Classroom Management Tips - How I make My Class Engaging, Exciting, & Extra
The following blog post comes courtesy of NGPF Fellow, Joy Tavano, of North Kingstown Senior High School in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
This year marks my 20th year teaching business and technology. Yes - I am forever learning about my content - things have changed quite a bit in the financial literacy world and technology is constantly changing - but my other focus is ALWAYS on improving my classroom management. Without that, the subject and skills I am teaching just will not make it to my students. Here are 5 things I use to improve classroom management:
- The Front Door - Connecting with my students is the number one thing I do to improve engagement. At the start of class, I stand at my door to greet students as they walk in. I kindly say hello to everyone and make an effort to ask how they are that day. A predictable classroom routine - come in, get a laptop, open the day’s agenda - allows me to mingle with students while everyone settles in. I keep my mood upbeat and positive while I show students that I am interested in them as I continually try to get to know them. I am able to find out where students work, what their short term goals are, and what they value most. I ask lots of questions and do my best to make students feel at ease. I truly believe you need to reach students before you can teach students. Having information about life outside of school allows me to make connections during instruction when setting financial goals and talking about spending.
- The Monologue - My class starts with a review of the agenda but it usually also includes what I call the monologue. I often share stories about my life - what I’ve got going on as it relates to a topic that we are covering. For instance, when the garage door fell on my car this winter, I told this crazy story to them and related it to emergency savings and car insurance. As a personal finance teacher, I have found that the more I use examples of my own financial life, the more engaged students are. They want to know the real deal. They are also more willing to share their experiences when I share mine.
- The Flexible Seating - Three years ago the classroom I teach in was redesigned. My boring computer lab, with counters on all sides, was transformed into a modern business classroom with carpet, fourteen tables for 2 students, and rolling chairs. This allows me to change up the seating whenever I need to. Sometimes I do it for a specific purpose, such as putting tables together for group work, but sometimes I do it just to mix it up. My students like to walk into an unexpected configuration. This slight shift in routine can sometimes change someone’s attitude. If I need to, I will display a graphic of the seats with names so that students know exactly where to sit. This also has been perfect for NGPF’s MOVE activities. I am able to configure the room to get the best out of these projects.
- The Paper Chain- The first week of school I create a very large paper chain to mark each day of the year and string it across the front of the room. This chain includes weekends and holidays and ends with graduation day. A student removes a link every day and it makes the journey of the year something to talk about. This reflection allows students to share with me their excitement and fears about finishing high school. I love being able to have these conversations with them as it helps me to encourage and motivate them to do their best. In addition, topics regarding saving and investing can seem abstract to students and even many adults want to ignore their finances. Creating a visual such as this paper chain shows my students that things that are in the future can be represented in ways to make them easier to see.
- The Muffin Tin - An important hobby for me is baking and my students know I am a previous winner of our school’s annual Cupcake War fundraising event. Leaning on the ledge of my whiteboard is an empty 6 cup muffin tin. I often refer to this tin when someone seems distracted or off task in class. I describe to them that when they are in my class they should be in one compartment of the muffin tin. We all have lots of things we can be thinking about and stressing over. A good strategy to handle this problem is to compartmentalize things in order to achieve success in one area at a time. Your personal finance budget project is not getting done any faster if you are worrying about the five-page English paper you need to write!
Figuring out how to reach students is by far the thing that gets me pumped about teaching. I find it a challenge to come up with ways to keep students engaged and to keep my classes exciting. This year, one of my homeroom advisory students took a class with me for the first time. He is a senior and was surprised to see, in his words, how “extra” I was in the classroom. That put a smile on my face.
About the Author
After graduating with an education degree and spending 7 years in an elementary classroom, Laura made the switch to the non-profit world and loves interacting with students, educators and business professionals across the country. She is passionate about all students having access to high quality education and views personal finance education as one way to ‘level the playing field’. When Laura is not locating or creating high quality educational resources, you can find her mountain biking or searching for the best ramen in town!
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