I am all for getting students to try new things and push their boundaries once in a while, but I don’t think it will come as a surprise that one of the best ways to manage a class is to establish routines and then stick to them. Students know what to expect, they feel comfortable with the work and expectations, and you don’t have to spend time every day explaining what they should be doing.
It took me years to establish my routine for classroom management—I’d add something new, and sometimes it would stick, and sometimes it wouldn’t.
I made a few mistakes along the way.
After getting many recommendations from other AP teachers, I tried using a page of Nancy Dean’s book Voice Lessons at the beginning of every class. It seemed like a great way to focus on close reading. But it took too long, and I didn’t like dedicating so much class time to pieces that we weren’t even studying in class. I also found the questions awkward, so I switched to using passages that I chose from the texts we were studying in class.
I spent years getting students to shift their seats every day, following a rotating pattern. I still maintain that it was a brilliant idea—they got a new perspective and a new neighbor every day. But it was confusing and awkward and too much for students to remember at the beginning of class.
But through all that trial and error, there are a few routines that I have stuck with and love.
I always start every class with a MUG shot. The name is a little cheesy, but the concept is great. It’s a book put out by WriteSource that has five sentences on each page, all with common grammar mistakes. We do one sentence at the beginning of every class. Students keep their sentences in their interactive notebook so they don’t get lost. They open up to the page, try to find the mistakes, and, perhaps most importantly, I take attendance. Before I started using MUG shots I literally forgot to take attendance for two years. (Luckily I was working at a very small school where I saw my students all day long.) Then we go over the mistakes, I give some participation points to students who have taken guess on answers, and that’s it. I once tried giving quizzes on the concepts, but that was a spectacular failure, so I stopped.
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