Classroom Management—Part 3: Keep ’em Busy

One of the biggest mistakes teachers make (newbies and vets alike), is failing to plan enough work to keep your kiddos busy for the entire time you have them.  I don’t care if you’re teaching AP classes or the worst of the worst, if they don’t have something to keep them busy, they’re going to misbehave.

So the question is: How do you keep them busy, without give them busy work?  Because, believe you me, once they realize that’s what you’re giving them, they will shut down on you.  Everything you do in class must be for a purpose.  Whether it’s something that will help them on a test later, or something that will be graded, it must be clearly defined.  If you’re showing a video just to kill time (let’s face it, we all do this at some point or another), there should be at least one question about it on their next quiz or test.

Planning ahead is hard for me.  I’m a procrastinator.  It’s has plagued me all my life.  My way of coping with that is to set a schedule both for myself and for my kids.  My kid’s schedule is on the board…

Most of my students are with me for English, so this is the basis for our day.  The few math students I have follow the district’s set curriculum which I access online.  Since I don’t have the same resources as the other schools – and since I only have these kids for 30-60 days – I kind of do my own thing for English.

“Grammar” on the board includes vocabulary and editing, as well as parts of speech and other regular grammarly things.  They do a lot of writing here, and I do reading comprehension checks through self-selected texts.  We don’t get to do much literature study, unfortunately, since I have 6th-12th graders all mixed together, but we do spend some time on literary elements.  When they write their reading logs, they have to write about one of those elements that they’ve noticed in their self-selected reading material.

The two weekly writing assignments are used to teach proofreading and editing skills.  All of our students are required to participate in 1.5 hours/day of Character Education.  They take a 7 Habits class, and all the core teachers incorporate it into our lesson plans.  So on Mondays, my students get a writing prompt that asks them to either analyze a given situation, or think about a character dilemma and discuss thought processes and actions.  For free writing day, they either get to choose their own topic, or pick one from the board…

Sometimes, I have kids who finish assignments very quickly (because we tend to over-identify Special Ed students in our district, and they probably don’t need to be in my class), so for those kids, I keep a binder of “Extra” work that challenges them a bit more, but is still relevant to what we do in class.  Or, they get to spend time typing their writing assignments to build their computer skills.

About once a week, as a special privilege for those with good behavior, students get to play games on my classroom iPad.  Yes, I bribe them.  And I’m not ashamed of it.  Many of my kids can’t afford such thing, so I see it as experience building.

So, my advice for those of you struggling with kiddos who get “bored” and act up – give them more work than they could possibly do in a single class period.  Teach them to prioritize by telling them what order to do things in.  Then have a “finish up” day for any work they didn’t get a chance to finish in class, or set the expectation that whatever isn’t finished is homework.  (I have strong opinions on homework, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

What are your tricks to stave off bad behavior from boredom?

Read my Lesson Planning tips.

Until next time…


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