The Friday before break…this is an ominous four-word phrase that occasionally evokes a four-letter word from teachers, but today, the stars aligned for me in 6th grade (not 7th or 8th, but I’ll take what I can get)!!!! I couldn’t believe it. The students were so incredible that I even gave them stickers (yes, middle schoolers looove stickers!) at the end of class! I think that all of my systems and structures are really paying off (or it was just dumb luck or the rain or the stars). Regardless, I want to mention one of these systems now!
“Do your 50%” In my years teaching middle school, I have edited my classroom rules EVERY YEAR. Seriously, every single year. It was getting to be ridiculous. However, in talking with observers about classroom management, they always brought up using my rules to help with management. At that point in the conversation, I had to admit that I wasn’t actually USING my rules, they were more like wall decor. So, I did some soul searching and thought about what I wanted to see EVERY day. I settled on:
- Value all ability levels & members of class
- Eyes and ears
- Do your 50%
Now, I use my rules just about every day. They’re short and sweet and fairly self-explanatory. Rule #3 Do your 50% requires some discussion because I have to teach them what their 50% looks like (nothing on your desk, listen with the intent to understand, etc. — all of these expectations come from Ben Slavic’s Rules, Rigor Poster, and Interpersonal Communication Rubric).
The difficulty with the rule Do your 50% is that I am not looking for these behaviors every second of every class. In my brain, I know that when I transition to PQA, a class story, asking how students are, reading on the Promethean board, etc., I am looking for them to Do their 50%, but I needed a way to let them know when I was looking for it! So, in an effort to empower the students, and with guidance of Connie Navarro, I now use a separate sign for Rule # 3 Do your 50% to indicate with a visual to students—HEY, it’s that time again. Get yourselves together. I’m looking for all those behaviors we talk about all the time!!!!!!!! I very dramatically ask them, ¿Listos? (ready?), they say Sí, I show them them all the sign to remind them, and then I place the sign in its holder (Solo cup with slits) on my desk facing them to remind them and me that they should be *magically* doing everything I want!!!!!!
I tried to take a video of myself last week teaching them this new system, but during a brain break, I’m pretty sure two of my 7th grade GEMS deleted the video and turned off the camera!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yep, no joke! I guess you just can’t win ‘um all, but here’s hoping!