One of the biggest struggles I hear from teachers is managing students while they are working with small groups. How can I make sure that they are on task when I am working with others?
For the most part this comes back to setting up those clear rules and expectations in the beginning when you are monitoring rather than running small groups. Reinforce those positive actions by students and quickly squash the negative ones. Each day target one behavior that you are looking for and focus on that rather than focusing on all of them at once. You may be looking for smooth transitions, staying on task, communicating effectively with their group, obtaining materials correctly, cleaning up, etc. and all are equally as important so give them all their time.
The first two weeks will set your pace for the year. Be consistent in what you do. Don’t try to change things during this but but on your Sergeant Strict Sally hat and keep it on! Correct in a loving manner but make sure to enforce what they should be doing.
When you are first starting for the year and simply monitoring the groups and their ability to manage themselves along with following the rules and expectations, it would be of best interest that all groups receive the same activities each day during the first week and then the second week move to two activities, this helps to keep them on task.
Now you may be asking me, but what happens when it just doesn’t work? This happens… there are outside forces that you can’t always compete with and they effect your groups and/or your entire class. This is where you need to reassess. Is it one students or group of students? Do you need to reevaluate those that are grouped together? Do you need to reevaluate what is being given to them as an activity?
- Immediately determine the root of any problem that you see and address issues as they arise. Most often an issue will arise because students don’t understand what they are doing or they are frustrated by a task they don’t feel confident in. This is another reason why using stations from prior material is important as students will immediately know what they are doing rather than be experiencing a new concept.
- How are students held accountable for their work? Are you allowing them time to reflect upon their learning? Are some students not completing an appropriate amount of work in the time given? Conference with students and determine the struggles and review expectations before it goes further.
- If you have too many students that aren’t engaged in Math Workshop it is important to STOP and REFLECT. You can’t expect them to change themselves. Is the task too difficult? Are they bored? Reteach procedures if needed or maybe they need a break. Listen to your students. And remember, some days just don’t lend to group work and you have to be flexible for that.
For the most part laying the foundation in the beginning is what will set you for success with Math Workshop just as with any other form of classroom management. Having the visuals of what you expect students to look like and sound like while they are working as well as what you expect them to complete and turn in upon the culmination of Math Workshop is key.
Are you ready to put in what it takes to build that foundation? Your classroom expectations can’t be built on un-level ground.
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