Hello! As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I am thankful for the contacts that I have made through Reality 101 for New Teachers. Hopefully we are making your teaching in special education a bit easier and more profitable for your students. Today let’s talk about some ideas for your classroom, if you have your own room. These ideas may also be helpful in a collaborative setting.
If your students are well-behaved, allow them to help determine room arrangement; they will enjoy taking ownership. Although most exceptional students like and need a stable environment, you might tweak the arrangement from time to time to improve traffic flow, allow for group activities, or even serve as a reward for special occasions.
If, on the other hand, improving behavior is a goal for your classroom, you must determine the arrangement that helps students learn to control their behaviors. This is necessary for all students to benefit from education. Separating some students will be most beneficial, but it is sometimes difficult to refrain from seemingly punishing the well-behaved students by placing them in close proximity to more difficult students. Try to instill a positive attitude and help students accept some responsibility for each other in the learning environment. This idea will parallel the real world. After all, it is our responsibility as teachers to attempt to prepare our students for life beyond the protected environment of the classroom.
One of the best ideas I have encountered for controlling student behavior is to begin class promptly every day. If students have difficulty getting to class on time with their needed books, papers, pencils, etc., perhaps you can arrange a place in the room for them to store their supplies. If you keep the texts in your room, they cannot forget and leave them on the bus or at Grandma’s, etc. The materials will be available every time class meets.
Keeping school materials in the classroom also means that the students must complete all of their work in class, which is another great way to control behavior. Knowing that they are on a time limit tends to help children stay on task. Additionally, their reward will be “no homework.” If some students work more slowly (and some always will), just grade what they do and prorate the grade. Soon they will tend to speed up so that incorrect answers don’t count off as much. Teacher involvement is critical, but consistent time-on-task with meaningful content will increase production, improve achievement, and reduce behavior problems.
A great way to start class on time is to post daily plans so that students know as soon as they enter the room what supplies to gather and how to start. Creating a weekly agenda of some sort is even more beneficial. If a student is absent, he need only check the weekly agenda for the preceding day to determine what work to make up. This prevents awkward down-time for the rest of the students. An added bonus is that you are teaching the students to do things for themselves rather than always waiting for your guidance. A little extra work on your part up front fosters students’ responsibility and independence and assures a smoother classroom routine.
I hope this post gives you some helpful ideas for managing your classroom. Any comments are welcome.
Jane H. Humphrey, NBCT