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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Starting the school year right Part 2: Establish the flow



Yesterday, I started my ponderings of the three principles that I use in my classroom. First, was setting the pace. Today I'll talk about establishing the flow of people, paper, and information. Tomorrow I'll cover establishing the plan.

I hope you'll take time to read the comments on these posts, I'm impressed with those who want to contribute to these thoughts with some very important points. I hope you'll share your insights as well.

2 - Establish the flow: people flow, paper flow, information flow

  • People flow - When you look at your room layout, you should think about how students will enter the room, turn in their work, receive papers back, and exit the room. Are the bins to hand in work near the printer? If the textbook stays in the classroom, is it to be put on a shelf near the door?

    Also, how many steps are you from each student when you are teaching? When you are at your desk? I strive for 3-4 steps to each student. I like an aisle down the middle and an aisle on each side with all students face towards me at the front. (This is tough to do, but I used gliffy and let pixels equal inches. I measured everything and worked with it until I got it right!)
  • Peer tutoring - Establish a peer tutoring system. Students are responsible to help their teammates. I clearly explain what is helping and what is cheating. My sacred rule is that no student is to touch another student's mouse. They can demonstrate it, but must never DO it for their partner!

    This neutralizes "helpless handraisers" and those who use you as a procrastination tool. (I can't do anything until you help me!) If you are teaching computers and don't have some sort of arrangement such as this, you will be worked to death. Also remember that the highest level of learning is when you can teach another person. By teaching their peers, some kids can come into the spotlight that may not shine in other places.
  • Teams - I tell students that we will try the teams/ partners for a week, and I'll make adjustments if I see any issues. If someone has an issue with their partner, they can turn in a note to me in the box where they turn in their papers. When I switch teams during week 2, I make adjustments as necessary. I typically have Semester 1 partners and Semester 2 partners. If I've never had the student before, I sit down with prior teachers and have them help me create the chart and partners.
  • Establish a peer review system -
    • Paper Collection - For computer fundamentals and keyboarding, I have a team responsible for paper collection. For keyboarding I do this weekly and fundamentals by the lesson.

      I have a form called the "production control form." On this form, I have each student's name, a column for attendance, and a column to check off whether the lesson has been turned in. The team initials, clips it and turns it in and the end of class. It is their job to note if a student left early, or other special things (eg. computer 2 wouldn't print today.) This serves as a great record to double check my attendance and notes to refresh my memory!
    • Proofreading - In Computer Fundamentals, it is each team's job to proofread the lessons of their peers. I give them an answer key and they are to mark the things that are not correct for their peers. Each student has until the end of class to get their work as close to perfection as possible.

      This one method is the one of the greatest things I've done in my Computer Fundamentals class because it makes sure that mastery occurs on the day that the work is done. I have had no problems with cheating because of the "Hands off the mouse" rule. I implement this later in the year for keyboarding.

      This teaches proofreading skills. I give the "proofreading" team a grade on their proofreading abilities. If they have signed off on someone's paper as perfect and it wasn't, I count off 1/2 point for each error I find that they didn't catch.
  • Information flow: How will students know what is for homework? Paper flow? How will they know what their grade is? When am I available for help? When will they be responsible for teaching? How do we save files? Post the URLS on places you will go on a poster.
There are so many things about flow that you have to look at. It is easy to get your room clean and organized before school starts. If it remains organized, you are managing your flow well. It is this area where I failed miserably my first year. I am getting better at it, but it takes effort!

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