By Dr. Michelle Reinhard EdD
Students are not machines. Each student is different and when you put a bunch in a classroom, your day can go off the rails very quickly. It can seem no methodology or planning can stop that, but an Interactivated classroom expects chaos and is prepared for it.
try and I try. I plan fun activities. I try everything, hours of preparation and planning… But nothing works! They ignore me and say it’s stupid. Why do I even bother, and it’s only been getting worse.
Time: is on your side, is for every purpose, rolls, is slipping away, is wasting away… but never lies
Every part of your day must be timed (with little flexibility) and the students need to know it. If you give them 30 minutes for a project, then it’s due in 30 minutes whether it’s finished or not. Whether it’s vocabulary, outlines, or writing, if you can name it, you can time it. Anything not finished becomes the dreaded homework. The students that seem to thrive on distracting and slowing the class (and their followers) will find themselves without an audience because who wants homework?
Constancy in the classroom
Every day MUST be organized like all the other days. Students need to know what’s expected from the moment they walk into the room. It needs to be to their benefit to start working the moment they sit down because they know the amount of work that needs to be done and how long it will take. And never assume they’ll “just know.” Post the daily expectations, list every activity, and how long is allotted for each. Will it cause some stress? YES, OF COURSE. And that can be a good thing. Stress forces focus and promotes self-control. It also defeats the spiral of failure. If one project or portion is finished early, use that extra time to go back and finish what’s missing.
Every day a grade
Grades, believe it or not, are important. The parents that care, will care and become your silent partners. Grades are more than a measure of understanding but also a measure of involvement. If you’re expecting 30 items to be completed correctly, then that’s 30 possible points for the day. Every minute a student wastes is less time to accomplish the 30 items. At the end of the day, count what the student has completed correctly, and that’s their grade. If they don’t get it done, they take it home and bring it back completed, but the grade stays on the books until they do. If they do more, it’s extra credit. This is motivation without having to motivate. The clock, rather than the teacher, controls the time available, while the student controls the grade he gets.
Be flexible… with grouping
Students will always need help, but there’s never enough time in the day to help all of them. So, let them sort themselves out by their ability levels. The over-performing students will sit together, work hard, and get it done with very little (if any) help from you. The at-level performing students will need an occasional bit of your time on more difficult concepts. The under-performing students will need the most help, and they’ll self-identify by the group they’re with.
In classroom observation of the method in practice, the students that are on the fence will voluntarily start working with at-level or over-performing students, walking away from the “time-suck” shenanigans. Or they’ll use positive peer pressure to encourage other under-performing students to “get this done, I don’t want homework” or “my folks are grounding me for getting a bad grade!”
The Call Home
Every teacher hates this. It’s a time suck and if your planning is at 7 AM, your call won’t exactly be welcome. This is where technology comes into play. Ever get a robocall? Of course you have! Did you know that there are free (or very inexpensive) online companies that will make it for you? Companies such as DialMyCalls will allow you to put a database of students and their parent’s numbers into the system. Then make a simple, 30-second recording based on the subject you’re teaching and the reason you’re calling (grades, behavior, etc.). For example, “Hi. This is Mr. X. I’m your student’s teacher in Y class. Your student currently has a failing grade. Please contact me for more information on how we can get that grade up. My email is email@example.com.” Then, when a student falls below the grade you expect, click the button and schedule when the call will be made (7 PM works best). Log it as teacher-parent contact and you’re done. One click saves hours, gives independent third-party verification of your contact, and meets most districts’ requirements for parent contact.
504, ESEs, and ESOLs
For learning to be effective, it must be guided, and a teacher is needed to guide it. When in class, help the student understand concepts, objectives, and what needs to be done. Don’t expect them to finish at the same time everyone else does, and don’t plan your day and the rest of your students around their needs. Instead, always allow them to take the work home to finish it and grade without penalty. Since the Interactivated classroom doesn’t assign homework, they have the time in the evening to finish the class work.
Time doesn’t have to be your enemy. It can be your closest ally if you use it smartly. Students need to know what’s expected and how much time they have allotted to complete it, but never penalize them for working slower or having an off day. That’s when classwork becomes homework, and when grading it, please don’t mark down but give full credit so they don’t go into a failure spiral.