The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Summer Reading IV: Classroom Management in Photographs

Classroom teachers, especially in the primary grades, will tell you that there are three ways to read a book: read the pictures, read the words, and retell the story. Most of the books I read are text-heavy and picture-light. I’ve been reading books like this for a very long time now. But I happen to enjoy picture books, too, and I especially enjoy wordless picture books because they force me to think about what the story could be.

One of the books I selected for my summer reading this year is another one that, I believe, I acquired during a new teacher mentoring workshop I attended. The book is called Classroom Management in Photographs and is published by Scholastic. Unlike most of the books that I am reading this summer, I did not have to measure the amount of time it took me to read this in months, weeks, or even days. In fact, I was able to read it in just a few moments. That is probably one of the great advantages of reading a book that is mostly pictures. Scholastic, in addition to being one of the principal mass-merchandisers for children’s literature, publishes a variety of resources for teachers. This is one of those resources, which they helpfully categorised under Teaching Strategies for grades K-5.

I think most of the ideas in this book are more appropriate for younger grades, but I found some helpful strategies nonetheless. It focuses on classroom management but does so in terms of the learning environment rather than systems of expectations, rules, and/or consequences. The principal idea is that the physical arrangement of a room can and does have a huge impact on student behaviour. I agree. One of my great challenges this past year, and almost certainly this coming year, was that I have a smaller classroom. I have been in rooms much larger, but I have also been in rooms much smaller. But just like my students hear all the time, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. My challenge is figuring out how best to use the space I have.

One thing that struck me as I read was that every single one of the 20 classrooms featured used table groupings instead of individual desks. I like the idea of groupings in general, but I learned last year that sometimes the traditional array of rows and columns of desks may be what is best for a specific class. What I really want to do with my class this coming year is teach them how to effectively transition from one desk arrangement to another. Of course, I need to keep in mind accommodations for students who do not deal well with transitions, but I think there is a way it can be done. And if it doesn’t work, well, that just provides for another opportunity to live and learn. However, I continue to believe that students really will rise to the level of expectations we have for them!

One of the really simple ideas I saw in this book was something that several of the primary teachers in my building already do. It is to make a simple “where are we?” sign to hang outside the classroom. With so many students who leave for a variety of reasons, and with so many visitors who come to the room, it would be good to have a visual indicator for where we’ve gone. The idea in Classroom Mangement in Photographs is to make a circle with an arrow that can point to where the class has gone, such as to music, lunch, recess, assembly, gym, field trips, etc. I will make my with two arrows, one for the class and one for me. That way if my class is in music and I am in another teacher’s room, I can indicate both.

The other section I tagged in this book was for classroom jobs. I had fully intended on having classroom jobs last year, and somehow they just never happened. There were just so many other things that were of higher priority! There were a variety of ideas presented. Some teachers create enough jobs for everyone in the class to have something to do. Other teachers have a handful of jobs and then rotate students through them. One of my favourite ideas was the Job Application. Students actually apply for a job by filling out an application and sharing previous experience, related experiences, why they are interested, why they should be selected, and any other jobs they may be interested in. I love the real-life application of the, well, application!

This was a quick read and will be an easy reference for me to use in the future. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and will gladly lend it out to any teachers or parents who would like to check it out!

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