Can 21st Century Skills be used for classroom management in High School? Yes!
This is the third and final post in a series that explains how one teacher turned around the toughest class she has ever taught.
The first post lays out the justification for setting up a point system to assess and develop Twenty First Century Skills. The second post explains how the Plan is presented to students and then implemented in the classroom.
Read this post to find out
- How to let parents know about the Plan
- How to tell students they have lost a point without embarrassing them or engaging in a power struggle
- The results in the classroom! Did it work?
Getting Parents On Board
I was a bit nervous about how parents would respond to the Classroom Community Standards, mostly because it was attached to their student’s grade.
Before I introduced the Plan to my students, I sent an email letting parents know what was about to happen. I explained the importance of the Classroom Community Standards and included a copy of the rubric. I provided information about the importance of learning these skills and that it was part of my job as a teacher to help students practice them – and to assess them!
Parents were invited to email or call me with any questions or concerns.
I did not get any push-back! A few parents even emailed to let me know they supported the Plan.
I wanted parents to know why their student lost points and keep communication open if they had any questions or concerns. Each week, an email was sent to parents whose students earned less than an 80, explaining how each point was lost. Read here about a system for keeping up with the data!
Letting Students Know
It is important to never embarrass, or battle, students when they are not following the Plan. At the same time, when a student loses a point, they need to know about it as soon as possible, so they can get feedback and learn (just like any graded assignment!).
When a student loses a point, I let them know as soon as I can make eye contact with them across the room, or move to them if necessary. Each Classroom Community Standard on the rubric is numbered – so I use sign language to signal the number of which standard they were not following. The standards are written on a large poster near the front of the room. If I hold up three fingers, or tap three fingers on their desk as I walk by, they can reference the poster if they do not remember that Community Principle number three is to ‘only speak when called on during lessons.’
I do not entertain questions or push back when a point is lost, but I make it clear that if students have questions we can talk after class.
For the Plan to work, it is super important that students are crystal clear with what is expected. Modeling is the best way to teach the expectations so that students know for sure what it means to “focus on the task at hand” and “respect others with your words.” Take a look at this post to see how we modeled the expectations in class!
The process of communicating lost points to students must also be modeled and practiced. This way, when it happens, they will know exactly what you mean by signing a number across the room!
It is also super important that -you- know what your expectations are! Students are watching. If one student gets away with talking during a lesson, they will call you on it! Just like any graded assignment, for learning to be effective, feedback must be fair and consistent.
Classroom Management with the 21st Century Skills: Did it work?
Marring Classroom Management with 21st Century Skills made a big difference in the day-to-day works of the classroom. Most students understood, and appreciated, the Plan from the first day. They hit the ground running and from then on, rarely lost points.
Of the ten or so students giving me trouble, about half only took a week of consistency to jump on board. They found out I was serious, and their parents did too. That first week of a low grade for 21st Century Skills made an impact, and things got better as they learned (and learning is a process!) to follow the expectations.
The last three were harder to convince. They were used to getting their way and enjoyed stirring up trouble in all their classes (which they openly admitted one day!). It took consistency, time, and even some peer pressure to help them change their behavior – but they did eventually change! They slowly began buying in to improving themselves – being proud when they went a day without losing a point!
This was a real win for both the students and this teacher! The class went from a period that I dreaded, to a period I looked forward to as well all grew together in collaboration, communication, and conduct – while learning some Biology along the way!