For the past few weeks, my grade 6 students have been working on their solar system inquiry projects––their final assessment for the science unit that I have been teaching. Since I am only in the classroom once a week, I have not been able to see the students’ progress on their projects, so this week, I did not prepare a lesson to teach––instead, my co-operating teacher and I agreed that it would be beneficial to provide the students with a full work period to work on their projects while I was in the classroom. That way, I would be there to help students with their projects and to answer any questions, as the due-date for the project is quickly approaching.
This week, I was particularly worried about classroom management. While I am teaching, there are specific classroom management strategies that I use to re-focus the class during a lesson; however, this week I wasn’t teaching a lesson, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle classroom management while the students were working on their projects. I didn’t know what to expect.
As the students were working on their inquiry projects, the room was noisy, but I would say that it was a good kind of noisy. The majority of the students are doing their projects in pairs, so there was a lot of talking going on between partners. Some teachers might have been strict about the noise level, but I believe that a lot of learning can happen through dialogue, which is especially important in group situations like this. In fact, as I wandered the room, I heard a lot of great conversations about the students’ learning. I wanted to foster these conversations instead of impede them. That being said, there were a few students that I had to deal with who were off-task and/or being disruptive to the rest of the class. Instead of interrupting the entire class for classroom management, I chose to deal with these student individually––I reminded them that their inquiry projects were due the following week and that if they chose to waste the class time I was giving them, they would have more work to do on the weekend. I used this strategy because, rather than giving a punishment, it puts responsibility on the student for their own actions. After my conversations with these students, I noticed that they quickly got back to work.
Although the students are excited to see me when I enter the class every week, it is obvious that I come second to their actual classroom teacher, which is understandable. However, to make the students feel more comfortable approaching me with their questions or comments, I circled the room while they were working and made an effort to talk to each group individually, asking how their research was going and how they were planning on presenting their projects. I think these one-on-one conversations helped the students to feel more comfortable around me, and by the end of the class period, many students were coming up to me, excited to show off their projects, and more students were coming to me with their questions instead of going to the classroom teacher.
It’s hard to believe that next week is my last week with my students. Over the past seven weeks I have worked on building strong relationships with these students––it is going to be hard to say goodbye.