Tag Archives: learning strategies

THE KINGDOM CALLED CLASSROOM

11 Jul

The classroom is not the teacher; it is not the students and it is certainly not the building. Why not you ask? Teachers need someone to teach or facilitate; students need someone to facilitate them and lastly, teaching and learning does not always take place inside a building. I will not expend the energies to give a definition of classroom management as several scholars have posited various definitions for this terminology. All of them may not agree as to what the definition is but the fundamental thing to note is that they all have similar underlying meaning or suggested purpose. According to Evertson and Weinstein (2006), classroom management has two distinct purposes: “It not only seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so students can engage in meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance student social and moral growth” (p. 4).

I believe all educators should re-orient their thinking and not see themselves as mere teachers but managers. Yes! That’s right. Education Managers. The teaching profession is a whole conglomerate by itself. This is because teachers are managers of time, content, people, behaviour, resources, process and the list goes on. When this happens, they will take a more holistic approach to tasks or the roles they play in the education process. Please note that if a classroom is not properly managed, then effective teaching and learning will only be an elusive concept desired by many.   By properly managed I mean, rules, regulations and procedures to guide actions. Mind you, these may exists but not enforced. Thus a part of properly managing a classroom is to ensure these rules, regulations and procedures are enforced. Once these are absent, then disruption, chaos, disorder and even dis-respectfulness reigns supreme as lord & King in the kingdom called classroom. When these undesirables take charge of the teaching and learning space, then teachers struggle desperately to impart knowledge; students are not engaged in the learning process, hence do not grasp adequate content; the result of which is frustration and demotivation for both parties. Conversely, a well-managed classroom results in productive teaching and learning. May I point out that productivity is not easily achieved with the wave of a magic wand, or utterances over a crystal ball. It takes hard work. Being an effective class manager/education manager is not a hereditary trait that inevitably misses some persons but more so one that grows and develops as he/she proceeds in this role.

Being a good classroom manager is not as difficult as it may seems and neither is it a walk in the park BUT with consistent practice, you will eventually become an expert at it. There are some basic things that a teacher needs to do to set him/herself on the path to becoming an effective classroom manager.

Yup! The tips/rules are important.

  1. Your first task is to establish expected behaviour for both parties in the teaching and learning process. This is best done with the input of students. This gives them the opportunity to not see themselves as mere subjects and you the teacher as general King-Kong but more so as subjects with voices and equal privileges in this kingdom. As a drama teacher is training I was advised to employ this strategy using what is called a “Drama contract” created by both teacher and student; In other words, an agreement between teacher and students. This worked perfectly well while in training. When i got into the system as a fully fledged licensed teacher, I suddenly grew a chip on my shoulder: “I’ve got this. I don’t need to do this anymore” or so I thought. As quickly as it came, that chip fell away when I realized I was not in control of my class.

Others include:

  1. Make promises and follow through on them. Whether this be promise of reward or punishment. It sends a message to students that you mean business.
  2. Be consistent. For e.g, if you have a rule that students should form a line before entering your classroom, stick with it and do it all the time. This will help students learn about the culture of your classroom. Additionally, sooner or later you will not have to tell them what to do. So that is one less task on your hand. With you employing consistency, your job has just got easier.
  3. Ensure you plan interesting and exciting lessons that keeps students engaged. If students are bored, they will sleep or become disruptive.
  4. Lessons should not only be exciting but they must be at a level appropriate for age group. In other words, they should be too simple not should they be too difficult. The degree of difficulty should be so that students are challenged in the process but it is not beyond their abilities to grasp and comprehend.
  5. Ensure particular life skills are employed by students such as the ability to manage time through tasks given, make notes without being prompted, etc…
  6. Create and utilize special coding procedures for example, when the teacher hold up her right hand, students know that they should all go quiet; or the teacher may employ a counting methodology where he/she counts to three. This must be understood by students and established at the beginning of a class if it is to be effective.

These are by no means the ONLY classroom management strategies but these are basic strategies that any education manager could start with. I am sure you will explore others. Some may be just a basic but I know you will develop others that are more intermediate and advanced. In this Kingdom called the classroom, the management of it is flexible and allow each educator to stamp his or her own creativity and style. Just remember, the aim is to effectively manage the classroom or should I say the teaching and learning process.

 Stay tuned for more in this special feature…in the mean time. feel free to share your thoughts.

*Picture taken from google image

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WHERE DID ROTE LEARNING GO?

12 Jun

Two one’s two, two two’s four, two three’s six….

 

Here it is. Do you remember having one of these?

Do you recall saying (or should I say singing/chanting) this after lunch while you were in primary school? It was the highlight of the day. During that time, our little exercise book had them laid out in detail at the back. Without fail, you could enter almost any school compound after the lunch break and there would be at least two classes reciting timetables…I seldom hear this anymore.

Do you recall reciting poetry? The teacher would write it on the board or on a chart and you would have to learn it by heart. One of my favourite was “The Revolt of Chief Tacky” by Alma Norman. There were slots allotted for reciting the poetry in class. At that time the teacher would tell you to say it with lots of facial expression. He/she would help you interpret it so you understand it so you could find the right expression. Thus, learning poetry was fun…I seldom hear this anymore.

I still remember my timetables; I still remember some of the poems learnt then…So I ask the question, is rote learning bad?  With reform in education, so-called experts ruled that using rote is not learning and students need to learn higher order thinking skills. I wholehearted agree that children must be made to develop higher order thinking skills early but I also contend that there are somethings that are best learnt through rote. Some persons may disagree with me but that is okay.  I was recently  doing some calculations with a student and when I asked her seven times seven (7×7), she paused and it took her a while to give me the answer. Out of curiosity, I started asking her some others in the same way they were asked of me in primary school and she was stunted. She did not know.

The fact is, despite higher order thinking being the best way to go, rote learning has a place and serves a valuable function in our education system. We should have found a balance between the two; instead, we threw out the baby with the bath water. We aim to improve numeracy but how will we do that when our students do not know timetables? How are we going to improve literacy when our students do not read and are not having fun learning poetry, prose and short stories?

There are some things that as educators we must revisit and implement; see their worth and determine where they best serve their purposes.

Did you recite timetable regularly and do you still remember them? Do you recall poems learnt in primary school? Is there anything you learnt through rote and you still remember it? Share your thoughts here.