Day 152: On Classroom Management

When I was in college, I took a lot of hypothetical classes. During those classes, we explored what to do if situation A, B, or C erupted, then very thoroughly looked at all the different paths to take in dealing with said conflicts.

I spent some time observing classrooms where teachers had everything under control and also taught a few lessons to students who had their real teachers at the time breathing down their necks, instilling the fear of you-will-get-your-face-ripped-off-if-you-try-anything.

Here is an outline of my  classroom management  progression:

1.  Student teaching

  • I take over the classroom and present a list of 7 class rules/consequences I have come up with (This is what every classroom management book said to do; clear expectations. yeah.)
  • Students test the waters and realize I am a pushover.
  • My cooperating teacher comes and lays into each class.
  • I create a new, refined list of rules/consequences.
  • I don’t back those up, all hell breaks loose.
  • I tell on misbehaving students to my cooperating teacher, she takes care of it.
  • I tell myself things will be better when I have my own classes and I can start from scratch.

2.  First year

  • I continue to refine my list of rules, this time it is down to 5.
  • I am very nervous and I smile a lot, students tell me this.
  • I introduce some fun lessons and develop relationships with a few students, they back me up when I need it.
  • I let some things slide that I probably shouldn’t, a few pretty big conflicts erupt, scripted interventions have no effect.
  • My classes are noisy, I pass out a lot of note cards asking students to rate their behaviors and we talk about it, then forget about it.
  • I realize it doesn’t really matter what I say to students, but how I say it.
  • I don’t feel like backing up all the rules I have put in place.
  • Come February, I decide that it is time to focus on classroom management. This really translates into no groups work, seating students in rows, lunch detention slips and lots and lots of worksheets.
  • April comes around and students are back to their primal educational instincts; book work and lectures. Life is good?
  • Without any clear expectations, I try group work and 3-act problems again. They go well for a bit then crash and burn near the end of the year.
  • I tell myself things will be better next year.

3.  Year Two

  • The classroom rules I came up with didn’t work, I decide to throw them out entirely.
  • I make a pledge to greet each student at the door as they walk in and give ’em those 5 minutes in between classes to do whatever in the room.
  • The amount of conversation while I am trying to teach gets out of control, I tell myself I am going to wait for dead silence whenever this happens. That plan doesn’t work well.
  • I decide to put up two rules in my room.
  • I back up those rules, I will die over them if I have to.


Classroom management is a crazy thing because one day a certain strategy will work then the sparkles wear off and it flops the next time I try to execute it. I am not even close to developing a plan that works for me, it is still try, fail, revise, and try again. I don’t know when that cycle will change but over the past two or so years of teaching I have really learned three key points.


It doesn’t really matter how many times I threaten students if I am doing it with a smile on my face. If tell a student to be quite in a kind and forgiving way they will brush it off. I have learned that how am I saying something to students matters more that what I am saying. 


This year was the first year I asked about what goes on in my student’s lives. We talk about their weekends every Monday and Friday. Greeting students each day has provided a positive start to each day. Plus, it wipes the slate clean from the previous day.

My life:

I tell students stories about my crazy roommates in college. One would feed dead flies off the windowsill to his pet fly trap. Another would go wander in the woods for 14+ hours a couple Saturday’s a month. Whatever fun stories I have, I take the time to share with them with my students. On my recent surveys, students have given positive feedback on particular part of their experience in my classroom. They love stories.

I still feel I have a long way to go in creating a successful classroom management plan. I am not sure if there is going to be a magical day where everything just clicks from there on or if it is a very slow process and will never really feel established. Either way, I make mistakes and learn from those. *On a side note… I am developing the ability to predict the future; I can read students and the direction of their behaviors which is fun.

There is never a dull day in my classroom.



Day 151: Dice

Geometry is shifting into a little bit of stats for geometric probability. I started students off by playing three different dice games:

Pic_1 Pic_2 Pic_3

For each game, I had the winner raise their hand and say if they were Player A or B. We discussed why or why not the game was fair. The last thing students looked at was if there was a way to fix the game and make it fair.

Day 150: Ticket Roll (Student Work)

Continuation from yesterday’s post.

There were some interesting ways students went about finding the total tickets, have a look.

IMG_0613 IMG_0614 IMG_0615 IMG_0616 IMG_0617

I have been working on transitions within 3-Act problems.They always start really well then student engagement and quality of work slowly decline. Folding a sheet of plain old paper into 6 regions and having a purpose for each region has helped quite a bit.

For those interested

  1. Estimate: Guess, low, high
  2. Info they need
  3. Game plan of how they will use that info
  4. Provided information
  5.  and    6.    Work

One strategy that worked well today was I had students share out their confident calculations. I threw ’em on the board and then whoever had the closest talked about their solution process.

The tail end of lessons seems to be a weak spot in my daily instruction, I’m interested to hear in what sort of closing routines you all have.

Day 149: Ticket Roll

Geometry took a concept test today and started on The Ticket Roll from 101qs.


3-Acts are a lot of fun, I have been working on having students develop all aspects of the problem: from the initial question I shift their thinking to what information they need. Then before giving it to ’em I ask how they would use their desired info. Here is the list my class came up with.


A couple students reached a final number but a majority took the problem home, I am looking forward to hearing their solution methods tomorrow.

Day 148: Basketball

Algebra is getting into quadratics. They know a bit about vertex and how to determine what direction a parabola will open. To keep momentum after introducing quadratics, I pulled a great acitivty from Dan Meyer’s Blog again.

Last year I spent an entire day on guessing and tracing where the ball would end it. It was a bit of overkill. This year I spent about 20 minutes on it, which was a good amount.

Day_148.1Students came up and traced the path they thought the ball would follow.


I threw the pictures into desmos and fitted a curve to them.


We watched the end of the video.

After a couple, students picked up that the ball followed the same path on the way up as it did on the way down. They are pretty comfortable with quadratics now and finding the max,min,vertex, and axis of symmetry.

Day 147: Pick’s Theorem

An admin came in today for my second observation of the year, this time they observed geometry. The class went great, students stepped up and had a productive period.

The lesson was on finding areas of composite and irregular figures. I had crammed too much into the slides for the lesson and made a mid-lesson decision to only cover finding the areas of figures on a coordinate system or dot paper.

I pulled most of my resources from Dan Meyer’s post. Class flowed really smoothly, students struggled in places I had expected and were all successful in the end (they even derived Pick’s Theorem!)

Throughout the lesson I tried my best to keep this ratio as close to 0 as I could.

RatioA lot of times when I try to keep this at 0, students drift and I lose them. Today, I felt like I had perfect points of entry in helping students while at the same time having a minimal impact on their ownership of the material. They owned it today.

Day 146: Intro to Quadratics

Over two out two from the origin both ways, then go beneath the x-axis, over 5 down 5, then back above the x-axis above 10 and 10 over”

Any ideas what the graph this student was trying to describe looks like?

Algebra is starting quadratics and with that comes a mountain of vocab; upwards, downwards, vertex, maximum, minimum… ect. Instead of having students read/take notes or listen to a lecture on the important of all the vocab I have them do the following:

  1. Break into pairs
  2. Each pair needs a single whiteboard, marker, and eraser
  3. Move desks around so students are facing towards each other; one needs to be looking at the smartboard while the other has their back to it.
  4. Throw a graph up on the board (Thanks Desmos)Day146_1
  5. Without drawing in the air, pointing, listing off ordered pairs or anything like that the student facing the smartboard describes the graph as best they can to their partner (who can’t see it).
  6. Students struggle.
  7. Students get it.
  8. Partners switch positions and repeat.

Some of the best conversations about math happened today. Listen to a student describe to another what an exponential curve looks like for the first time ever was priceless. Students developed strategies and realized which points were critical in their partners success. They also saw the need for some mathematical framework, which was laid in place only after they encountered some tough ones.

Here are a few other graphs I threw up

Day146_2 Day146_3 Day146_4 Day146_5Can you guess which one the student was trying to describe?