01 February 2013

Warm-ups, Class Dojo, Blending, and No Apologies

This semester I've been trying some new things; this post is about how they've helped my classroom management, in particular.

I've wanted to do this for a while. It was always a pain to try to get my class quiet at the beginning of class, and I always figured having warm-ups would help. Not to mention it would theoretically warm up their brains and get them ready for class and give them practice on essential skills. With the help of #4 below, I finally came up with daily activities to project onto the screen as soon as the bell rang.

In multimedia it means a lot of creative writing. I just got sick of all the incredibly crappy story ideas I was getting from students. So much of multimedia is storytelling, and writing is the perfect practice for the beginning of class. Occasionally I might have them storyboard, and sometimes I just show short movies instead of a warm-up (they love those days). Most kids loathe writing, but as long as I don't apologize, and praise them for the writing they do, it's successful.

In graphic design it means a lot of sketching. It's one of the basic skills any graphic designer needs. Kids will often complain about it, saying it's not art class, but I don't apologize and I praise the creative drawings they come up with. The first sketching I made them do was just robots, and some of the kids that complained loudest actually drew the most creative robots.

One thing that held me back previously was the sheer volume of stuff to grade or check off every single day, but next I'll show how I fixed that problem.

Class Dojo
I've actually had my Class Dojo account for a while but I couldn't really find a way to make it effective. I felt like if I was going to use it at all, I'd have to use it all period long. But now I just combine it with my warm-ups. I pull up the iPad app, hit the random button, and whoever it chooses, that's whose work I go take a look at. If they've done it, they get a point. If they haven't done it, they lose a point. If they lose a point, but then do the warm-up, they get a point back, with a net of 0. Since it's completely random, students can't blame me for picking on anyone.

It's better than having them turn in all their warm-ups because when I'm inundated with that much to look at, I end up just giving straight credit, and even that seems to waste a lot of time. It's better than grading them all on the spot, because that wastes precious class time. It's better than grading nothing, because they don't know if I'll come see theirs or not, so they all make sure it's done in case I come around.

The warm-up should help the class behave themselves better, but if they ever get rowdy, you can just pull out the app and start taking points off. It might seem like a minor hassle, but it won't take nearly as long as it takes to consistently have to shush them.

Another use for it is if you want to do a quick, informal quiz. Hit the random button to call on students to answer questions. Ask the question first, give them all a moment to think about it, then call a random student.

I haven't decided what to do with the points yet. One option is to tally them up at the end of the term and then give them a certain amount of bonus bucks of some sort that they can spend on treats or something. I might simply use them as straight up extra credit points.

I've talked about this extensively before, but this is the first time I'm full-on blending my coursework. Tuesday through Friday is completely blended, which is to say, after the warm-up, students go to the lab and work on whatever unit they're in. There's a list of assignments to complete for a unit, and when students finish one, they move on to the next. I've uploaded a bunch of short tutorial videos to explain the tools needed to complete assignments, so students can simply log on to watch whatever they need to.

There are so many benefits to blending, I barely know where to begin. So I'll revert to my trusted bulleted list to sort my thoughts:

  • Absent students don't miss anything. They just start wherever they last left off.
  • Slower students aren't forced to move forward before they're ready.
  • Faster students aren't held back.
  • Traditional, live, guided practice takes at least 5 times as long, causing the two previous problems.
  • Students can pause, rewind, and re-watch portions of the tutorial if they missed something or forgot a concept.
  • More independent practice time with more teacher help.
No Apologies
I don't know why this has taken me so long to understand. Kids complain about everything, a lot. They'll complain about having to write, having to sketch, having to watch a video online before doing an assignment. I finally decided to ignore the complaints, reassure them that what I'm having them do is important and even fun, and emphasize that it's not going to change. It only takes a few days before students accept the reality and stop complaining.

Another facet of this, perhaps, to find your own style of teaching and not apologize for it. This is a tricky balance, though. You don't want to be a lazy teacher who cares nothing for the given curriculum, but you also don't want to hate your job and/or burn out. I think this is the key to any job, really.

No comments:

Post a Comment