In reflecting on each of my practicum experiences both individually and overall, I would identify one of Ms. Blum’s greatest strengths as classroom management and engaging students of all needs and behaviors. Her focus on consistency and routine as well as accountability and expectations is evident in every aspect of the day, whether it is during independent work time in centers or in behavior when walking down the hallway. Though it took a few days to learn the specific cues and language she uses to remind students of her expectations, now I see how she uses the school ‘REACH’ model as well as her own classroom rules to provide the accountability for appropriate, respectful and safe classroom behaviors.
When managing the class as a whole, Ms. Blum uses three main classroom management techniques to ensure that all students are engaged in the lesson. The first technique I have observed is positive reinforcement praising and highlighting students who are displaying the correct behavior. Some examples of this are, “I see this student ready to learn sitting correctly on the blue carpet”, “I know these students have their bodies in control and are ready to walk down the hallway silently”, and “my friends at this table have cleaned up very nicely and are ready to move on to our next activity.” Each time Ms. Blum makes a statement positively reinforcing good behavior, students not only know who in the class to model their choices after but she also restates what needs to be happening. The second technique Ms. Blum uses to manage the entire class is simply saying students’ individual names during whole class instruction to grab their attention and indicate that they need to correct their behavior. This technique has proven to be effective in holding students accountable for the classroom expectations without placing any negative attention on their poor choices or incorrect behavior. It simply provides students a quick moment to modify what they were doing and then they refocus in on the lesson that Ms. Blum has continued to teach. The third technique I have observed Ms. Blum use to positively manage the whole class is her identifying the environment and ‘good choices’ that will set students up for success or distract them from learning. An example of this is that when students are transitioning to a group lesson on the carpet, Ms. Blum will look at who they are sitting near and may make the statement, “Think about who you are sitting next to and identify if that is a good choice or a poor choice, and move to a better place if needed.” By encouraging students to consider what will or will not be a distraction, Ms. Blum is developing students’ freedom and choice to make responsible and appropriate decisions while still ensuring that class behaviors are managed.
Similar to but separate from large group classroom management, Ms. Blum is also incredibly successful at handling challenging behaviors on a small group or individual level. The best example of this would be the individualized behavior plan she set up to support one of the boys in the class who struggles with paying attention and behaving appropriately throughout the day. When I first joined her class, she mentioned that it was a relatively new system that had started because it had become overwhelmingly evident that his behavior was impacting his learning and holding him back (both in test scores and in informal assessments and assignments). The system involves dividing the day into six different time frames, during which the student tries to earn a smiley face for positive behavior in each time frame. The overall goal has increased from receiving three to four smiley faces each day to now receiving five per day so that he can earn points towards the ‘prize box’. Though she manages his behavior during whole class time using the techniques shared previously, the additional incentives and behavior monitoring provide accountability for the student (it is taped to his desk so he can see his progress throughout the day) as well as communicating with the parents about his behavior each day (it goes home with him). Though his plan is just one example, Ms. Blum’s ability to cater directly to the needs of one student in a way that minimizes interruptions to the whole class has proven effective in managing classroom behavior.
Overall, Ms. Blum’s enforcement and reinforcement of routine has created a classroom where students always know exactly what is expected of them and when it is expected of them. Even though I was not present at the beginning of the year when she set rules and expectations for a positive, safe and respectful classroom environment, I have picked up on almost all of them simply because of her consistent cues, reminders and positive reinforcement. I also observe the students holding one another accountable and correcting their classmates when they notice an incorrect behavior or poor choice. To conclude, observing Ms. Blum’s classroom management has provided me with strong examples of effective whole class and individual techniques, as well as demonstrated the importance of holding students to high expectations even if an individualized plan is needed to ensure that everyone succeeds.