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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Watch a Classroom Management Expert

Betty Ray

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

See how this 9th-grade English teacher connects with his students, earns their trust, and then invites them to contemplate their future with -- or without -- reading skills.

  • At the beginning, watch how he makes a connection with each student as they enter the classroom.
  • At 6:54 he gets students to talk about their previous jobs, and the work they want to do. (Note how he refers to work done for free as "slave labor" -- an interesting foreshadow to the section where they reflect on their future.)
  • At 12:33 he builds their trust by introducing some "crazy" books -- stories about teen suicide, poverty, and gang life. Powerful reactions from students, too.
  • At 16:59 he introduces a series of insightful prompts to encourage students to make the connection between literacy, employment, money and their futures.
  • At 20:35 he presents some scary facts about the relationship between literacy and prison.
  • At 50:36, he stresses the importance of being "fired up" for an impending quiz, and does a little interpretive dance to the Rocky theme song to bring that point home.
  • His last activity during the period is an introduction to various student jobs. At 1:06:06 he describes himself as "strict as a dragon" in his expectations of how the class will remain totally silent as they walk to different job stations around the room.
  • At 1:17:41, he has the students (silently) apply for the classroom jobs that most interest them. Note how he encourages each one, particularly in whispered one-to-one interactions.
  • After class is dismissed, at 1:31:04, he disciplines a couple of kids for talking, but -- wow -- check out the love and respect here!

Look for a guest post with some specific classroom management tips from this teacher, Tyler Hester, coming soon. In the mean time -- what are your tips and tricks for engaging your students?

Comments (7)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

AAEMelissa's picture

I watched Week 1, Day 1 yesterday, and what I loved about it is how well he shows how you can set rules and practice routines without just reading the syllabus.

I also love how it very clearly feels like the first week of 9th grade. It makes me miss the classroom!

Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Re: The handshake and greeting. I'm wondering if he does this for all of this classes every day. I can see this get very tiring but I have seen it work for some teachers. What have you all found?

Here's a helpful playlist of classroom management tips including the handshake/greeting, having students use sign language and more: http://www.edutopia.org/classroom-management-teacher-tips-video.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

I want to share this with every single teacher I know. Also the ones I don't know. I love the way he gets that this teaching thing is about relationships first- and that relationships grow from trust. He's willing to take the first risk by greeting them and by being a little silly. That paves the way for so very, very much.

David Loertscher's picture
David Loertscher
Professor, San Jose State University

I have an observation and a question: This teacher is an expert at crowd control and lecture; but, is he a good teacher? What did the teens know and what could they do after this long classroom session?

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia
Staff

@David, Good questions. I thought the same thing when I first started watching this video. But once I made to about 15 minutes in, I realized that he's really helping them to reflect about their lives and hopes and dreams for their futures, and how their present-day choices might impact that future. To me, that's the definition of good teaching. Did you happen to watch it all the way through (I know, it is long...)

Brooke's picture

I thought the teacher did an excellent job. He took what can be a very dull process (introducing a class and the expectations) and made it interesting while also setting the tone for the year. The connection to the real world data helps students realize why the class will inevitably be important to them. Giving opportunities for verbal discourse between the students was important to start to build a sense of community in the classroom. I found his "teaching" voice to be relaxing in the fact that even during reprimands, students did not feel like they were being attacked but the expectation was clear.

Engagement strategies I use:
-whole group "peppering" (getting each student involved in the conversation by calling at random)
-verbal discourse opportunities for students
-"brain breaks"/minute to win it activities to let them have a moment to rest their mind
-movement incorporated into activities and discussion
-connecting concepts to their interests and real world

Engagement is a focus of mine for whole group instruction this year so i am always looking for more ideas. :)

Austin's picture

Interesting and fun discussion at the start, a little off-beat which I'm sure his students like. Even better as the class progresses when he facilitates a discussion on the importance of reading and literacy -- a serious topic handled so very well. I'd be very glad to have this teacher in my school and I can see the difference he makes for his students.

I'm supportive of the approach that works for him. He is a lecture-oriented, control-oriented, perfection-oriented teacher. He likes to be in control in every moment. He also places an extraordinarily high value on student compliance. These are the traits I'm observing, and I don't think every successful teacher has these particular traits and values to the same extent.

He is very, very skilled (trained and focused) at this methodology. But it's ALSO important for readers, especially new teachers and pre-service teachers to realize, that there are MANY other effective styles and methodologies. There are project-based methods, less controlling methods, more student-centered methods for teaching and classroom management that exist, and that are also successful for the teachers that use them.

If you have this teacher's personality type, then what he's doing is a great example. It's clear he likes being on the stage and interacting every moment... very social and outgoing, very professional young man. His interactions with students and choices of words also seem to be very intentional, almost to the point of being rehearsed and practiced rather than natural conversation. This again goes back to his comfort with being the "sage on the stage."

If you have a different personality or have been exposed to more student-centered methods, this methodology is not going to entirely work for you. That being said, I see so many good things here. Tyler's positivity, planning, and thoughtfulness are top notch. There are great tips to pick up by watching this video, but just remember we are not all meant to be lecture-style, control-oriented teachers.

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