There are several classroom elements that help establish and maintain a productive learning environment. Most importantly, teachers must present a calm, assertive demeanor. The other elements, which I will discuss below, are a part of "proper prior planning". Effective planning helps to keep students engaged in purposeful work and behaviorally appropriate. Read on or watch my Youtube video below to see how I manage student behavior in my high school biology classroom:
Before students enter the classroom, I place their classroom folders and "do-nows" on their desks. During the opening week of school I taught them my expectation that they enter the room quietly and begin guessing words based on the context of the science article, their "do-now". As students are seated, making their guesses, I paraphrase the article to assist them in guessing appropriate words. I tailor the amount of my guidance to the capabilities of the learners in my class. After about five minutes of independent work I lead the class in a discussion of what words work best in the article.
The "do-now" activity takes about ten minutes, during which I also complete "housekeeping" tasks like attendance. After, students complete the day's lesson, which may be a lab, notes, or other assignment.
During the last five minutes of class, I project a sentence starter on the board. Students complete the sentence starter on the back of their "do-now". The completed sentence is the student's "exit ticket" as they leave class. An example of a typical sentence starter is, "The main idea of today's class was….".
Both the "do-now" and exit ticket activities promote academic engagement from bell to bell. The completed activities are collected daily and grouped by student name. I make daily notations, as appropriate, on the "do-now" regarding individual student behavior and work habits.
On the last day of the week I review the students clipped "do-nows", a set of five in a typical week. I assign a fractional grade based on my evaluation of their class participation for the week as evidenced by their work on their "do-nows" and the notations about their behavior and work habits. A student exhibiting exemplary behavior and work habits would earn 5/5, or if fewer days in the week, a fractional amount equalling 100%.
Whatever the student's fractional score, that number is entered in my gradebook as the week's participation grade. Students generally get ten participation grades a quarter, though sometimes short weeks are combined. Student's participation grades are calculated with assignments, and cumulatively, are worth 45% of their biology grade.
Like many teachers, I work with students with diverse abilities, some with very limited reading skills. Some of my students also make choices and exhibit behaviors that further hinder their abilities to learn.
I started using abridged, edited science articles in my classroom several years ago as a way to acclimate students to developing an academic focus the moment they entered my classroom. I found the science article do-nows to be a useful practice, so I edited five articles each week to use in my classes. In subsequent years I organized them by science topic so that students could read about research from the field we were currently studying. My collection includes 180 articles covering the ten biology topics I teach.
Those do-now articles, along with exit ticket sentence starters are available in my book Life Science "Do Nows" & "Exit Tickets"Life Science "Do-Nows" and "Exit Tickets": 180 Days of Warm Up and Closure Activities. Buy your copy here or on Amazon.
If you do, you'll be following through with the "7 Ps"!
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Gertrude Katz has spent over 30 years teaching K-12 public school students all major subjects. She has taught biology and education at the college level. The majority of her career has been spent instructing biology at the secondary level.