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classroommanagementIt is spring…well, according to the calendar. The news of snow from the local meteorologists and my students climbing the walls for well over a week finally put me over the proverbial edge. With six weeks of school still before us I knew I had to do SOMETHING to make a positive change. Who better to go to than the experts—my students?

The symptoms: loud classroom environment, constant talking, uncompleted work, repeated questions on procedures and directions, students snapping at each other, teacher snapping at kids.

The tools: I set up a quick survey on and had my students fill it out.

  • What makes it hard for you to learn?
  • What makes it fun for you to learn?
  • How do you show you are working, on task, and learning?
  • Where do you learn best?
  • What is a reward for working hard?
  • What crazy thing would you like to see Ms. Rice do?

The diagnosis: I looked at the results of the survey and saw a few repeated concerns. You can view our results here on my blog.  The students reported being distracted by neighbors, a loud noise level, and being unsure of directions. They would like to have Ms. Rice come to gym class with them.

The solution: I showed the students the results of our survey and we talked about responsibilities. They agreed to take responsibility for noise, being prepared for lessons, and listening. I agreed to be responsible for giving clear directions, writing directions on the board, and waiting for everyone to be ready before starting lessons. I went back into August mode with clearly stating expectations, reminding them what to get out, and waiting for everyone to be looking at me before beginning.

This week has been wonderful, except for snow in the forecast again, and our classroom is back to being a thriving learning environment. We had all slipped into a comfort level that was not productive. We were too familiar and comfortable with each other. Taking a step back and reminding students of the expectations has changed the climate in our classroom.

As spring rushes by and summer approaches, be sure to think about the atmosphere in your room. How do you want the year to end? What do you want your students to remember? What feelings are important for them to take away? How will your decisions to slow down impact their future? Don’t be afraid to ask your students what they need. Their answers may be the best diagnostic you ever find.

Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading...

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