Monday, September 3, 2012

The Wisdom of Students

Here we were on Friday, Day Two, of 4th grade, and the words: "Classroom Expectations" loomed on the schedule. Ugh... As a teacher, I feel like I am supposed to enjoy this topic, to ensure that "control" and appropriate behavior happens in my classroom and around the school campus. Although I do believe in the importance of clear expectations, I feel uncomfortable with the traditional notion of classroom management as a way to "control behavior." I want my students to make wise choices, learn when they make "less than wise" choices, and understand the connections between their actions and their learning. Not always an easy feat in 4th grade, yet their wisdom, once again, was about to blow me away.

As I asked my students what "classroom expectations" means, a student crinkled up her face and sheepishly answered, "The rules?" Perfect, I thought! They used the "r" word so I won't have to. I asked my students what happens inside of them when they hear the word, "rules," and although no one spoke, many frowned, squirmed, and let me know that it was not a positive connotation. I wrote the word on the board and wrapped a circle around it, and ended with a big red slash.  "Don't get me wrong," I said, jokingly, "This does not mean that we can run around school acting all crazy!"Laughs erupted along with a bit of craziness prompted by my silly statement.  I paused a moment for them to transform back to students. We decided that we would use, "expectations," and we would agree upon behaviors that would help us work together and learn best in the classroom.

Now, for the fun! Students met in small groups, working for ten minutes to positively phrase all of the expectations they could think of.  It can be tough for them to break the "Don't.. " and the, "No..." statements, but they used positive statements for the most part.  The photos speak for themselves: students are wise! They know exactly how to run a classroom.

I love the focus on kindness from this group!

I love that they said, "Listen to the person who is presenting" and not just, "to the teacher!"

Love it: be fairly quiet and use a nice way of talking!

Talking and listening are a big focus!

"Try" to pay attention. Hope it won't be too hard!

Respect your this!
 Of course, the student groups then presented their ideas to the class. Because the presentations took a bit of time, and students needed a change of topic, we opted to do the final step on Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday!

So, tomorrow we will find the common themes and summarize them into one expectation for each big idea. Hopefully, we will have 5 or so guiding expectations for our fabulous year in 4th grade! Students will work together to decide who will write the sentences in "large neat handwriting" for the bulletin board, and who will illustrate each expectation as well.  Finally, students will add their own photos and signatures to the board, confirming their agreement and participation in developing a positive classroom culture.

This all might seem like a lot of time dedicated to setting expectations. What do you think? What process do you go through to develop and share your classroom expectations with students? Please share so that we can learn together!


Tracy Watanabe said...

Hi Joan,

I absolutely love how you introduced expectations and allowed them to voice their expectations of themselves. Having them write the statements in the positive instead of a "don't do" list is very powerful.

I remember a student once asking me towards the end of the first day of school why we hadn't gone over the "rules" yet, and I thanked him for bringing that up. I had a similar conversation with the class about rules/expectations, then showed them my list of expectations:
1) Be respectful.
2) Try your best.
3) Use common sense.

I think I originally had a few more, but students shared with me that those would all go under the first three, so we stuck with those.

If I were to go back in the classroom, I'd create norms or expectations the way you did by allowing students to create their own.

Kind regards,

Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

Thank you so much for sharing, Tracy. I love your approach, so simple and powerful.
I am hoping that having the students share what "they think" will work well in our classroom will help their commitment to those expectations!
Thanks for taking the time to comment. You're a gem :-)

kschafer said...

This year my overarching theme for my third grade is the notion of understanding. The kids brainstormed ideas for creating a classroom understanding thinking about how we wanted our room to look, feel, and sound. I was blown away by the ideas they had. One of the ideas that was most appreciated by the class (and me) was that it is important to understand that everyone learns differently and so learning will look different from person to person! The understanding we crafted was amazing. One of the kids said this is a lot better than rules - we all know the rules! What a fun year I will have!

Online Diploma said...

I think instead of books, people should go for video tutorials for learning grammar etc. Videos not only help you show things first hand, but also human minds tend to memorize visualized materials more easily than what they grasp from reading.

snehalp said...

Hi Joan,
My name is Snehal and I’m a former educator. In my current role as the founder & CEO of Sokikom, I get to explore teacher blogs to seek out innovative teachers and strategies to learn from and spread to more classrooms around the country. First, I like your blog and love the post on the Wisdom of Students (Getting students to focus more on the positive aspects of behavior is powerful)!

As it seems like you’re passionate about integrating technology into the classroom, I wanted to let you know about Sokikom, which is currently a free online tool teachers use to (1) improve student behaviors and (2) differentiate math instruction. We’ve built Sokikom based on the feedback from teachers - as I read your blog it seemed like you might be interested so I thought I’d pass it along. We’ve gotten an incredible amount of feedback from teachers using our product, but are always looking for new suggestions as well, so if you decide to give it a try, please don’t hesitate to reach out me personally with questions or feedback! (snehalp AT sokikom DOT com)