From Post Winter Break Plans –#1 – (Re)Norming
My honors level three students cannot pass papers to save their lives.
My fifth hour students cannot transition activities without talking to every classmate within a fifteen-foot radius. My Spanish ones refuse to speak Spanish to each other, my first hour wouldn’t arrive on time even if winning the lottery were involved, and my second hour, well, most of the time, my second hour is asleep. All thirty of them, dreaming peacefully of a world that doesn’t involve verb conjugations.
“What the hell, Teach?” you’re asking me. “Then why are you writing us advice on teaching if you suck that badly?”
Mostly because I like to hear myself talk, if you must know the truth. And because I call it like I see it.
No teacher is perfect. I train my kids in expectations at the beginning of every year, but when I do so, I haven’t had the time to get to know each class’s personality. Which class is going to be chatty? What period has all the tardy kids? Who, under no circumstances, should be sitting together?
Second semester is my chance to remedy that. I know exactly what to expect from every class. And I’m going to beat the annoying tendencies out of them.
Or, rather, in politically correct speak, I’m going to re-norm them to my expectations.
Two Re-norming Strategies That Are Way Less Boring Than Re-reading Class Rules to Students and Pretending They Actually Care
Re-norming Olympiad 2012
This is what we’ll be doing this year in my class. It’s very simple. Goes a little something like this:
- Identify all the time wasting crap your kids pull that makes you bat-shit crazy.
- Identify how you wish they would perform said crap in a non-time wasting manner.
- Turn into competition.
- Practice until they cry “uncle.”
This works best for classroom tasks, and basic behavioral management. Take the paper-passing thing for example. It’s not rocket science. My kids sit in rows. I hand the person in the first row a stack of papers. In my world, the logical next step would be to take a paper and pass the rest to the person behind you.
There is no logical next step with teenagers.
I have continually watched, astounded, as a paper stack from the front right hand corner desk zigzags its way into utter confusion somewhere in the middle of the room, rapidly followed by cries of “Wait, Sra.but I didn’t get a paper…wait, Sra. I have ten!” I’ve had similar experiences in reverse with collecting homework.
What a friggin’ waste of time.
So activity #1 of the Re-Norming Olympiad? Paper-passing competition. Each row is a team. Each row gets a stack of papers. Go! Fastest team wins. Do it in reverse for collecting homework. Repeat ten times.
Other Re-norming Olympiad games?
Scream Your Head Off! – (getting their attention) which group can make the most noise then, at a given signal, get absolutely, completely, deathly silent the fastest?
Move Your Butt! (transitions) – which groups can move from regular seats to group formation, complete a task, then move back the most efficiently and studiously?
Those three ought to take care of my biggest pet peeves, but you can add any other Re-norming Olympiad items you wish. Get creative. Tardy drills? Throw your class in the hallway and make them come in and start their anti-set. Quickest group wins.
The Re-Norming Olympiad should absolutely be riotous. It should undoubtedly include points and cheesy prizes. But above all, it must be repetitive. Obscenely, mind-bogglingly repetitive.
You’ll save yourself a crapload of time in the future.
Annoy the Poo Out of Your Teacher Dialogues
If you haven’t figured it out from previous posts, I’m a huge fan of dialogues. They work for pretty much everything, get the kids up, moving and creating, and usually are quite entertaining to watch.
The Re-Norming Olympiad only covers basic and frequently performed tasks. I want to remind my kids about the other class policies that make me crazier than a bag of rabid weasels, such as “not begging for higher grades at the end of the semester,” “the extra work you have to do if you want to re-assess,” and “do NOT flippin’ use your cell phone in my class, punks!”
Can’t attack these quite as effectively through drills, but we can sure as heck can get the point across through dialogues.
- Each group is a assigned a class policy from syllabus/rules/guidelines.
- Each group must create the “Do” and “Don’t do” versions of the policy to perform in front of the class. (The “Don’t do” version being the “annoy the poo out of your teacher”)
- Take the dialogues to extremes. The more exaggerated they are, the more the students will remember the policy.
On my list of dialogues this year: re-assessment policy, late homework policy, tardy policy, study habits for success
My challenge to you: give it a shot.
Skip re-norming all together and you classes are going to being looser than my tongue after an adult beverage. Or two. And probably produce some of the same less-than-ideal results.
Stand up in front of the class yammering on about your “rules and regulations” and the only kids that are going to pay any sort of attention are the ones that already know them anyway.
But spend one day reminding them of what you expect and actually having them do it, (moving, competing, acting and *gasp* laughing in the process) and you will get those 50 minutes back ten times over during the rest of the semester.
Plus, you’ll get ‘em all wound up and have a little fun in the process, already hitting on numbers #2 and #4 from the Making Second Semester Better List.
Way to go, rock star.
And now, because I fear I might have just slipped a little too far into the rainbows and sunshine side of things, here’s a random and vaguely inappropriate thought for the day:
How much more entertaining would PD be if it really stood for Preventing Douchery?
Welcome back to work, folks.