Ever since my undergraduate program, I have been told, reminded, or simply surrounded by comments and articles about how to set up the idea classroom environment at the beginning of the school year. I remember at first year teacher I was told to not weakness or smile the first few week, or months, of school or the students will take control of the classroom and I wouldn’t be able to regain classroom control. I actually tried it for several years even though it was against my own teaching philosophy and personality. While I find this advice a bit ridiculous at this point in my teaching career, the basic premise of establishing specific protocols is there. If students don’t know what type of behavior is expected of them, they will mold their behaviors into an existing crevice they believe exists within the classroom environment.
Dr. Jody McVittie, director of Sound Discipline (www.sounddiscipline.org), suggests that one of the most important elements of creating a positive learning environment is through establishing classroom routines. If teachers want to successfully implement physical movement activities in the classroom, it is important to establish a routine for how to move in the classroom from one place to another.
Today was the first day of school for my students. Rather than starting the day by distributing the syllabus and presenting a dry overview of the class, I completed a community building activity for part of the period and then I ended the period with an activity illustrating how to move within the classroom setting. I modified the activity from a presentation McVittie gave to my staff last week.
The desks in my classroom are arranged in clusters of four. I currently have nine desk clusters. I divided the class into two groups. Four desk clusters comprised of Group One and five desk clusters comprised of Group Two. Group One was assigned as the movers and Group Two as the observers. The activity was completed four times:
1. Group One was instructed to switch seating spots. For example, Cluster A switched with Cluster B, and Cluster C switched with Cluster D. As they moved, they were to make noticeable errors. Group Two was instructed to observe and note the errors they saw. Once the groups successfully moved, Group Two discussed what Group One could improve on (notice the positive tone). I took notes on the white board.
2. Group One was instructed to switch seating spots to the best of its ability. Group Two was instructed to observe and note any areas of improvement. After students successfully moved, Group Two, again, discussed what Group One could improve on (if anything). I took notes on the white board.
3. Group Two was instructed to switch spots. In order to increase the challenge in the activity, Group Two was instructed to make minimal errors that were not easily noticeable. Group One was instructed to observe and note the errors they saw. Once the groups successfully moved, Group One discussed what Group Two could improve on. I took notes on the white board.
4. Group Two was instructed to switch seating spots to the best of its ability. Group One was instructed to observe and note any areas of improvement. The final time was extremely challenging because Group Two wanted to outperform Group One and Group One wanted to find the slightest error in Group Two’s movement. After students successfully moved, Group One, again, discussed what Group Two could improve on (if anything). I took notes on the white board.
This activity set the protocol for how to move quietly and efficiently in the classroom. Since all students were able to successfully move in the activity, it is something that can be brought up in the future when students need to be reminded of how to move quietly and efficiently. The activity took about 15 minutes to complete and the students loved it. They were challenged, had fun, and learned the movement routine.