Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
DEVELOPING YOUR CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
by Heidi O’Hanley
It’s the beginning of a new school year. Whether you’re new or returning—welcome to your art spaces! On top of setting up your room, cart or spaces, one of the items at the top of your lists is routines, procedures, and classroom management strategies.
No single trick works for everyone. Every class has different sets of students, behaviors and participation. Over the years, I’ve explored different ways to create rules for the class, standards for behavior and routines. Throughout the year, however, they can change depending on the climate of the classes. Here are suggestions based on what has been successful for me in regard to classroom management.
1. Create your Rules and Procedures Before classes start. You must set the rules straight from day one because it will set your routine throughout the year. How should the students enter the room? How should they be ready when you push that cart into the room? What are the consequences for wrong choices, and what will you do to praise positive behaviors? Throughout the school year, students will be more familiar with your routine the more it’s practiced and part of their weekly routine.
2. Seating Charts. If you’re on a cart, moving from room to room, you may not need to worry about creating seating charts. However, be sure to communicate with the classroom teachers on any changes or designated spaces for students in the room while you’re giving your lesson.
If you do have a classroom, I recommend creating seating charts. I draw a floor plan, photocopy it, then write in pencil the class and students’ names in their table places, so it can be modified throughout the school year. This will also help substitutes know names when you are out for the day.
3. Create Your Time Schedule. The school provides your class lists, but you’ll need to plan the time you have with each class accordingly. Within 40 minutes, I take attendance, discuss, instruct, demonstrate, guide students during project time, and clean up. Make your plan your time to balance what needs to happen in each class, especially for passing out and cleaning up materials and projects.
4. Manage Your Noise. This can be challenging because in order for students to learn from each other and be inspired, they should be able to communicate and share their ideas. Personally, I also have difficulties creating my own work without background noise, like music. The students know their noise level must be kept down, but many times, they forget, and the next thing we know, students are raising their voices across the room.
There are many ways to lower the voices. One way is the “Yacker Tracker,” a handy noise detector that looks like a stoplight. Another method is adding a “noise manager” table to help notify the class when noise levels become too loud.
5. Charts and Reward Systems. Most teachers develop a reward system for classes to help manage the classroom. It could be a color chart, start system, or step system to reach a goal. If you travel to the rooms, you can work with the classroom teacher on how to utilize their charts for art time as well, which can help with behavior routines throughout the school day.
Another method is the website, ClassDojo.com, an online point-based classroom management system that has worked wonders with communication with parents. You enter each student’s name in a class, and while you have that class, you can add or subtract points depending on the student’s behavior.
Behavior reports can be printed out or emailed to parents and guardians to help monitor their progress in class. If a class reached a goal you set in place, you can design the rewards for your students. Some teachers give token rewards, such as pencils or crayons, others give a selected time in class called “Free Art Time” or “Exploration Hour.” With the reward incentives, you can create something fun and educational for your students with what you have available!
6. Communicate About Behaviors. As uncomfortable as it may be, don’t hesitate to communicate with parents about student behaviors. It is important to call, even if it’s a positive or negative topic to share. Parents and guardians should be notified through phone calls, email or other methods on what is going on with their children in class. As an art teacher, it’s a constant challenge to keep up with that many students.
7. Understand That You Are Not Perfect. You may still change strategies for managing behavior throughout the school year, and that’s okay! Sometimes we struggle to find the right management system that works, but when you find what works best, your students will do amazing things!
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT), teaches art at Brodnicki Elementary School in Justice, Illinois. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.