Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Luc De Leeuw via Compfight

As regular readers know, each year I teach a double period ninth-grade English class that often contains a number of very sharp students facing challenges. After just completing two weeks of mind-numbing standardized testing, and with only four weeks of school left, some of those challenges are playing out even more than usual in class.

So, I came up with a strategy that I thought I’d give a try, and decided to first see how it would work with a clique of five boys. I figured if it worked with them, then I’d use it with others — some individually, some in pairs.

I pulled the five out of the class they had during my free period (with the permission of their teacher, of course) and brought them to my room. I told them that I wanted to see how we could improve the atmosphere of our class. I wanted to first tell them three things that I wanted and then they would get a chance to say three things they wanted. Then we would see if we could work out a deal. They agreed to give it a try.

I told them that I wanted:

* to be spoken to respectfully.

* not to have another student try to involve themselves in a discussion I might be having with another student.

* do what I asked them to do the first time I asked.

I then said it was their turn.

The first thing they came up with was wanting to play “Cool Math Games” (a website that, as far as I can tell, has minimally educational math games) if we were at the computer lab and they were done with work. I countered with an offer that if they completed the classwork earlier, and if they finished one section of extra credit advanced work (you can read more about those activities here), I would be okay with them playing Cool Math for the last ten minutes of class. They agreed.

Then I said, “Okay, I agreed to one of the things you wanted. Which one of the three things I wanted are you going to agree to?”

They agreed to speak to me respectfully, and work on not saying everything they might be thinking.

They then came up with two other items that were easy for me to agree to, and they agreed to my remaining two items.

I explained that, of course, we were all human, and sometimes we would forget, or be having a bad day. In that case, I asked, how could we each remind each other in a respectful way. The students came up with the idea of telling me “Don’t eat the marshmallow” (see my previous post on that lesson) and I would say, “Remember our conversation.”

We then all shook on it.

It has seemed to go well so far, and I’m starting to have similar conversations with other students. Who knows how long it will last?

I’d be quite happy with a time-span of four weeks…..

I’m adding this post to My Best Posts On Classroom Management.