Hasin and I are teaching Science to 20 kids in a mixed grade class. We were supposed to start the class in May but since the schools were closed because of the earthquake, we had to wait till June. The school had relocated into a smaller space and some kids had recently joined the school. In the first week, we conducted activities from “Nawa Marga: Post quake relief through education” and got to know the kids.
Some of the issues we noticed after a few weeks were:
- level of understanding among the students (surprisingly the lower grade kids did better in the summative pre-assessment)
- the kids had a weak base in Math (which affected the Science lessons)
- noisy environment (the kids basically screamed to communicate)
- the kids teasing whoever gets the correct answer
- not respecting other’s opinions (interrupting when someone is speaking)
- relying on rewards for approval (the other teachers used Smiley and Grumpy)
- fighting (verbal as well as physical)
- too much focus on scores and grades (all teachers had to administer monthly summative assessments)
- new kids getting isolated
So in order to address some of these issues, we introduced a couple of classroom understandings to manage the class
- 5-4-3-2-1 Stop, Look and Listen
- We won’t start the class until everyone is quiet (also applicable when the students were sharing their answers/ideas/opinions)
- Noting “Time to settle down” which ranged from 6 minutes to 14 minutes for the first month but eventually came down to 2 to 3 minutes
Priya came in one day to observe the class and noticed that these classroom understandings had become mere rules which only half of the class followed and there was no consequence for the other half of the class that did not follow the rules. She also identified some of the issues we had previously identified but never really addressed them.
The next day, I made a conscious effort to observe the kids’ behavior and wondered if these behaviors were related to solving the issues Priya had identified. After the class, I shared my observations with fellow teachers and we concluded that most of the issues were related to the culture of the classroom.
I then modified the lesson plan for the next day to address some of the issues. Here’s the lesson plan:
|Pair and Share:
||balloon, straw, thread, rubber band||10||20|
||instruction for balloon experiment printout||5||25|
|Engage / Explore||40||65|
||string, balloon, straw, cello tape|
|Ask the kids to tie the string in the two legs of the table and tell them to think of ways to transport the balloon from one end of the table to the other end of the table||table|
|Reinforce the 4 criteria and ask the kids to reflect on what scores they deserve in the 4 criteria Use positive reinforcement to encourage behaviors in the kids|
|– Ask kids who have completed the challenge to think of new ways to solve the challenge using the same available materials|
|Explain / Evaluate||15||80|
When we divided the groups, most of the kids started to complain, so I reminded them of the first grading criteria: Attitude and asked them if complaining was the right attitude, which immediately reduced the complaints.
Most of the kids were struggling to write what made their team a great team, so I asked them to think of the other person’s strengths or a quality they admired. Since the teams had to complete this section and get the approval form one of the teachers to get the materials needed for the fun challenge, the kids completed that section.
After each team started the experiments, the two teachers observed random teams and asked them to reflect on whether they were considering the grading criteria.
We had deliberately teamed up two kids who used to get in altercations with other students and were always screaming to win an argument. When asked to reflect on ‘respect for others’, they said they’d grade themselves just 5 out of 10 because apparently the two had started an argument right before I had come. This realization the kids came up with gave me a hint that the lesson plan was working. I told them I’d grade them towards the end of the class and they still had time to change their behavior and work together as a team, which they did.
I took some breaks in between to grasp the attention of the whole class to announce if a particular team was working well together or helping others. 8 out of the 10 teams collaborated well in the task and completed their experiments.
During the wrap up, it was great to hear the kids reflect on what they learned from that day’s lesson.
Hopefully this will lead to a positive classroom culture.