. For instance, asking for a raised hand on one question, and then telling students to write answers down, giving them a moment to do so, and then randomly calling on students. This will keep them more engaged (hopefully), because they never know when they will be called upon to answer. Having students discuss the answer to a question with a neighbor is also a good way to engage them. She suggested using popsicle sticks to draw names to answer questions as well, and I like that idea. I may have to find some and try it.

I’m usually fairly good at utilizing the entirety of the classroom, but because of the nature of the lesson today, I had to stay anchored to the overhead (or so I thought). My mentor teacher suggested that having a student take over reading, and circling the room at least once would ensure I have no sleepers.

So, today I learned some very valuable techniques in driving the lesson the way I want it to go and holding to a time limit. It’s amazing the amount of things a person can learn when another is observing her. This afternoon’s class will be another adventure because I’m being observed again, this time by my University Supervisor. Although being observed does make me a little nervous, I welcome it. It’s a great opportunity for me to grow and evolve as a teacher, and I want to be the best I can at what I do. This is just another step on my pathway to getting there.


One response »

  1. Another great activity: Group students, assign the reading passage. Set a time limit for the passage to be completely read by. Next, each student writes down F/Q/R (fact, question or response) to the reading on a notecard. The students share in their groups. The groups choose the best FQR to share out with the entire class.

    Another variation is to have the students write down one question from the reading. Exchange note cards and students write the correct answers on the backside.

    One more:) Break down a chapter into sections. Divide students into groups and assign each group a different section. Give the kids the power and control by giving the task of teaching to each different section. The students have a certain time period to prep and then they have to present the material as a group to the class. This shifts the responsibility of the learning onto the shoulders of the kids. It’s also a great idea to include a rubric so they know what is required.

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