Comprehensive Classroom and Organizational Plan
The Comprehensive Classroom and Organization Plan is an outline of the procedures, teaching methods, and interactions that students, parents, colleagues, and administrators can expect to observe in my middle school classroom on a day to day basis. In a blended learning classroom, the teacher has the responsibility to prepare our students for the digital age learning and in doing so, I will guide my students in engaging in ethical practices in digital citizenship. Since students will be collaborating in a blended learning setting, they will also learn about being responsible digital citizens in digital spaces and data privacy. According to the National Education Technology Plan (2017, p.84), cybersafety and cybersecurity should be incorporated in training to inform students, staff, and families about cyber-dangers and how to protect student data and privacy. I will facilitate the tools necessary for my students to digitally research, communicate, and connect with the world. It is critical to educate and prepare our students about the responsibilities and opportunities of working in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical in the digital world (ISTE Standards for Students, 2019). Taken into account the learning needs of my students, the following classroom management plan will nurture and encourage successful instruction. To provide the best learning environment, I will provide a combination of classroom management styles to acclimate and promote student engagement. It is important to foster appropriate positive behaviors that will facilitate collaboration, problem-solving skills, and respect for others.
Keywords: blended learning, classroom management,covenant management, conduct management, content management, direct instruction, indirect instruction.
Classroom management is one of the most important component integrations that support a successful learning experience. In a blended learning classroom, teachers have the responsibility to inform students of appropriate and positive behaviors that support and cultivate a respectful learning environment. An ideal learning environment is where students learn by connecting and collaborating with others. Effective teachers provide clear and concise expectations as well as, flexibility, differentiation, communication, and celebrates cultural differences in order to establish positive relationships.
Rationale and Philosophy
As educators, we have the responsibility to provide students with a classroom where that fosters appropriate positive behaviors, engaging learning environment, and mutual respect. Through collaboration whether online or in the classroom, there is a need for students to recognize that the importance of digital citizenship and appropriate digital behaviors. A learning environment that sets up students for success is flexible and personalized. Educators must recognize the importance of technology integration in order to provide students with content engagement, authentic learning opportunities and differentiation of instruction to meet the needs of all learners. Teachers must recognize and provide learning experiences that will prepare students for the 21stCentury higher education and workforce.
Blended Covenant Management
To provide students with quality instruction, there need to be age-appropriate clear expectations starting at the beginning of each school year. Sixth-grade middle school can be a very difficult and challenging time for students transitioning from elementary school. As a 6th-grade middle school math teacher, it is my responsibility to help students cope with the challenges that a new middle school and math can present during this critical time. Setting clear and concise expectations at the beginning of the school year for my students will set the tone for the rest of the year.
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According to (Froyen & Iverson (1999), “Covenant management focuses on the classroom group as a social system that has its features that teachers have to take into account when managing interpersonal relationships in the classroom”. Before getting to know my students and their individual learning needs, I must familiarize students with middle school and classroom expectations. Each class period develops a culture that highly depends on the students and their personalities. Students’ learning styles and dispositions will determine the level of peer collaboration and planning of instruction.
In my classroom, not only do I discuss the rules and expectations during the first week of school, but I also have them posted in the front of the classroom so they are readily available if they need to be revisited at any time. It is of the utmost importance that my rules are understood by all students to avoid any confusion, which is why I have my class practice the procedures at least during the first week of school and, if necessary, any other time throughout the school year.
My classroom rules are as follows: (1) Enter the classroom quietly and on time. (2) Be prepared with all materials (charged iPad, binder/notebook, textbook, pencils). (3) Immediately begin working on Do Now. (4) Raise your hand to speak or leave your seat (use the appropriate hand signals to avoid any unnecessary interruptions, also posted in the classroom). (5) Apply 100% effort to every activity. (6) Be respectful to everyone and everything around you.
Since students will be collaborating in a blended learning setting, they will also learn about being responsible digital citizens in digital spaces and data privacy. According to the National Education Technology Plan (2017, p.84), cybersafety and cybersecurity should be incorporated in training to inform students, staff, and families about cyber-dangers and how to protect student data and privacy. It is critical to educate and prepare our students about the responsibilities and opportunities of working in ways that are safe, legal, and ethical in the digital world (ISTE Standards for Students, 2019).
Blended Conduct Management
While the teachers’ responsibility is to provide a nurturing and learning-conducive environment, due to many factors in middle school, students will engage in disagreements and behavior problems. Teachers must have in place procedures to approach discipline problems to facilitate learning. According to (Froyen & Iverson, 1999, p.181), “conduct management refers to the set of procedural skills that teachers employ in their attempt to resolve discipline problems in the classroom. Discipline problems arise at the middle-school level due to physical changes such as puberty and the importance of social relationships at this age.
The transition from elementary to middle school can be a difficult change due to physical and hormonal, emotional, cognitive, and competitive changes generally expected at this time (Neisen & Wise, 2014). While the transition can be a sensitive time for students this age, it is important for teachers to have a clear expectation and follow through with rules established for the classroom. According to Borich (2017, p.102), an effective classroom management plan will have a positive environment, prevention plan for attention-seekers through engaging activities, quick redirection of behavior, the teaching of self-control, and respect for diversity.
As a middle-school teacher, I have had the opportunity to face students that are disruptive and seek attention from classmates and the teacher. Having a private conversation with disruptive students is the first step in addressing his or her behavior (Borich, 2017, p. 104). Many teachers resort to the solution of removing the student from the classroom, but what teachers may not realize is that they are sending the message that they cannot control the classroom and that leaving the classroom is an option. If having a private conversation with the student does not work, then I will be communicating with parents and guidance counselors to identify the reasons for the behavior. Knowing more about students’ backgrounds, current living arrangements, previous academic grades, or past diagnoses, can provide the teacher with data to differentiate instruction for the student. The next step would be to select interventions from the Pre-Referral Intervention Manual (PRIM, 2005) book before referring the student to Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) available to my school.
Our district participates in Positive Behavioral Intervention in Schools (PBSIS) to reduce behavior problems. Borich (2017, p. 107) lists the three tiers of PBSIS interventions as universal strategies, group of students strategies, and support that addresses the individual student. PBSIS is a good program to deal with behaviors after they have occurred. According to Borich, (2017, p. 108) effective classroom managers prevent misbehavior by engaging with students by establishing themselves first as instructional leaders and then worked on rules and procedures. Content is important, but establishing a culture and socialization is important to set the classroom norms.
Blended Content Management
Educators plan effective learning outcomes when they keep their students and the result in mind. “Content management occurs when teachers manage space, materials, equipment, the movement of people, and lessons that are part of a curriculum or program of studies” (Froyen & Iverson, 1999, p. 128). Learning objectives provide teachers with a focus on specific outcomes and assessments to measure learning that takes place. According to Brown & Green (2016), in a knowledge-center environment, the focus is on well-planned activities that motivate and engages students. I will be providing learning opportunities that will promote authentic learning and meet the content academic standards. Authentic learning takes place when “students are asked to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential knowledge and skills” (Mueller, 2018).
Standards were developed to identify specific criteria to evaluate the competence of what students should learn by grade level (Borich, 2017). In my district, we follow the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the ISTE technology with an emphasis on the SAMR model. The (CCSS) was created to prepare students for higher education, career and life (CCSS, 2019). The International Society for Technology Standards (ISTE) technology are a community of educators who believe in innovation and the power of technology to transform teaching and learning (ISTE, 2019). The goal is to reach the transformation levels of modification and redefinition. According to (Clarke, 2015), “Because SAMR is a framework, it provides a useful lens which educators can assess and evaluate how technology is used in the classroom”. On the transformation level collaboration and feedback takes place with peers, other schools, and connect with the world.
Classroom Rules and Procedures:
Classroom procedures need to be established for learning to take place. According to Wong, Wong, Rogers, and Brooks (2012), well-planned procedures will generate a safe, trusting, and caring classroom environment that is geared towards maximizing successful learning opportunities. Consistency is the recipe for classroom routines that makes transitions smooth when teaching over 20 students. In my classroom, not only do I discuss the rules and expectations during the first week of school, I also have them posted in the front of the classroom so they are readily available if they need to be revisited at any time. It is of the utmost importance that my rules are understood by all students to avoid any confusion, which is why I have my class practice the procedures at least during the first week of school and, if necessary, any other time throughout the school year.
My classroom rules are as follows: (1) Enter the classroom quietly and on time. (2) Be prepared with all materials (charged iPad, binder/notebook, textbook, pencils). (3) Follow daily routines. (4) Raise your hand to speak or leave your seat (use the appropriate hand signals to avoid any unnecessary interruptions, also posted in the classroom). (5) Apply 100% effort to every activity. (6) Be respectful to everyone and everything around you.
When students consistently comply if the rules and expectations of my classroom, they have the opportunity to receive academic and school supplies rewards. LiveSchool is a point reward system used to help teachers and students create a positive environment (LiveSchool, 2019) . It provides behavior and academic feedback for parents and any staff member in the building can access rewards and view students’ progress. Students can view their rewards in the student App and track and redeem points as the school year progresses. LiveSchool documents positive and negative points and comments and points can be used to claim prices such as; school supplies, homework passes, lunch snacks, and pizza parties. LiveSchool also tracks negative points for undesired behaviors. These negative points can be viewed by any staff member and parents assigned to the account. Negative points on LiveSchool are used to deny students of participation in school social events.
When students do not comply with the rules and guidelines of my classroom, there are consequences, which are also posted in the classroom. For the first offense, the student will receive a warning and I will document the behavior. If there is a second offense, I will contact the student’s parent and have private conversation with the student. For a third offense, I will complete a disciplinary referral of the student to administration, stating the unacceptable behavior and also insubordination for repeating the behavior. All consequences are discussed and adhered to throughout the school year.
Classroom rules, Rewards, and Consequences
When I introduce my procedures, I like to explain to the students why procedures are important and useful. According to Lester, Bolton, and Notar (2017), classroom routines are the foundation of good classroom management and must be practiced consistently from day one and remain in place until the last day of school. The following are my procedures for various aspects of my class.
1.) When entering the classroom: Students enter quietly and sit in assigned seats, take out their materials, and begin the working on the “Do Now”, which is posted on the board.
2.) Getting your attention: I will stand in front of the class and raise my hand doing a countdown 5-4-3-2-1 to get students attention. I will wait for everyone to be quiet before I begin speaking.
3.) Leaving the classroom: Students are not to leave the classroom during my whole-class lesson (15-20 minutes) unless there is an emergency. After whole-class, during independent work, if you need to leave the room for any reason, they must use the hand signals that were discussed and are posted to avoid any unnecessary interruptions. I will signal if you are allowed to leave, or if I would like you to wait. Written passes must be signed by me before leaving the classroom.
4.) What if I finish classwork early? If you finish your classwork early, you have “Folder Work” that needs to be completed before the end of the marking period and counts as a test grade. If you have completed all “Folder Work”, you may begin tonight’s homework assignment.
5.) Dismissing class: I will dismiss you, not the bell. The class must wait until I officially dismiss you with: “See you next class!”
There are special circumstances that will warrant explanation of procedures when the time comes, such as assemblies, fire drills, lockdown drills, and class trips. According to Wong, Wong, Rogers, and Brooks (2012), students should not get any surprises in how a classroom is organized, rather students should feel secure in what is going to happen every day.
Prevention of problems
As previously mentioned, it is important to discuss all classroom expectations at the onset of the school year. When students are aware of the expectations for their behavior and have practiced what those behaviors should look like, there will be no question as to what needs to be done at different times during class. Lester, Bolton, and Notar (2017) sated that effective classroom management includes teachers showing enthusiasm for students and the subject they teach to provide learning experiences that keeps students interested and engaged. Student engagement is one of the most important factors in preventing students from participating in disruptive behaviors. Well-designed lesson plans that integrate technology will enhance students’ learning experience.
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Educational games such as Kahoot or Quizziz are another tool that can be used to engage students in academic content. According to Nwogu (2019), the co-founder of GameFlo (gameflo.io), an education technology company based in Chapel Hill, N.C. that uses games to teach math stated that it is important to assess the motivation of learners and that educational games transform how people learn and provide the perfect canvas for learning. Technology plays an important role in engaging students and they must be at the center of instruction to minimize negative unwanted behaviors. According to Brown & Green (2016), in a knowledge-center environment, the focus is on well-planned activities that motivate and engages students. A combination of knowledge-centered and open-ended authentic activities can provide learning opportunities that will promote authentic learning and effectively engage students.
Establishment of Positive Relationships
I believe that having a positive relationship with my students not only facilitates in enforcing the rules, but also leads to a positive environment of respect and learning from each other and with each other. Greeting my students before each class lets them know that I am present physically and emotionally as they walk into my classroom. As I check student homework and classwork assignments, I remark on exceptional explanations and clear work. Praise for positive behaviors and good responses provides student with important feedback about their progress.
Middle school is difficult for many students because it is a transitional period from elementary school; where they only used to have one teacher for all subjects and met in one classroom every day. When students transition to middle school, they experience many freedoms that they may not necessarily be ready for. Students now have different teachers for different subjects with individual expectations. They struggle with organization and new routines. Students are now attending classes with different groups of students which expands their social interactions. Psychologist and author Pickhardt suggested “With all the forgoing changes, particularly the priority to socially belong, it is no wonder that for many young people there is a loss of traditional academic focus and motivation”. Students in the middle school are struggling with their feelings, social interactions and acceptance.
Since I teach math and it is so often viewed in such a negative way, I try to make my classroom a secure place for making mistakes and discussing solutions so that all students can learn. Sometimes I purposely make mistakes and I let them know that it is part of the process and that math calculations and discussions provide all involved with much needed reasoning skills. When I make mistakes on the board, it is probably the case that someone else will make the same mistake; and it becomes a teaching opportunity. Relating math to everyday life events can be a difficult task specially when students are not understanding the question. It is my responsibility to make them feel comfortable and allow myself and students to make mistakes and promote the idea that we can learn through making sense.
Students with Special Needs
In my years of experience, I have taught mathematics to middle school graders of all levels, from the accelerated level to the “in-class support” special education level. These experiences have shown me various methods of reaching my students. An open-ended environment is often encouraged in a Math lesson because students solve problems correctly using different skills and procedures. According to (Segedy & Biswas & Sulcer, 2014), an “open-ended learning environment provides students with opportunities to take part in authentic and complex problem-solving tasks” and “learners use metacognitive strategies and seek out relevant information to evaluate sources of information”. In an open-ended environment, students decide how to solve the problem and they take ownership of their learning.
“Technology facilitates learning when it is used to provide multiple pathways to learning since not all students have the same learning style” (Skiba, 2010). Greater student learning can be achieved with the integration of technology to differentiate instruction. Text-to-speech, diagrams or pictures for visual learners, typing notes or interactive videos and educational games are some examples of how digital skills can support and differentiate learning. According to (Rivera, Hudson, Weiss, and Zambone, 2017), “devices can be highly engaging, promote attentiveness, and are easily adapted to differentiate instruction”. When teachers learn and implement digital skills into their lessons, students will be motivated and engaged in meaningful authentic learning opportunities that will incorporate students’ different learning styles.
Students who do not speak English as their first language
There are many students that are English Language Learners (ELL) and are all considered different levels depending on how long they have been exposed to the new language and how much background knowledge they have. The WIDA Standards (2018), are language development standards that are guidelines in integrating language and content development appropriate to grade level and students’ proficiencies. The WIDA standards provide educators with differentiating strategies that can also be used with the regular mainstream students. There are 5 levels: Level 1 Entering, Level 2 Emerging, Level 3 Developing, Level 4 Expanding, and Level 5 Bridging. There are many applications and websites that can assist specially those students that are at Level 1 Entering. One example is the website www.khanacademy.org, which provides students at the first Level Entering with Math content into more than 36 languages. As a math teacher, corresponding topics in students’ native language can be part of differentiating a math lesson for students at level 1.
Providing students with choice in how they exhibit their knowledge and skills will allow students of all English Language levels to express their understanding (Yaafouri, 2019). (ELL) are currently in different language levels, but they may be also gifted and talented, which is why is important to provide students with choice of assignment submission so that they are able to communicate their knowledge. Videos and other multimedia references can be used to connect language to images and as a result students can associate vocabulary to themes and actions.
Students of varying ability levels
For students that are considered slow learners, I will provide students with self-paced instructional videos and other software opportunities to practice concepts already learned. For students that have been identified as gifted or talented, I will provide authentic learning opportunities where they take part in critical-thinking skills and real-world tasks. Authentic learning incorporates different learning methods with stimuli in an animated environment that allows learners to gain experience that extends to real-world applications (Euefuenno, 2019). While some students are consider slow learners, they should not be denied the opportunity to participate in authentic learning as well. By incorporating technology and giving students choices in assignments, students will be able to offer their knowledge in various ways. Differentiation and authentic learning are benefits through the use of technology that teachers can offer to increase learning.
Socio-economic, Cultural, Ethnic, Race, and Gender Differences
Teachers must encourage and celebrate students’ differences to provide a social environment where students learn to respect accept each other. According to the National Education Association Code of Ethics Principle 1 Indicator 6 states that an educator should not exclude, deny any benefits, or grant advantages to any student based on race, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, and/or socio-economic background (National Education Association, 2019). Most students want to connect with others and by incorporating activities that require students to share their differences with others will facilitate the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate each other’s differences.
Inviting students to join school clubs such as a diversity club can have a great impact on students where they get to socialize with other students that are not part of their social circle. Stepping out of the comfort zone in collaborative activities can be an eye-opening experience for many. Teachers must provide students with the social support and resources such as guidance counselors. (Anhalt, Magalhaes, & Klotz, 2015) stated that school-based guidance counselors serve as advocates so that gender and sexual orientation diverse students will be treated with respect and acceptance. Students are ready to learn when they feel accepted and valued.
Students’ Cognitive Development
Jean Piaget was known for his views and development of the cognitivism approach and the learning process by using the brain.. According to (Holmes & Gardner, 2012, p.81) Piaget claimed that children go through a maturation process of four stages: “Sensory-motor skills (0-2 years reaching, touching, and so on), Pre-operational (2-7 years old linguistic and intuitive understanding of simple processes), Concrete Operations (7-11 years old organized thinking, problem-solving with real context), and Formal Operations (11-15 years old abstract conceptualization and formal logic)”. Since I teach the (11-15 years old) group of students, hypothetical ideas start developing and the use of reasoning manifests itself in problem solving when students have to explain their responses. In math responses have to be accompanied by reasoning behind problem-solving at this age level and math discussions and collaborations take center stage. This age group of students are inquisitive and begin to question everything about the world around them. It is the teachers’ responsibility to motivate and stimulate students’ inquiries to promote independent thinking.
Students’ Moral Development
By the time students reach the middle school level, they have started to developed moral values mostly modeled by the adults surrounding them. It is critical for teachers to model appropriate behaviors and show students the impact of making the right decision at all times. Kohlberg studied and developed three stages of moral development by stating that as people grow older their moral reasoning changes (McLeo, 2013). While students have a better understanding of moral values and behaviors at the middle school level, many still do not understand that the same moral values apply in the digital world.
Digital citizenship is one of the technology standards for students that models moral responsibilities using safe, legal, and ethical behaviors (ISTE, 2019). Sometimes students believe and assume that if they delete what they have posted or sent, that the information no longer exist. Students must be informed of responsibilities and consequences when using technology in school and outside of school. Students are in need of awareness of the dangers online as well as the key role their moral values play.
Consideration of Student Interests, Learning Styles, and Multiple Intelligences
The first step in providing students with personalized authentic learning experiences is by getting to know my students. One way to find students’ learning styles is through pre-assessment. Norm-referenced assessments provide data that can be used “to compare a students’ performance to that of others” Waugh & Gronlund (2013, p.28). This informative data can be used to academically group students based on results in order to differentiate instruction. “When these criteria are used in conjunction with other readily available information such as test scores and grades from prior years, they can help a teacher set ambitious and achievable learning targets for students” (NJDOE, 2017). Grouping students based on multiple data will help in addressing the learning needs of my students.
Differentiating instruction is different for all students depending on their learning needs. According to Borich (2017, p.42), classroom differentiation may include to allow students to use different approaches when submitting assignments, perhaps submitting multiple times, and the flexibility that promotes an individualized student centered experience. According to Brown & Green (2016), in a student-centered learning environment, the focus is on engaging well-planned activities that motivates students.
At the beginning of the school year, a syllabus is sent home and emailed to parents/guardians letting them know class rules and expectations, grade policies, consequences, and important home-school connection references. Gathering contact information and inviting parents/guardians to an open-house is a priority at the beginning of the school year in order to establish communications. Using a schoolwide communication platform or phone calls are successful ways of engaging families, as well as acknowledging cultural differences (Gaskell, 2019). Creating a website with important announcements, due dates and other content references that will provide students/parents/guardians with a commonplace to check for school and content area related information.
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