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Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences

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School News

SFSAS Founder and Teacher Featured in Book about Managing Active Classrooms

Centaur (3rd/4th grade) Teacher Todd Stiewing and SFSAS Founder Rayna Dineen were featured in a recently published book entitled, "Management in the Active Classroom." It is a guide to classroom management that that will help teachers build respectful, active, collaborative, growth-oriented classrooms. Good classroom management skills aren't magic or a lucky gift given to a chosen few. This guide provide clear, straightforward guidance to help all teachers learn, practice, and master structures and practices that build self-discipline and responsibility in their students.

Here are excerpts from the book:

Practice #7
Problem Solving and Consequences for Poor Choices
Consequences in your classroom should help students learn and grow

"The whole idea," says Rayna Dineen, veteran Expeditionary Learning teacher and educator for over 30 years, "is that you should do your best to talk to kids and work with them in the same way you would speak to an adult friend who needed help and guidance.  You would never speak to a friend the way I have sometimes heard adults speak to children."

"Consequences aren't punishment," she says.  "They are a form of specific, kind and helpful feedback.  That way, they are something a kid can grab onto; it doesn't feel out of left field.  For example, I was working with a little guy who was so enthusiastic about being near his friends that he was literally sitting on top of them when they circled up for whole group instruction.  This repeatedly happened day after day.  I saw the teacher react to this behavior by yelling at the child and angrily moving him, and sometimes giving him a punishment, such as taking away recess.  But where is the logic in that? There is no connection for the child between the act and the consequence.  Even just moving him didn't help hi understand what he needed to do differently.

"So I recommended that the teacher get a little squishy seat for him to sit on, so he could see where his physical boundaries were.  You could use a carpet square, or even just a box taped on the rug - anything to help him clearly see where his seating area was.  This could feel like a punishment, of course, if you're not careful.  If you make a face and throw down the cushion and growl, 'That's it! You're sitting here from now on!' that will feel like a punishment to the student.  Instead, you go down to eye level and you whisper.  You say, "Hey - you know how you're sitting on top of other kids kind of bugs them? I have an idea to help.' You can show the child the seat or carpet square you have found for him. Of course, it's ideal if every child has a similar seat or area as well, so this one child doesn't feel singled out."

Practice #10
Paper Management

Todd Stiewing, of the Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences, has developed key practices to keep his third- and fourth-graders organized.  "First," he starts, "I have a set of four bins that organize the paper they use for assignments: recyclable paper, graph paper (I've made my own with one-centimeter squares), clean photocopy paper, and clean wide-ruled paper,  I also have a bucket of half sheets of paper for quick-writers and the like.

"Since I've incorporated that system, we use and discard far less paper.  The system helps kids understand that there is certain paper that is appropriate for certain tasks, like drafting drawings.  The good paper, the clean photocopy paper, is reserved only for final copies.  The kids have started talking about them with real reverence. 'Can I use a clean piece of paper?' they say with amazement.  It's like a nugget of gold.  It's a real, cherished piece of paper for a special final project.

"We also purge.  This is important," he says.  "We do this every time we start a new unit or a new project.  We'll go through their subject folder and take out anything from the previous unit and transfer it to their working portfolios, so they don't overload those little pockets, and the students don't get overwhelmed.  I also never let them recycle anything unless they run it by me first.  You never know what will work to show mastery in an end-of-year portfolio, for example. One student put a piece of paper in her portfolio that for most kids would have been scrap, but she said, 'This is when I finally got how to work out a long-division problem.'

"But you know, what paper management comes down to ultimately is conversations about quality work," Todd summarizes. "We talk about quality.  We talk about drafts.  Kids say to new kids, 'Oh boy...you don't know about drafts yet!  We don't work on things once...we work on things for a long, long time.' Kids are good about taking their peers under their wings and explaining the whole point of staying organized. 'This might be something you want to show to your parents at the end of the year,' they say."

To order the book, click here.

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