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Real World Teacher is Craig Seganti's blogging site for Classroom Discipline and other educational topics. Here you will also find the Real World Teacher Lounge, where member teachers can post questions to be answered by Craig and/or by each other.

PHILOSOPHY

Teachers are professionals who deserve to teach in an attentive, appreciative environment where an education is the reward. The aim is to not waste time in politically correct jargon but to employ those techniques and strategies which work-in the REAL WORLD.
May
24

Foreign Language and Group Work Where Discussion is Necessary

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Question: I am a foreign language teacher so there has to be talking and action in my classroom. The students misinterpret this activity as meaning you can talk about whatever you like. I have worked on it and worked on it and told them they may talk only in the target language but many are just first year students. What should I do here?

Answer:  The whole idea here is that there is a consequence for anything that is not contributing positively to the classroom environment that you, as a professional, want.  Most activities that seem like they are a loophole are not at all if you check the rules;  in this case, students not talking about the assignment are off task, and receive detention.  My experience (and I tell students this) is that I can merely look at their body language and listen to the tone of the conversation without knowing exactly what they are saying to know if they are on the assignment or not, so I don’t have to be near them or listen to false protests of  ’We were talking about the work’.   ‘Get on Task or come after school today’.

 

An Example of Good Group Work

An Example of Good Group Work

No!

A More Challenging Group

 

Also, I recommend quiet academic book work for the first week or two to get students accustomed to a focused atmosphere, then slowly breaking them into the group work a bit at a time, and immediately stopping it and going back to quiet work if they are off-task, so that they know group work is a privilege and not for gossip or social networking.

Comments

  1. Mike says:

    I teach at a high school for adjudicated girls. At the end of each day they are lined up by groups. Put into pairs and walked with adults to their housing units. Lunch is the same way. I am new to the school and have implemented the idea that they are lucky to have me as a teacher and they should want to learn to improve their lives. I have a meeting with the head of the school on Monday and would like to talk to her about discipline and the options that I have. So far I have not seen a class where the class behavior impressed me. I am worried that if pressed I will have no leverage. These girls have no problem letting teachers know that they are unhappy and physical altercations are frequent. So far I think that the girls are shocked by how much I am locking down the room and I plan to get better at it. I do not know what I can do if a girl challenges me other than have a staff member remove her from the room. I know that the staff will tell me that the girl comes from a rough situation and I should try to redirect her energy or make a bargain with her. I need leverage. What could that be?

  2. rose mcgowan says:

    Good info. Lucky me I discovered your blog by
    chance (stumbleupon). I’ve saved as a favorite for later!

  3. sb says:

    Hello.

    QUESTION!!! Please help me! (By the way, I found this place, CD101, after seeing one female student lying on the floor, listening to her iPod in my class! I just started reading Mr. Seganti’s book and articles.)

    Mr. Seganti, I hope you can help me understand this… In one article titled “Psychology of the Manipulation-Proof Teacher,” you say “Do not speak except to give directions and teach the lesson.” Why is that? I work with two other teachers who love to talk about their kids, wives, husbands, vacations, feelings, etc. etc. in class. When I do that and talk about my personal life in class, my students get chatty and noisy and silly. And eventually they “GROW” this habit of whining and complaining. I cannot teach! I know that teachers are not supposed to be students’ friends. But what is the reason behind “Business only”? Please explain so that I am mentally prepared to face my classes. Thank you.

  4. This is a fantastic blog, I found your site looking around bing for a related subject and came to this. I couldnt come across to much additional info on this piece of writing, so it was awesome to locate this one. I will probably be back to check out some other articles that you have another time.

  5. Regarding Springa’s question:

    The rules are made for the sake of education, not education for the sake of the rules. Which is to say, whatever modification(s) work best in your situation to best facilitate the education of the students is the goal while keeping your own energy output reasonable and constructive.

    I have found group work to be the last step in the actualization ladder; something to use when students are already working well individually. So I used to give several injunctions about the rules of group work before breaking students into groups, and demonstrate how I could tell just by the tone of voice and the body language of the group if they were indeed discussing the assignment, then actually demonstrate or imitate students discussing the assignment vs. gossiping or whatever, and you can–there is a whole different tone of voice, facial expression and body language used when discussing whether Aristotle’s ethics are still present in western culture vs. who should have won American Idol.

    The injunctions I give basically center around the idea that if the mood of the class is off-task or not focused enough we stop–in plain words, if group work by my judgment is hurting the educational effort more than helping, we go back to individual work until we are ready to try again.

    You of course do not want to be a gofer running around being a private instructor x 25 students. Again there is a judgment call. I’ve told students to spend a little more time trying to solve it themselves before asking me, or to the student who perennially asks questions that there is a 10,000 question limit per semester and they have surpassed it–but you know your students best. Honesty (vs. political-correctness) goes a long way in education and with students. So I’ve been known to say ‘I’m answering too many questions and working too hard. You’re on your own for ten minutes. If you can’t figure it out by yourself, try harder, or call someone tonight”.

    “But you’re supposed to be the teacher–it’s your job to answer questions!”
    “Yup” (end of discussion, read the communication :)

    I never confuse being a caring teacher with being a slave.

    Lol–I’ve also been known to say, ‘I know your elementary school teacher Ms. Appleseed told you there is no such thing as a bad question–and she might have been right until now–but that was a bad question. Please think before asking’.

    All that said, I am no pedagogy expert, only good at keeping classes in order so that teachers’ individual pedagogy expertise can shine!

  6. springa says:

    I have implemented the rules for a week with my senior students – yes 17 year olds. They were not keen but have followed the line. Most are pleased with the quiet but my problem is I am running around all over the class answering questions – helping them with their assignment. They used to help each other and ask me occasionally, but now its straight to me. I am not sure if I let them ‘work together’ whether I will lose the quiet and the work output they have been achieving. Any thoughts? I read your statements Craig about watching their body language and reading their tone of voice. I will try that with them too.

  7. track4127 says:

    So far, the methods in Classroom Discipline work great as a
    K-5 Substitute Teacher in rural Minnesota schools. Then again I never really had many problems there before!

    The school I taught at for the last 3.5 years was 100% Somali Muslim immigrants. Absolutely nobody, (and I do mean nobody!!!) had great classroom management with this group. I may be returning to this school again as a combination PE teacher-classroom teacher.

    If detention is not a possibility (and I can see a Principal using the words “absolutely not in my school, buddy,” then my hands are really tied. Missing recess or detaining them for 15 minutes for lunch seem like punishments for the teacher, and not a realistic consequence at our school.

    I think all this is great, my doubts are with the consequence.

  8. Neisha says:

    Hi Shirley,

    I hear you! I have a grade 3/4 class – 8 and 9 year olds. I have the same children that were in grade 3 last year. My room was a cyclone, chairs and tables upturned, rubbish on floor, nothing put back. It got to the point where i took away their trays in their desks. I started the year afresh and I have implemented the rules for 3 weeks now. I am no expert but i have had children do the same thing. My response is what would you prefer? this puts the ball in the students court. They really dont want to miss out on lunch, they are just saying that to see what reaction they get and to see if you are going to follow through? I also give my kids a choice, as in my school i can only make them miss out on lunch at the “red seat” near the principals office for major behaviour things like violence, i sit the students outside the classroom, (I have had ten there at one time for talking when i am talking, calling out, laying on the carpet etc). I tell them they can do 10 minutes now or 20 mins after school. I go and have my lunch in the staffroom, and come back in 10 minutes, they are all still sitting there. But if they dont or if the other children tell me they ran away and come back, they get 20 minutes after school.

    I know you may not be able to keep them after school and in which case, they come for two days at lunch times.

    Good luck.

  9. While this issue can be very tough for most people, my opinion is that there has to be a middle or common ground that we all can find. I do appreciate that you’ve added relevant and rational commentary here though. Very much thanks to you!

  10. A couple of things; it the talking does not detract from the lesson, you need not enforce a detention every time. Zero in on one student at a time and get them to behave absolutely through detention, rules copying, parent calls, seat change next to your desk, everything you’ve got. Don’t try to discipline the whole class all at once over and over. Once the class sees you can get the worst student to behave, your directions will have bite since they know what lies ahead if they are next.

    Also, you might review the rules daily and have students practice these behaviors with you until it becomes more habit with them.

  11. shirleyj says:

    I have some questions.. I am a scottish primary teacher teaching children of 9 years old. I have implemented ‘the rules’for one week. My detention time takes place at lunch time as I would not be permitted to keep children back after school. The children are giving me comments such as is it just 15 minuites detention or all of lunch time? I have had a minimum of 6 children in each day and indeed the whole class twice. The main problem is the no talking rule -they just cant seem to follow it. Is nine years old too young to implement these rules? The same children are constantly offending. What else can I do? I have 33 pupils with varying needs and I am finding the class extremely difficult. Please help.. thankyou in anticipation

  12. thesakalli says:

    I have a sixth grade boy, who is a brilliant strategist and debater. He has no idea that he is rude when talking back or arguing. Very entitled upbringing. I never get into his wheeling and dealing, or argue with him. He is often on level one, our school’s discipline system; misses lunch and hates it, and recently sat at my desk for a week. (Finally he phrased the question of returning to his seat with “please” so I let him return.
    Any advise? TK

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