A reader of my blog recently asked for additional details about how I created a collaborative classroom management plans in my middle school classroom. I thought I’d share my reply, as it’s that time of year when we’re thinking about setting up our learning environments for the school year.
On the first day of school, I always reviewed the UDL Guidelines with students to give them a sense of the type of instructional strategies I would use throughout the year. Details of this lesson are in my book, UDL Now! if you’re interested. Two of the UDL Guidelines suggest that teachers heighten the saliency of goals and objectives and foster collaboration in the classroom. I meet both of these guidelines starting on Day 1 by creating a collaborative classroom management plan. Below are steps you can follow to do the same.
To begin, place students in collaborative groups with diverse partners. Ask them to think about what makes a successful classroom. Specifically, what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors that can improve the function of a classroom or completely derail it? Ask students to make lists. Once each group makes their list, ask them to present their list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. All students have an opportunity to weigh in on whether behaviors are appropriate or not appropriate.
Write these lists on the Smart board, chart paper or on paper projected on a document camera. If you teach multiple sections, ask each class to complete the activity, but always share the collective list from previous sections.
Once you decide on a list of unacceptable behaviors, ask groups of students to think about relevant consequences that are appropriate. For example, if talking while the teacher is talking is unacceptable, a relevant consequence may be to receive one warning and then get seat permanently changed. Offer a few of your own ideas, if necessary, such as writing a reflection after the inappropriate behavior, calling a parent and explaining the incident, meeting at lunch to discuss, etc… During this step, I was always amazed at the depth of thought that went into this management plan. Students had ideas that I would not have thought of and it was interesting to share these findings during each section and ask them why they felt certain consequences were just.
Look for themes and organize the unacceptable behaviors, and their consequences, into categories. In my classroom, the students decided on three categories: respect for people, respect for property, and respect for ideas. Every class agreed on the consequences and wanted to place the inappropriate behaviors in tiers based on severity. Once this work was done, we created a bulletin board that stayed up all year that outlined the offenses and the consequences. I called it a “draft” until every class had an opportunity to discuss and make changes.
From this bulletin board, I created a classroom contract that was shared with parents and signed by the students. It was really organic and didn’t require a lot of planning on my part because I really wanted students to get into it. They pretty much understand what they should and should not do, but it’s valuable to hear their reasoning sometimes about why certain behaviors occur and how we can prevent them. I would definitely try it in your own classroom as they are much more likely to adhere to a management plan that they developed because it’s authentic, relevant, and meaningful to them.
If you have a curriculum question that you’d like me to discuss, don’t hesitate to contact me @KatieNovakUDL.