The case of marsha warren
Marsha Warren’s third grade class is made up of twenty-two students. Eight of the students are falling behind in reading due to single-family homes, no interest in learning, language barriers and low intellect. These students disrupt the class daily and fight among themselves constantly. In an effort to improve their reading, Ms. Warren gathers the eight for a reading group while the rest of the students complete workbook assignments. The students working on the workbook assignment are well-behaved but are pulled away from their work by the in-fighting among the low performance reading students.
The eight students are pulled apart from the rest of the class and thus labeled as different. Other teachers have called them infidels, people who have no Christian values, no consciousness, no feelings and are uncaring or even dangerous. Although the teachers have not called the students infidels face to face, the teachers feelings are clear in what they say and how they treat the students. This causes the students to act out in order to show that they are unconcerned with what the rest of the school think of them.
Ms. Warren is not totally responsible for the way the students are acting. This behavior pattern has already been established. Yet, she is responsible for how the students feel while in her classroom and she has the power to influence their behavior. By developing a class within a class, Ms. Warren is asking for uncooperativeness. The students are arguing and fighting among themselves because they do not want to read aloud and have the entire class’ attention on them. They have been labeled as poor readers and the last thing they want is to be embarrassed.
Ms. Warren believes the problem stems from the students’ home life. She gets no help from the parents. She has sent notes home, called the parents and tried to help the students improve in their reading. Nothing has worked. She is frustrated and upset by her inability to reach the students and their behavior. Once she storms out the classroom, she has given up a measure of control. She needs to take a deep breath, walk back into the classroom, bring the entire class together and explain what caused her outbreak. Apologize to the class but let them know that their behavior was unacceptable.
The next day Ms. Warren should have an outburst day. Discuss anger and why it is not the best way to express your feelings. Incorporate a discussion of alternate ways to express your feeling and assign a writing assignment dealing with the subject. In this way, Ms. Warren lets the students know that she is not perfect, gives the students a sense of ownership of the classroom while still maintaining control.
In the future, Ms. Warren should have the entire class participate in the reading group. At this age, students are great helpers. Ms. Warren should pick eight strong readers who are mature, responsible and helpful. They will become the low-functioning readers ‘reading buddies’. The rest of the class will be split into reading buddies as well so that no student will be set apart. The reading buddies will read aloud together, practicing sounds and exploring the meaning of the story. By developing motion activities (that allow the students to move around the classroom) like drawing story scenes on the chalkboard, treasure hunts, measuring and counting, she will hold the attention of students with short attention ps and little interest.
This new reading group can be implemented with a read-a-thon week that includes Ms. Warren reading a story aloud daily to the students while they have to perform tasks related to the books topic. For instance, if the topic of the book is apples, activities can include an apple cut-out search, an apple cut-out count, an apple cut-out paste and color and apple trivia. At the end of the week, Ms. Warren can announce the student groups, review group rules and be ready to implement the following wee with new books and activities.
Elliott, et. Al. (2000). Educational Psychology: Effective Teaching, Effective Learning, 3rd Edition. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Retrieved November 14, 2007 website: http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/education/elliott/book/case-1.htm
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