November 20, 2012

Organinzed Chaos!

Is Your Chaos Organized?

How many times have you had someone come into your gym and say "OMG this looks like chaos"? Do not worry even the most organized gym will look like this at times. How could it not look like chaos when you have 20-40 students moving at the same time or doing six different stations. Most classroom teachers do not understand a gym because they have to give up a little bit of control and trust students to follow the directions given to them. I am the opposite. I go into a classroom and try not to fall asleep because there is way too much structure.  The question you may need to ask your self about your gym is "is this organized chaos or just chaos in general"?   This post will explain what we do in our Gym at PKES to keep the chaos organized from the moment students walk in the door to the moment they leave. I am going to give you a heads up early so that you are not disappointed, some of the techniques we use will be talked about later in a later post called Will Whole Brain Teaching Work in Your Gym and I will not go into a lot of detail about these specific topics in this post.

Where am I supposed to sit?

(Squad sheet for easy roll call)

 This is question that many teachers run into at the beginning of class. If you have students sit in a different place every time they come into class then you have to answer this question every single class. If students have an assigned spot to sit in, then you will hear this question asked. If we can't have desks in our gym like they are used to in their  classroom then give the students an assigned spot on the floor that they can call theirs. I have seen this done in many ways. The two most common ways are "the circle" and "squads". If you have a circle on your floor you can have your students sit on the edge of the circle. In this method the students know where to sit and you can begin teaching from the circle. The downfall that I have run into with this method is that if you wanted to use the smart or white board then you have move the students from your circle. The other issue with this method is you do not know which students are here or not here. You may know that you have 25 students in the class, but what happens if one goes missing during a drill or in transitions.

The method that I have found most effective is the "Squad Method". I need to thank my former co-teacher Rose Clawson for this idea. In this method I give my students an exact spot to sit in infront of the whiteboard. If a student is not here on a certain day the other students still leave his spot open. The squads are marked with colored tape and the students sit in their order every class. Students never have to fight over a spot, ask where to sit, and I can use my squad sheet to quickly find out who is here and who is not. To the left is an example of my squad sheet. The tape on the floor is marked exactly like the squad sheet.

Whistle or No Whistle?

For the past two years I have used a whistle. This year I was introduced to the Class-Yes system. This system is the easiest and fastest way I have seen to get students quiet. The teacher simply says Class Class and the students respond with Yes Yes. This takes some practice, but it is well worth it in the long run. I will hit a little bit more on this system in the Whole Brain Teaching post that I will be working on soon.

Can I get some Water? Can I used the bathroom?

The first thing I say to these questions are "I don't know... Can you?" I do not say this to be a jerk, but in my class if you are asking these questions, you must not know our class rules.  We are fortunate to have a water fountain in our gym. The students know there are three times you can not get water. They are anytime we are in our squads, when we the teacher is talking, and when we are lining up to leave the gym. At any other point during class the students can freely get water.

This works the same way with the bathroom. While do not have a bathroom inside the confines of the gym we do have one right outside the door. Students will raise their hand to leave their seat or area that they are in and then tell me they are going to use the bathroom. If we are not doing any of the things mentioned above and the pass is available they are free to go. They also know if they abuse this privilege it will be taken away.

Is timeout just for Kindergarten?

I use a form of timeout for all grade levels. Let me put a disclaimer on how I feel about "Timeout". I do not like to sit students out, but there are times when students need to take a break and think about what they may of done worng. Now I feel that it is important that even timeout should be grade level appropriate.

Kindergarten through Second grade uses timeout which is marked with a box on the floor with red tape. They know where it is and they know what they are and are not expected to do when they are sent there. The teacher decides when the student gets to return.

For Third through Fifth grade I use "The Penalty Box" It is essentially the same thing, in that it is the box labeled on the floor, but the rules are different. You can see the rules for the Penalty Box pictured to the right. The Penalty Box is a self timed timeout. The students go to the box and read the questions on the wall. When they feel they have served their time and have calmed down, they may find the teacher that sent them there answer a question or two and may reenter if the teacher feels the student is ready.  

Line up Ready, Set, Go!

If you use this method then you might have more students going to the nurse than going back to class. There are several methods I use in the gym to line up students. The first one is calling out different colors or articles of clothing that students might be wearing. If they have that color on then they will line up. You keep going until all the students have all lined up. The problem with only using this method is that it is time consuming.

The most important thing to rememeber when lining up students is to make sure they know what you expect. My students know if they run, they will go back, walk, and be last in line. This keeps most of my students from running over each other when lining up. Of course you have a couple of hard headed students that think they are going to get away with it, but they don't.

 The method we use most of the time is Lines Lines Lines. This is another WBT idea. The students not only have to line up, but they must repeat lines lines lines as they walk and line up. Anytime during class if they here lines lines lines they know where to line up and what to do. This has worked really well and is a very quick solution to lining up.

There are all kinds of classroom management techniques that can be used in the gym, but these are some that have worked for me.  I feel that the most important tool in classroom management is to never run out of things to do during your lesson. Most of the time if a student is off task it is not the students fault. Most of the time it is that you have them sitting still or have not challenged them enough. Always have extra activities in your back pocket so that you always have something else to throw at your students.

 I am always open for new ideas that work better and more effective. If you have other ideas that have worked for you when organizing your chaotic gym please leave a comment. This blog is not just a place for me to spill out my ideas, but to also share best practices with all Physical Educators of all ages.  

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