Managing a Complex Classroom: Creating Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning

December 27, 2020 | Focus Areas: | | | | | | | | | | | 0 COMMENTS

Journey to Proficient 

School Context, 2020

During 2020, I completed a 12-month contract with a year 6/7 mainstream class at a complex site that required EALD, ATSI and trauma informed practice. It is a category 3 school (Department for Education, 2020), located 11 kilometres from Adelaide’s CBD. Most students come from a mid to low socio-economic background. It is a culturally rich school incorporating 11 mainstream classes (Reception to Year 7), 3 Intensive English Language Centre classes (IELC), 3 specialist classes (Science, Performing Arts, Health and Physical Education) and an International Education Program. The school community is made up of over 300 students and there are approximately 57 different nationalities represented. The students, staff, families and the community embrace the diversity within the school. Therefore, there are many students for which English is their second language. There is a strong commitment to ensuring that everybody belongs, and this is supported by a whole school approach, using Play is the Way and the Zones of Regulation. There is a strong literacy and numeracy focus across the school, including the integration of the Big 6. These embedded classroom practices enhance student learning outcomes and improve teacher practice.


Managing a Complex Classroom

Create Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning

This evidence set demonstrates my ability to create safe conditions for rigorous learning by:

  • Creating inclusive and positive interactions to support all students (4.1),
  • Implementing school and/or system, curriculum and legislative requirements (4.4),
  • Managing challenging behaviour, with the use effective verbal and non-verbal communication (4.3) and
  • Incorporating strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT (4.5).

Finally, I complete this evidence post with a reflection on seating and classroom noise.


Term 1, day one, I welcomed students into the classroom and waited for them to find their labelled desk. I introduced myself and told them a little bit about myself. Next, I explained to the students that for the first two weeks of school we were going to be about getting to know each other and be focusing on setting up our community for safe learning together. Hence, I established and implemented inclusive and positive interactions to engage and support all students in classroom activities (4.1). Much of this was guided by the Great Start Program, a whole school community empathy building program. I also linked our activities to the TfEL framework, Domain 2: Create Safe Conditions for Rigorous Learning (Department for Education and Children’s Services, 2010).

Great Start Program (4.1), (4.4)
TfEL Domain 2 (4.1), (4.4)

Click here to view the TfEL Framework

Over the next two weeks the following topics and curriculum were covered; School Values, Manners Matter, Play is the Way and Neuroscience (Play is the Way Pty Ltd. 2020), Community Building and Keeping Safe – Child Protection Curriculum (Department for Education and Child Development, 2017).

This ensured students’ wellbeing and safety within school by implementing school and/or system, curriculum and legislative requirements (4.4).

Some of the activities completed and discussed together in class were, positive behaviours, behaviour support, class agreements, values that are important to us, Top 5 manners, Respect: Y-chart, Code of Conduct, the 4 Essentials.

 

Class Conduct (4.1), (4.4)

Click here to see an enlargement of Class Conduct

I used several teaching strategies to engage students in this learning, including think-pair- share, small group work, play is the way games and whole class discussions. All of which I found successful.

Creating a Safe Community (4.1), (4.3)

Click here to see an enlargement of Creating a Safe Community

I made laminated copies of what behaviour and manners our class community deemed most important to display.

Behaviour Agreement & ‘Top 5’ Manners (4.1), (4.3)

 

The visual displays around the room acted as reminders that we would regularly refer to.

Visual Displays of the School Values & Play is the Way (4.3), (4.4), (4.1)

The school values, Play is the Way methodology and language (Play is the Way Pty Ltd, 2020) was unpacked in great detail at the beginning of the year, each term and integrated into classroom activities throughout the year. This embedded the teaching of social and emotional skills and enhanced students’ wellbeing and safety (4.3), (4.4). 

For example, every Monday morning during our handwriting lesson, I unpacked an inspirational message and related it to our school and/or Play is the Way values. The inspirational message I have used below links to the Play is the way value, “Being Brave to Progress”.

T.S Eliot, 1936 (4.4), (4.1)

In addition, the class would engage in Play is the Way social skills games twice per week.

Using this language ensured that I was consistent in my approach of managing challenging behaviour by negotiating clear expectations. I ensured that I addressed discipline issues promptly, fairly and respectfully (4.3).

For example, when students were still not able to self-regulate after been given verbal or visual reminders, I gave students a self-reflection slip to fill out in their own time. I have differentiated these; one that was suitable for most students in the class and a simplified version for students who were academically behind their peers.

 

Behaviour Reflections (4.3), (4.4), (4.1)

Consequently, this supported positive behaviour and self-regulation in the classroom.

 

Importantly, at the beginning of the year, I established and maintained orderly and workable routines to create an environment where students’ time was spent on learning tasks (4.2). These were revisited at the start of each term and when required.

For instance, every day after recess and lunch, before entering the classroom, students would line up outside the classroom and wait for me to give instructions. I would do this to ensure that students were in the green zone prior to entering the classroom. Students would enter the classroom and sit at their designated seats. I designated seats for students and would move them every fortnight. This helped to create a community of learners that knew each other as they had all sat next to one another at some point throughout the year. The exception was that a few students had specific seats and didn’t shuffle due to a disability (4.1), (4.2).

For example, when I wanted the classes attention, I would stand at my ‘teaching spot,’ rhythmically clap five claps, put my hand in the air and count down from four to zero. I would say in four; eyes on me, listening, lips are sealed, and hands are empty, laptops shut. Students responded effectively to this routine. If necessary, I would show students visuals of what these actions looked like (3.5), (4.2).

Class Conduct (4.2), (3.5)

Another example is routinely during lessons, to check for understanding, I would use a thumbs up, neutral or down formative assessment tool. I also used paddle pop sticks so that I would be able to randomly choose a student to answer a question. This encouraged all students to focus as they were never sure who would be chosen next (3.5), (4.2).

Paddle Pop Sticks for Random Student Selection (4.2), (3.5)

 

As the year progressed, I was able to give students a simple look, nod or a shake of the head to encourage or correct behaviour. These strategies demonstrate my ability to use effective verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to support students understanding, participation, engagement and achievement (3.5).

 


Strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT.

I incorporated strategies to promote the safe, responsible and ethical use of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) in learning and teaching (4.5). I did this by setting clear, explicit expectations for using laptops in the classroom. I would discuss the safe and effective use of ICT during class and explain the consequences of the students breaking those protocols. I also chased up any students who had not completed the ICT agreement forms.

ICT Safety Policy (4.5)

During the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, I kept parents and students informed of the school ICT agreement regarding online learning and protocols with the Seesaw Application.

E-Safety Letter (4.5), (7.2), (7.3)

Click here to see the complete E-safety Letter

I found this useful as I was able to refer back to this if students had broken their ICT agreement protocols.

I also taught students how to use the internet safely, be discerning of the media found online and meet fair use and copyright laws. I used effective teaching strategies to integrate ICT into learning and teaching programs to make selected content relevant and meaningful (2.6). The two artefacts below also demonstrates my ability to create and use a range of resources, including ICT to engage students in their learning (3.4).

Both of these artefacts are from two ICT lessons that students completed using their laptops, the internet and google classroom. They both link to the general ICT capabilities; investigating, communicating and creating with ICT.

ICT Skills: Copyright and Fair Use (2.6), (3.4), (4.5)

 

ICT Skills: Phishing Awareness (2.6), (3.4), (4.5)

 

The impact of this was that students developed skills to be able to use ICT ethically and safely.

 


 A Reflection on Seating

In Term 1, I had a flexible furniture, including tables and chairs on wheels. I had and shared stationary which I found was not very successful as students didn’t take care or responsibility for any of the stationary. Even though, I had placed students in designated spots. The flexible nature of the furniture made assigning seats difficult. Letting students choose where they sat wasn’t helpful either, as found it difficult to self-regulate.

Flexible Furniture

In Term 2, I changed the furniture so that students had designated spots, their own tray, stationary and I no longer had chairs with wheels.

Organised Seating Arrangement (4.1), (4.2), (1.3)

I found that having an organised seating arrangement more successful as students knew exactly where to sit each lesson, found it easier to self-regulate and took responsibility for their own stationary.


A Reflection on Noise

During Term 2, I wondered why the noise level in the classroom seemed to get too loud at times and why I was constantly chasing completed work. After doing some research I realised that I was not being explicit enough about my expectations of the noise level and the amount of work that needed to be completed during lesson time.

I then tried the following:

After a lesson introduction I would give explicit instruction on what the expectations were for that particular lesson. I would explain that the students’ exit out is to complete x or y task. I would show students a visual of what the level of noise should be for the task and tell them how much time I was going to give them to compete the task.

Volume Scale (4.1), (4.2)

I used a visual timer so that students knew how much time they had to complete the task.

Visual Timer (4.1), (4.2)

I found that students worked much quieter, were more focussed and more completed work was accomplished. Students soon learnt that if I said this ‘task’ is your ticket to lunch or recess, that I would follow this up. Students preferred to complete their work then to be kept in to during some of their play time to complete it. Therefore, I will continue to be more explicit in what is expected during work time and also integrate more explicit teaching during such times as transitions. Hence, students are not having to guess expectations.


In summary, I will continue to use the above strategies as they were successful in creating a safe and rigorous learning environment for the students in my classroom.


References:

Department for Education and Child Development. (2017). Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum. (2nd ed.). The Government of South Australia.

Department for Education and Children’s Services. South Australian teaching for effective learning framework guide : a resource for developing quality teaching and learning in South Australia. (2010). Government of South Australia.

Play is the Way Pty Ltd. (2020). Play is the Way Information Booklet Retrieved from: https://playistheway.com.au/img/cms/PITW%20Information%20Booklet%202020.pdf

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