So, if you read last week’s “wrap up” post, you
know that our first game of Scoot went terribly, terribly wrong. In fact,
it went so wrong, that I realized it was time that I sat down and wrote out my
classroom management tips for “that class” (also known as how I try
to make it through the day this year.
If you are a “classroom game” kind of teacher,
I am sure it is hard to believe that a game of Scoot could go so awry.
*By the way, if that is what you are thinking right now, I am jealous of
you…because you and I are having very, very different years!* (I’m
sure that you probably know what a “scoot” is, but just in case you
don’t, it is a game where students all begin at their own numbered spot.
They complete an academic task – such as an addition problem – then when
the timer goes off the entire class “scoots” to the next numbered
space. There is another task waiting for them to complete there.
They continue to “scoot” around the room until they have
completed all the tasks or problems.)
Scoot is a game that many teachers go back to over
and over again. Kids love it, you can incorporate almost any skill or
standard, it includes movement, it is easy to differentiate…the list of
positives goes on and on! You might even call it the perfect classroom
It is much, much, much, much, much easier for some
groups than others. The particular group of students that I have this
year are not what you would call “naturals” at this type of
organized, independent, focused-yet -exciting and enjoyable activity.
They tend to…how should I say it?…Lose their minds. Like,
Now, this particular scoot/lesson was planned by my
(wonderful) intern. She planned it perfectly. She thought of
everything. She aligned the game to the standard we were studying and
made accommodations for ELL and ESE students. She remembered everything…except exactly who the little people in this particular class happen to be
You see, this year, we have the honor of teaching
“that class“. Now, don’t get me wrong…they are sweet!
They are kind and usually very happy. However, they are not independent.
In fact, it is shocking just how “not independent” they are…especially given the fact that it is now March and I have been working with
them on becoming “independent learners” every. single. day. since
August! This particular group also seems to have the collective attention
span of a certain distractible fish named Dory.
Now, my intern is new at all of this…so it would
make sense that she might just not be accustomed to “wiggly” groups
or kids that are a little more “active” than most. However, I
am in my 17th year of teaching. I have taught special education classes,
pre-kindergarten or kindergarten for the majority of my career…I believe
that this background has me fairly accustomed to distractibility and students
have have difficulty focusing. In fact, I think that my tolerance for
“the wiggles” is much stronger than most. However, this year is
like one long wiggle hangover. The struggle is real my friends.
So, just in case you find yourself in a situation
where you are teaching “that class”…you know, the one that loses
their minds every thirty seconds…the one that gets SO wound up that you
don’t know if you will ever be able to reel them back in…the one where
spotting something shiny knocks them off their rockers…the one that CAN NOT
HANDLE A SIMPLE GAME OF SCOOT…then, worry not…I am here to help!
Here is my list of “Helpful Hints”. These are the
classroom management strategies that really do work with “that
- Give Clear, Simple Directions
up for success – especially when you are teaching “that class” is to
make sure you are giving your students very clear directions.
told: “Everyone is going to go to your numbered space. When you get
there you will find a math problem waiting for you. You are to solve that
problem on your answer sheet in the square that has the same number as your
space. When you hear the timer go off you will get to “scoot”
to the next numbered spot! Then, you will solve that problem in the same
numbered space. We will keep doing this until all the problems have been
solved. Ready? Go to your numbered space!”
On “do-over-day” I simplified the directions. I brought it way,
way, way, way down. Here is how it went: ”When
I say go, you are going to get up and go to your numbered space. Watch
me. I am going to pretend I am number three. I am going to get up
and walk to space number three.” (I got up and walked to space three
with my clipboard and pencil.) ”Now, when I hear the
‘beep’ and the game begins I am going to solve this problem. Watch.
‘BEEP!’.” (I pretended to solve the problem on my clipboard.) ”Now,
I am going to listen for the next ‘BEEP’. When I hear it I am going to
get to “scoot” to the next space. I started at number three.
Where will I scoot to boys and girls?” (Wait for them to
answer “Four!”) “Yes, I am going to go to four. Watch.
‘BEEP!’. I am moving to number four. I am going to answer this math
problem now. Where should I write the answer on my paper?” (Then, I
waited for them to answer “at number four”) “Yes, right…then,
I will wait for the ‘BEEP’. What do I get to do at the ‘BEEP’? (Wait for
the answer “SCOOT!”) – Then, I acted it out for the next three “scoots”. Yes, I am serious. It
is crazy right? However, I swear, it went from complete and total chaos, to
I have found that I literally cannot oversimplify
directions this year. It is not possible. One step directions are
ideal, however, that is often not possible.
If I can’t give one step directions, I need to give one step, then help them process that step before
moving on. (This can be with wait time, having students repeat the
direction, acting it out, using a visual etc.) Then I can add the
next step. I know it sounds crazy to be breaking things down this much with
kids older than three…but, I am telling you, it works. It is totally
worth getting into the habit of taking a few extra minutes to break things down
because it works.
2. Rely on Routines and Systems
While it is always best practice to have classroom routines and systems in place to assist with your classroom
management…when you have “that class” it is 100% essential! As you
can see from the above, it can be exhausting to have to break down every single
little thing all day long. You are going to need to have routines in place so
that your students know what they are supposed to be doing (and when and how!).
It is going to be the only thing keeping you sane some days!
I have found that it really doesn’t matter what the routine is (as long as it works
for you). What matters, is that you teach your students to be very, very
consistent with it. For example. If you have homework sitting on the table when
students come in in the morning then you have to make sure that it is there
every morning. If it isn’t there they are going to lose their minds. They will
ask you 500 times where it is and will not remember that you told them the
copier is broken and that they will get it later. Now, of course, sometimes the
copier is really going to be broken and they are just going to have to deal
with it… just be aware that it is not going to be pleasant for you when that
happens. However, it will make your life much, much,
much easier to have as many things happen “automatically” as
When you have a class that has a hard time following directions
and/or focusing it is key to minimize the number of times per day you need to
give them directions. If you really try, you can make
almost everything that happens in your classroom (except for the actual
teaching points/instruction) part of a routine. Packing up, unpacking,
choosing centers, cleaning up, turning in work, passing out materials, working
in groups/with partners, working on computers/iPads…these can all be
on-going routines. Fun activities like recess,
brain-breaks, Go-Noodle breaks, learning games & ‘Scoots’ should
all also be part of routines that have been taught and practiced as
well. (This was obviously our downfall.)
3. Focus on Engagement
Now, I know that it is probably always your goal to have your class engaged, right? I mean, who wants their students to be passive learners? However, this is just one more example of something that is always best practice that becomes absolutely critical when you have “that class”. These kiddos need us to put on a show to keep their attention under the best of situations. Can it be frustrating? Sure! Is it worth it to keep the classroom under control – 100%.
So, what exactly does it mean to keep “that
class” engaged? It means keeping their attention by any means
necessary…this could easily be a post all of its own! However,
most of the most effective engagement strategies are probably things you are
already doing! The only difference is, when you have “that
class” you need to do them all and you need to do them pretty much all the
time (Again, Exhausting? Yes. Worth it? Also yes.).
Some great ways to keep your kiddos engaged
• incorporating lots of music and movement – you can find a quick song and video to go along with just about any lesson on YouTube these days! (Be sure to check out Have Fun Teaching!)
• utilizing the gradual release model for instruction (“I do” teacher demonstrations, “We do” partner/group practice, “You do” individual work)
• lots of brain breaks (think Go Noodle!, stretch breaks, jumping jacks etc.)
• using Whole Brain Teaching strategies
• plan lessons while accounting for different learning styles
• utilizing cooperative learning groups, turn and talks, accountable talk and conversation circles
students make choices and building places for choice throughout the day
• carefully thinking through the daily schedule – varying activities (loud then quiet, large group then small group, teacher directed then student directed etc.)
When All Else Fails – ABANDON SHIP
Sometimes the best thing you can do is to simply
STOP doing whatever you are doing! We try so hard all the time don’t we?
We spend hours planning the “perfect lessons”. Then we
create the materials…we cut, color, print and laminate. We make games
and anchor charts. We try SO HARD. We try so hard that sometimes we
don’t see the forest for the trees.
So, this is the best advice I can give you for the
times “when Scoot goes wrong”…abandon the ship. If it
is sinking – JUMP OFF IT. Trying to salvage “Scoot gone
wrong” is a terrible idea for so many, many reasons!
First of all,
it’s too late. They aren’t listening to you anymore. They don’t
care about Scoot or math or games or anything anymore. When you are
teaching “that class” you have to remember that sometimes they are
too far gone. It might be a full moon, or raining, someone might have
“looked at” someone else, or seen something shiny. For whatever
reason, there are going to be times that it just won’t work…and that’s okay.
Really. It’s okay. You can decide to say “We are done
with this for today” or “I changed my mind” or “We are
going to try this again tomorrow.” You can say whatever you want
because you are the teacher. You can simply decide to teach them
something else right now (like how to take deep breaths and calm down so you
don’t lose your cool in front of a classroom of children… or something
else…that’s just a random idea). The point is, sometimes the best
thing you can do is to say, “This isn’t working. Let’s try this
again tomorrow. Please come to the gathering area and we will read a book
instead”. Because the next day when you try again (after a good
night’s sleep – and a few glasses of wine) it might just be “Scoot Magic”!
I would love to hear your ideas for getting things “back on track” when they go wrong… or for keeping them on track in the first place… Pretty much I would love to hear any ideas you have! It is that kind of year! I hope some of these ideas help you… or at least help you to know that you are not “in it alone”! Let me know if any of these ideas work… or if you have any better ideas! I’m listening…
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