“Would you like to be a student in your classroom?” This month’s guest editorial says it all when it comes to classroom management. A well-organized science lab with students that are engaged and enthusiastic—it doesn’t get any better than that! But it takes a lot of planning, effort, and reflection to make it so. The articles in this issue have variety of suggestions from many perspectives. I would encourage teachers at the upper elementary and high school levels to browse the contents, too.
The best way to solve discipline problems is to prevent them from happening. We science teachers have an advantage—interesting content and hands-on investigations to keep students focused and engaged. In Managing Inquiry-Based Classrooms, Classroom Management and Inquiry-Based Learning, and Classroom Management, Rules, Consequences, and Rewards! Oh, My!, the authors share their teacher-tested strategies for making the science classroom an engaging and safe place for learning. Classroom Management: Setting Up the Classroom for Learning illustrates several ways to configure a classroom for various learning activities. For information on laboratory safety, I’d recommend the NSTA publication Inquiring Safely: A Guide for Middle School Teachers and the NSTA Guide to Planning School Science Facilities.
In addition to the resources suggested at the end of the articles, check out SciLinks for more information on classroom management. I’d also recommend the work of Robert Marzano and his book Classroom Management That Works, in which he synthesizes current research on the topic and provides practical suggestions based on this research. If you or any of your colleagues are members of ASCD, you can read the book and the companion handbook online for free!
When students are off-task, our first question should be “what’s the task?” Most middle school students are motivated by interesting assignments and being able to work with each other. Science Scope always has suggestions for interesting and challenging activities and assessments, such as Cartooning Your Way to Student Motivation (I’ve also seen teachers ask students to respond in a haiku format or as a tweet.)
I was surprised by the content of the article Teaching: A Reflective Process. After using an asseement probe, the teachers developed an an interesting activity to model the water cycle and address the students’ misconceptions. SciLinks has more activities and information on the water cycle.