Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"So, what do you do in Spanish class?" (1 of 2)

Categories of classroom activities

At the last MiBLSi conference I went to--actually a coaches' meeting, which I wouldn't normally attend--some of the local experts shared a lot of techniques on how to work with our peers on classroom management techniques.  The title of the meeting was probably something like "Coaching teachers," in fact.  At the meeting, one of the tools they shared was a "classroom behavior" matrix.  It looks just like the school-wide behavior matrix, but instead of different locations, the up-and-down categories are different kinds of classroom activities.  (If I can find the example they showed online, and I figure out how to cite it properly, I'll try to post it here.)

Doing this had only begun to start to commence to consider crossing my mind at the end of August.  At that time, I resisted the idea--"we do SO MANY different types of activities in Spanish class," I told myself, "that putting them into few enough categories to be meaningful would be impossible."  Then, I ran out of prep time (read: summer vacation) and started teaching again.  The idea was quickly forgotten--"besides," I thought, "I have a whole summer planning and practicing an improved version of my classroom management system; surely this year will be better than last year."

Well, fair enough, but when the idea of a classroom activity behavior matrix came up again, I was supremely intrigued.  But what sort of categories would classroom activities fit into?  How do you take all of the multiple intelligences, and varied interests, and differentiated levels of activities, and put them into categories?  And not just any categories--the categories, I'm thinking, should have the following characteristics:

1.)  They should be specific enough to be meaningful.  I don't think "Vocabulary practice" will be specific enough, although I reserve the right to change my mind.

2.)  They should be general enough that 5 or 6 of them should describe the vast majority of on-task classroom time.  "Flyswatter game" carries its own special rule set, but doesn't necessarily belong here.

3.)  They should (obviously) increase transparency of the workings of the classroom--that's the whole point in defining things, to take the mystery and guesswork out of it.  This will help the students know what is expected of them, and help the teacher know which set of rules everybody's playing by at any given time.

The sample they gave us (man, I wish I could find it online!  Well, maybe I'll end up reproducing the hard copy they gave us) had such things as "Beginning class," "Individual practice," "Small-group practice," "Whole class practice," "Instruction," and "Leaving class."  Maybe these are good enough, but I have my doubts--there are different kinds of practice, the variety of activities really IS tremendous, etc.  But following the "Ready!  Fire!  Aim!" philosophy I'm trying with good practice, I'm going to make a sample matrix, using these as activities.

Before doing all of this, a teacher has his or her classroom rules.  (Or you could tie them into school-wide expectations.)  And the matrix shows how students behave during each kind of activity for each rule or behavior expectation.  So, using the categories above, mine might look something like this:

Expectations (top row): Use your languages respectfully / Use classroom materials appropriately / Stay on task.

Categories (first column):  Beginning of class / Whole class instruction / Paired- and small-group / Individual Practice / Ending of Class

And then the intersections of the rows and the columns would contain more specific descriptions of behaviors for each of these categories.

In part 2 of this post, I'll take some of the commoner activities we do in Spanish class, and figure out (1) how they fit into this schema, and (2) where on the chunk-chew-check / I do-we do-you do forms that Kathleen Kryza has been talking to us about.

NB.  As I type this, I'm left with the vague impression that this specific technique is out of Randy Sprick's Safe and Civil Schools series.  I'll look through such materials as I have access to, and if I can find it, I'll give credit where credit is due, and let the expert show you what I'm trying to tell you.  Also, in my mind there were specific categories that went along with it.

Update, 2 Jan: I found the classroom behavior expectation matrix in the handouts.  It comes without citation, and 2 minutes' Googling didn't come up with it.  (I did find another example, from Best Behavior from Sprague and Golly.)  The categories I was trying to remember earlier: Outcomes, what you have to have done at the end of the activity; Voice, how loud you can talk and what about; Help, how to get help from the teacher and your classmates; Movement, how, when and why to move around and out of the room; Engagement, how and how much to interact with the materials; and Materials, which materials to use, and how to get and use your pencils and whatnot.

Also updated to fix some formatting.

Update 2:  I found the source of the matrix, and it was Sprick.  CHAMPS is an acronym for Conversation (can the students talk or not?  when?  how?  with whom?  what about?), Help (how do students get their questions answered?), Activity (what is the task, and what is the end product?)  Movement (Can students move?  When?  How?  Where?), and Participation (what are students doing during this time?).  This is paraphrased from p. 92 of Discipline in the secondary classroom by Sprick, 2006.  The ones in the matrix I gave earlier are probably originals from one of the presenters I saw, based on Sprick's ideas. 

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