Classroom Management and the 21st Century Skills

21st Century Skills: Teaching and Tracking GrowthThe Classroom Management Miracle and  21st Century Skills.

This post is the second in a series that began with a desperate need to adjust my classroom management approach.

I was losing control of my classroom.

After five years of teaching with little or no classroom issues, I was now facing the toughest group of students I have ever had the challenge of teaching.

My struggle led to a system that,

  • holds students accountable
  • tracks growth for those hard-to-measure 21st Century Skills (collaboration, communication, and conduct)
  • completely changed the behavior of this group of students  and saved my sanity!

As I discussed in the last post, teachers are expected to assess students for their conduct, communication and collaboration – the 21st Century Skills!  As such, it makes sense to put a grade on them.

This post is about,

  • Forming a classroom management plan around the 21st Century Skills
  • How to assess the 21st Century Skills with a rubric
  • Helping students buy into the classroom management plan
  • Teaching the 21st Century Skills

In the next post I will let you in on the results! Plus, how to let parents know about the plan, and how to get their support.

Forming the Classroom Management Plan

I began with the 21st Century Skills and broke them up into a list of Classroom Community Standards that would make the expectations easier for students (and me) to identify.

For Collaboration:

  • Focus on the task at hand – in groups or as an individual
  • Add to your group, do your part

For Communication:

  • Only speak when called on during lessons and class discussion
  • Respect others with your words
  • Listen to and follow instructions

For Conduct:

  • Be in class on time and prepared
  • Put away cell phones unless instructed
  • Remain seated unless instructed
  • Take care of classroom resources

I believe that these skills should be part of a student’s overall grade in the class. Since they use the skills each day, they get daily points which add up at the end of the week for a total weekly grade.

First, students begin each day with six points – two from each category. If they practice the skills during the class period, they get all six points.

However, if a student fails to follow one of the Classroom Community Standards, they lose a point for that category. If they break the same standard again that day, the lose another point.

But they can only lose two a day per category.

Maybe a student is very good at the skills of Collaboration and Conduct, but just struggle with talking to their neighbor (a Communication skill). They will only lose points for that category, and keep the other four points.

Limiting lost points to each category keeps students from getting discouraged and jaded. They feel good about the skills they are doing well in, and become more motivated to fix the particular issue they need to work on.

Therefore the focus becomes growth – rather than to avoid punishment – which is what we really want!

At the end of the week, all of the points earned are added up and divided by the 30 possible points for a weekly grade.

In my classroom, the weekly points are worth 20% of their final grade. This can be highly motivating for students!

Making it part of their grade makes sense.

Student growth in Critical Thinking and Creativity is assessed for content knowledge with projects, tests and quizzes.

Likewise, student growth should be be assessed for the other 21st Century Skills: Communication, Collaboration, and Conduct.

The Rubric: Assessing the 21st Century Skills

Education is all about data. We have to know where are students are before we can help get them where we want them to be!

The same is true with the 21st Century Skills. Points can not be arbitrarily given or taken without a clear rubric. Also, growth can not be measured without data.

Here is the rubric I use. Each Classroom Community Standard is numbered for easy reference.

I keep the rubric on a clip board which I carry around with me the whole class period. Right under the rubric is a simple student roster, which includes the name of every student and a column for each day of the week.

When a student fails to meet one of the Classroom Community Standards, I write down the number that is associated with that standard. If there is something specific about the incident, I may write a brief note as well.

For example, if Jenny talks with her neighbor during a lecture, I will simply write ‘3’. If a Jim says an ugly comment to Ben (even if he is just playing around), I will write ‘4 – to Ben’.

Keeping record this way gives you amazing data which you can use to help your students grow.

If you use an electronic grade book there may be a way to include what students lost points for each week in a comment attached to their grade so they can see it each week.

Or make a copy of your roster at the end of the week, cut out the strip for each student’s name, and give it to them. Maybe they can keep a growth log in their own notebooks where they record their progress.

Even more, your data is also valuable to parents. Parents of students who are struggling in some of these areas may want to know why their grade is so low.

Bring your data to IEP meetings and conferences, where you can show your parents exactly what is happening, and how often.

Other Consequences

Is it possible to improve student behavior with one simple change?
Related: Improve student behavior tomorrow with this one simple change.

If a student continues to be disruptive, and they have already lost two points in a particular category, there needs to be some additional consequences.

These consequences are on the rubric from the start so students know what to expect.

Use whatever policies you school already has in place. For us, minor offences receive parent contact, then parent contact and lunch detention, and finally parent contact and an office referral.

If a student loses two points in one category, and then breaks that same standard again that day, they know I will contact their parent that afternoon. If the same issue happens again the next day, it will be a lunch detention, and so on.

For us, the slate wipes clean each week.

Helping Students Buy Into the Plan

It was only the first week of school, and it was obvious to everyone that the class was falling apart. Of the 25 students in the room, 10 could care less about ‘doing school’.

They talked non-stop, moved around the room whenever they felt like it, goofed off and overall disrupted the classroom learning environment.

The other 15 students were frustrated, to say the least. They wanted to learn, and were looking to me to take control. I was determined not to let them down.

Forming this plan to use participation points for measuring growth and motivating  behavior change was asking for ( and expecting) big changes!

It was important that my students buy into the plan as much as possible – so I started with an apology.

I told the class that I had not been the teacher I wanted to be – I had gotten frustrated, scolded, even yelled a few times just to get their attention. I had let class get out of control – but I was taking responsibility for my part and things were going to change.

Then I told them about the Classroom Community Standards and gave them a copy of the rubric.

Smart Classroom Management has several great articles about how important it is to explain to students why classroom expectations exist: to protect the student’s right to learn, and the teacher’s right to teach.

When presenting the Plan, explain to them how each of our Classroom Standards does just that – protect everyone’s rights. Violating these standards is unacceptable and will be met with consequences.

Point out that these Standards are part of the 21st Century Skills that every student is expected to learn and grow in as the year went on. They are skills to learn and get better at – just like academic skills.

Teaching the Plan should not feel punitive to your students.

This is not a way to ‘get them’ or ‘make them pay’. Your goal is to help them grow!

You want them to succeed! You want your class to be fun and engaging and interesting- and the only way that can happen is if students are growing in all of the 21st Century Skills. 

So be excited about your Plan and the Classroom Community Standards! Play it up – be enthusiastic about the change it will make in the classroom! Get them excited about it! Enthusiasm is contagious. 

The 15 students who were here to learn immediately jumped on board.  I could see it in their eyes – they were ready for this, and they appreciated the Plan.

The other 10…they took more time to convince.  I will tell you about that transformation in the next post.

Teaching 21st Century Skills

Just like any other grade, the 21st Century Skills needed to be assessed using clear expectations, presented to students beforehand, and taught just as any academic skill would be taught.

The best way to teach a skill is to model it.

Take on the role of a student, and act out what it looks like to follow the Standards. Even more importantly, act out what it looks like to not follow the Standards!

Show them what will cause them to lose a point for each category. Start with the skills that you think students will struggle with the most. For my room, it was talking.

I sat at a student desk, and I asked a volunteer to play the role of the Teacher. I had her stand at the front and talk about a trip she took over summer vacation.

About thirty seconds into her 2 minute story, I began quietly talking to the student beside me. 

When she was done, we discussed how my talking disrupted the learning environment of the class. They saw that talking threatens the right of the other students to learn from the teacher, and the right of the teacher to teach.

We went through a few varieties of how to break this Standard. Everything from making silly noises, to whispering even one word to a neighbor.

As we discussed the skill, students filled in their rubrics, writing in their own words what it looked like to practice the Standard, and what conduct would cause them to lose a point.

The kids got it. They knew exactly what it meant to “Only speak when called on during lessons and class discussion.” Later during class, when they lost a point, there was no no surprise, and no argument.

It will take a few days to model each skill – but it is worth the time.

Again, this should be fun! They are going to get a kick out of seeing their teacher act like a student!

Yes, you are teaching them something serious, with serious consequences (their grade!) but they should not feel like they are being raked through the coals. You want them to know you are all on the same team – you are rooting for their success. 

Also, just like any academic skill, you may have to re-teach at times. If you find students begin to slip in an area, stop what you are doing, and model the skill again. 

In the final post, I explain how to let students know they have lost points without embarrassing them or getting into a power struggle.

Find out how to get students to truly take responsibility for themselves and grow in these skills!

Also, learn how to let your parents know about your Plan so that they are on your side.

Click here for Part Three of this series!

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How do you teach and track the 21st Century Skills of Communication, Collaboration, and Conduct? Let us know in the comments!

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2 Replies to “Classroom Management and the 21st Century Skills”

  1. I love this series of posts! I am starting an 8th grade math position in May after the students have had subs all year – I am planning on implementing this strategy!! I cannot find the third post in this series about parent buy in and letting students know they lost a point. Is it published under a different name?

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