Where to begin???
At my school the 100 or so 8th graders are divided up into five separate sections (8A thru 8E) of 20 students each. Students stay in these sections all day long and all year long, so they really become comfortable with the students in their section. The only time they deviate from these groups is during electives like dance, art, physical education, and music.
While this type of system has positives and negatives, overall I am adjusting to it fine. The problem is that as teachers we have come to compare these 5 sections amongst ourselves. So naturally, there is one at the bottom.
On the very first day of school the 8th grade teachers flagged 8A as a chatty and difficult group of students. Things have not really improved much since then and we are three months into the year. I mean all Colombian kids love to talk, but these ones just DO. NOT. SHUT. UP. Nothing works. They are more interested in what their classmates have to say than they ever will be about algebra. To top it off, they are protecive of each other. They value their relationships so highly that they don't regard it as rude when they ignore or interrupt teachers in class. Basically they think highly of themselves and not so much of me...yet.
Last week I decided I absolutely could not deal with them for a second longer, so in the middle of discussing proportional reasoning I stopped my lesson and asked each of them to take out a piece of paper. I asked them to write their name and one thing they can do to improve in class and one thing they think I can do to help the class.
Reading the responses was beyond interesting...of the 21 students in that class, 16, yes SIXTEEN, told me the thing they can do to improve is be more respectful and attentive during class. Awesome. That means they know exactly what they should be doing, they just are choosing not to do it. Perfect. Their suggestions for me included rearranging the seating chart, doing more fun activities and being more strict in my discipline of those who do talk a lot.
The next day in class we discussed their responses. As a result, we have switched the seating chart, and we are going to do one fun activity or community circle discussion time at least once a week. Also, I have changed my discipline for that class so that now if I need to discipline a student during class, I write his or her name on the board. The second time I need to address the student, he or she is sent right to the dean of student's office, no exceptions. I hope that by doing this my students will understand that I am serious about behavior. I also hopes this avoid dedicating precious class time to behavioral issues. Other students should not suffer a lack of learning time because their classmates cannot shut up.
So, that is where I am at with 8A right now. I sincerely hope things improve in that class. The class by far has the widest range of high schieving to low level students and I am wondering if this plays into their issues as a class. I need to find a way to teach to the middle of the class, help the low level students raise their level of achievement and also challenge the high students. All in 70 minutes, 3 times a week.
Sounds like a breeze. :/
Anyone have ideas?!?!?