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Today I am thrilled to welcome Michael Linsin with a guest post today. Michael is the author of the book Dream Class: How To Transform Any Group Of Students Into The Class You’ve Always Wanted, an award-winning book released in June of 2009. He is also the mastermind behind the website and blog Smart Classroom Management. As an author who I respect a great deal, and whose ideas I’ve used to revamp by Classroom Management Plan, I am excited to share an exclusive post that Michael wrote just for AOE viewers regarding management in the art room. Enjoy!
I feel your pain.
Having been a PE teacher for eight years, I know all too well the feeling of being at the mercy of classroom teachers.
The greatest challenge for art, music, and PE teachers and others who see their students less than an hour a week is overcoming the bad habits and misbehaviors learned—or tolerated—in regular education classrooms.
When I first became a PE teacher after many years in the classroom, I was surprised to discover that much of what had worked for me before, when I saw my students every day, didn’t work any longer.
If classroom management was less than effective in the regular classroom, I’d spend most of the hour with my students trying in vane to instill basic listening and attending skills and dealing with startling levels of disrespect.
And then a week later I’d find myself doing it all over again—wasting another class period on behavior and then sugarcoating how the class went when speaking afterward with the classroom teacher. “Oh, your students were fine. No major problems.”
So I went on an Indiana Jones-like quest to discover the simplest strategies that did work, that did influence students in such a way that they behaved for me, even as they were hellions in their own classrooms.
Despite what regular education teachers may tell you in polite staff-room conversation if you pit them in friendly competition against their grade level colleagues, their pride and desire to win will come roaring out.
You can use this to your advantage by grading each class period on a scale of zero to four, based on how well they behave and follow your directions. You’ll then compile the points earned every week until a winning class is announced and a nominal award is delivered.
By using just this one strategy, the resulting change in behavior can be immediate and drastic.
It’s a good idea to create a bulletin board that lists, by grade level, each class you accommodate during the week and how many points they’ve earned so far. The students, as well as the teachers, are then able to track their progress and that of their competition.
In a small but powerful—and visual—way, the point system holds classroom teachers accountable for how prepared their students are when they show up to your art class. And even if they won’t admit it, they’ll love the competition and enjoy needling their grade-level counterparts.
As for the students, it forces them to be accountable and answerable to each other and to their classroom teacher. And because it gives classroom teachers something their students can rally around, it has the potential to help build community and improve behavior in their own classrooms.
And as for you, it gives you the window you need, the opportunity you crave, to teach and instill in your students a love and appreciation of art.
It’s important to note that the point system is meant to improve whole-class behavior and is not a strategy for difficult students or specific incidents of misbehavior. You still need a classroom management plan to hold individual students accountable.
Your points, therefore, should only reflect how the class did as a whole. Never fail to award a point based on the behavior of only one or two students.
The beauty of using competition to motivate your students to behave is that, unlike other incentives, it doesn’t weaken over time. You see, it isn’t the award itself students and teachers care about.
It’s bragging rights. It’s being regarded as the best that motivates them to show up at your door ready to learn…
Which means you can depend on the point system strategy working for you as long as you need it.