Giving Up Control (SOL #8)

One thing I have trouble with is giving up control. This year I am trying to let my students take a little more control without me micromanaging every aspect of class. That means that sometimes there is a little more off-task behavior than I would like, but it also means that students are learning at their own pace.

Today I was reminded of my “giving up control” goal when my morning classes were combined with another Language Arts teacher’s classes, and she had a sub. This meant that I was pretty much in charge of 50 kids every class period. The sub was great and checked in with kids, but since we’re working on a challenging writing assignment (argument), I was the one they came to for help.

I was having a hard time balancing classroom management versus helping kids who have questions and really needed guidance. (However, as I’m reflecting now, I realized those groups sometimes overlapped.) Giving up control to work with individuals or small groups means I am spending more quality time conferring with kids. This also means that all of my students are not on task all of the time, as much as I would like them to be.

Tomorrow I will be in the same situation, and I think I will utilize more small-group discussions to confer with as many kids as possible. This will also help me to check in with nearly everyone in an efficient way. We’ll see how it goes, and see if those collaborative conversations can help my students stay on task and working hard (at least most of the time).

What are some ways that you have quality conferring time while also keeping tabs on all students’ work?

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4 thoughts on “Giving Up Control (SOL #8)

  1. This is a balancing act. Maybe look at it this way…giving up control might be having control. Empower partnerships and have them run student-led conferences.

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  2. Check out some professional books like Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching by Robyn R. Jackson. This really helped me with classroom management and to give up some control. Check out how others teachers design their writing workshop time to see how they handle off-task behaviors.

    When I am conferring with kids, I make sure that the other students are working on something that they can do independently without help (which might mean it is a different activity). They also know that this is sacred learning time and I have trained them not to interrupt unless the building is on fire (or any other life-threatening emergency). I also trained them to use the classroom parking lot (put down their questions, etc. where I can check them after conferences), peer-help area (students sign in and work with a partner in a specific area- they need to write the time, who needed help, what they needed help with, who helped them, and their solution to the problem), etc. I also make sure that students are trained in which areas of my classroom are talking areas and which are not. This way I can monitor some off-task behaviors. I make sure that students are held accountable for what they should be working on and have set goals for completion of learning. Anchor charts are a huge help because they can look and see what step is next if they are confused. I also make sure they can do other activities independently and appropriately without my consent- like getting materials, going to the bathroom, etc. Basically, you need to train them in the beginning of the year, and it becomes money in the bank for you Oct-June.

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    • Thanks for the suggestions! I like your ideas of specific areas designated for different types of work. I teach 8th grade, but I think that could still be a useful tool for them! Yesterday, the expectation was that everyone was starting to draft their arguments. I will definitely check out the book, too!

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