Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The New Teacher's Toolbox

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The New Teacher's Toolbox

Article excerpt

Mastering Classroom Management (Part 1)

October signals many things: leaf-peeping, jack-o-lantern carving, and, for many new teachers, your first formal observation. The observation will likely examine multiple aspects of your teaching, but one of the primary tasks your supervisor or principal will look at is your classroom management--a basic survival skill. For science teachers, this also includes running a safe and effective lab.

Much of the groundwork should already be complete by now--how you conduct the first few days of class can often dictate how well the entire school year will go. Nonetheless, it's never too late to make improvements. While your teaching craft will take many years to hone, classroom management skills have a fairly steep (i.e., rapid) learning curve. Over the next two columns I'll share some tips and tricks to ensure that your students are safe, your classroom is under control, and your first observation is a glowing success.

Plan, prepare, and engage. As the old saying goes, "The devil finds work for idle hands." In other words: Keep students active, and you'll solve many problems before they start. During my first year of teaching, I lost control when I wasn't prepared or my students weren't engaged. Once I forgot to copy a lab sheet and ran to the copy room during class (never a good idea). Another time, the activity I planned for a whole class period took only half. For a lesson on voltaic cells, I failed to research how different types of batteries worked. The class sensed my ignorance--and disengaged. Such rookie mistakes can cause a class to unravel. Plan to avoid them. Be prepared for questions. Devise lessons that fill the entire period. Vary your instructional strategies even within lessons. Keep your students motivated, their minds moving.

Proximity is key. One of the easiest ways to maintain classroom control is to walk around while you teach. Moving about the room, you can constantly assess what's going on. Students are less likely to whisper and pass notes when you're nearby. I often use PowerPoint notes in my biology classes, so I bought an inexpensive wireless remote for changing slides. Now I can discuss the notes and answer questions from anywhere in the room. …

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