I have always taught upper level courses--to adults and high school students, but i was asked to cover a junior high social studies class. I have great material; however, I have a difficult time relating to 6th graders--they are still very young and their attention level is really short. How do you keep discipline with this age group? What works for them in terms of classroom rules?
please share some tips!!thanks
Treat them like your older students. You'll be surprised. If you treat them like they are more mature, they will generally act more mature. If you tell them this, they will feel grown up and try to rise to the challenge. I have found this to work most of the time.
Don't forget that the same rules basically apply. Plan your lessons well, and keep them active. Reprimand them privately whenever possible. It's all about saving face at this age.
Krishna offers some good advice discipline will not improve your ability to relate or their attention span. Building relationships and relating to them might, however, improve either classroom discipline or decrease the discipline issues. In addition since attention span is short, breaking lessons up into small segments (mini lessons) might help.
This has worked well for me with several age groups. Design some activities that make talking "legal." (They are going to talk anyway!)
This is one of my favorites. Divide your class into teams of four. Each team should have a time keeper, a recorder (to push the pencil or use the marker), a reporter (to present to the class), and a captain (to settle disputes and keep the team on track). Give the teams a specific task to complete in a reasonable but exact amount of time (very important!) When time is up, the reporter from each team shares his or her team's work product.
This is a flexible teaching method that can be used to accomplish any number of classroom studies, from writing reports to creating graphic organizers. Students have a chance to sit together and interact while working toward a common goal. Knowing there is a time limit keeps them focused, especially when the team's time keeper says, "Hey, we've only got ten minutes left!"
I agree with the procedures that lynn presented. I would also suggest a pro-active possibility. First of all, I tried to switch activities every 15 minutes or so ... not just in type, but in kind. So we might read aloud for 15 minutes and then write about what we read or something they cared about, and then did a very specific learning activity such as vocabulary/ grammar/spelling. I would also try to change the way I did each of these.
Another gimick that I used for years was what we called our classroom "Visa" card. Every student got one each term. I gave it an initial value of $50 (I always like the money analogy ... it speaks to them :)) When they did anything positive (answered a question, made a good contribution to class), I punched their card (I had a special punch made like the ones conductors use on trains) on the plus side adding a dollar (point). When they did something negative (talking out of turn, failing to do homework, coming late to class) I punched the negative side and they lost a dollar/point. Since this was worth a good portion of their grade, they really liked getting the good punches and hated the bad ones. You can make it all extra points, some extra points, or just part of their grade. At the end of the term you collect them ... I used to announce the "winner" and have a little something for the top ten. It may sound hokey, but it worked great for me.
Have them help write the classroom rules--you can steer the conversation the way you want the rules to go, especially because you have to agree to them, too. If they help formulate the rules (and consequences for breaking them), you are much more likely to have them buy in to the whole idea. Keep the number of rules low (5 or fewer), help them to figure out that they need to emphasize safety and learning, and phrase the rules positively. That doesn't mean sugar coating anything, it simply means that the rules state what you want to see, rather than what you don't. For example, "The class will become quiet when the teacher signals", rather than "No talking." Make it obvious that you care that the class follows rules because it will help them learn and that matters to you. If they think you are simply interested in bossing them around, they will be as ornery as possible.
You talk initially about two problems - inability to relate to students and their short attention level. If you are searching solutions for these problems in discipline, I am afraid, you are on the wrong track.
Discipline will not improve either your ability to relate or the attention span of student.
You say you have great material. If you have not prepared or selected this material keeping in mind the attention span and other needs of 6th Graders, chances are that it is not that great for them.
Kind of discipline appropriate for junior and senior classes is different, and if you are not aware about these differences, no harm in finding out. But you also need to pay attention of your own ability to communicate effectively in line with level of student in your class.