Ask Miss Ruth
I teach grades 8-12 history classes at a small private school, and I am having trouble with classroom management. Students are often late for class, causing me to have to repeat instructions. When students finish an assignment early, they begin talking, which disrupts other students. Those students, in turn, stop working and begin talking, and they do not complete the assignment.
Let me suggest two things that may solve the problem. First, consider using a stamp sheet. This is simply a standard-size piece of paper on which you have photocopied 30 boxes. I have the words Stamp Sheet typed across the top with a space for the student’s name and another space for the class period. There are five boxes across and six down, for a total of 30.
You can give a stamp in one of the boxes for a variety of things. I give a stamp each day for what I call Daily Prep. This means coming to class on time and with textbook, assignment notebook, three-ring binder, notebook paper, and writing utensil. The student doesn’t get a stamp if he or she is missing any one of these; if a student is tardy, no stamp. Each stamp is worth 5 points (or whatever you decide). I also give a separate stamp if the homework has been completed. You can give a stamp at the end of the class period to those who have remained on task during the period.
I find that seniors as well as freshmen soon understand the importance of earning stamps, and they will do whatever is necessary to get them. A completed stamp sheet is worth a total of 150 points. A student who is missing 10 stamps, or 50 points, has earned what amounts to a 67 percent, or a D in my grade book.
Second, I suggest that for the students who finish early, you have something for them to do that either is related to the material the class is studying or simply of interest (appropriately) to the students. This may mean having magazines available, such as Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic. When my students finish an inclass test early, they always have homework they can begin to work on until everyone is finished.
My concern is that what you appear to tolerate will continue. Students are fond of pushing the limits. Once the limits are established, such as being in the classroom (preferably seated) when the tardy bell rings, the teacher needs to be clear about these three things: (1) what the consequences are for being tardy; (2) what will happen if the consequences, such as serving a detention, are not met; and (3) what will happen if the behavior continues.
A teacher must be clear about expectations, limits, and consequences. Furthermore, a teacher must follow through and do what he or she says. Ideally, students understand the need for rules. If not, the teacher may want to enter into a discussion with students about the responsibilities of the teacher and the students. This should be done at the beginning of the semester, however, and may be difficult if students already have gotten into bad habits and challenged the authority of the teacher.
Copyright Kappa Delta Pi Spring 2004
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