by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent
Christina Shoemaker (center) with her music
department colleagues, Kirk Hickman (left) and
Bert Johnson (right) department chair
This has happened to all of us—“You have a second?” plea from a co-worker.
Christina Shoemaker was on her way to teach her 7th period Concert Choir class at Lincoln-Way North High School in Frankfort, Illinois, when she was stopped in the hallway by a colleague. The conversation ended up lasting about 8 minutes into the 7th period class.
Then, she was greeted with a wonderful sight.
Christina Shoemaker feared the worse. What would greet her when she was 8 minutes tardy for her own class? As she entered the door, there was the Concert Choir partially through their warm-ups! She asked them what they were doing and they told her they just went ahead and started class without her!
She asked what they had done so far. They responded that they had worked silently on their bellringers. Then, students volunteered to put the answers to the bellringer on the board. Next, they continued on with the procedure and
one student simply read the announcements found
on the teacher’s music stand.
After announcements, they began to write in the solfege for the sight-reading exercise so the class could get a head-start. After that, one of the class officers initiated the stretches and breathing to begin the warm-up.
The students did not miss a note in starting the class. Christina was ecstatic with how the class was proceeding without her.
Christina began her teaching career with a plan ready to put in place. She knew how to set up and manage a classroom in such a way that the students would know how to function responsibly on their own without the teacher in the classroom.
Christina was no stranger to a well-managed classroom. She was a product of classrooms that were organized and consistent so there was time for teaching and learning. She says,
“I went from Lincoln-Way East as a high school student to Bradley University and back to Lincoln-Way North as a teacher and at each of these places, the organization and procedures were consistent.”
Christina was a high school student in the music department at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, Illinois. As a student, she simply followed the procedures in her classroom and found them acceptable because the school experience was rewarding and “fun” for her. The teacher who created this atmosphere for Christina was Mrs. Lambert, her music teacher in her junior year. Christina describes Mrs. Lambert as, “Someone who teaches music as a part of life and that it is closely tied to a person’s soul and character. Mrs. Lambert changed my life.”
Christina watched Mrs. Lambert closely in her junior and senior years, observing her teaching style and her interactions with students. Her classroom was a place where great order existed and it was out of that order and structure that great musical expression was achieved.
Christina reflects that because of the organization of the classroom, Mrs. Lambert was never too busy to talk to her about music, or teaching, or life. She had time to connect with students. (Unlike teachers who are too busy handling behavior problems leaving little, if any, time to connect with other students in the class.)
In Christina’s words, “Mrs. Lambert encouraged me to become a music teacher and it was her influence, her confidence, and her guidance. Her faith instilled in me that I could possibly succeed at teaching this passion: music.”
Christina was enamored with her teachers, first in the 2nd grade, then in 4th grade, then in 5th grade, and then all of her high school English teachers. It became obvious to her that the classes she wanted to teach were directly related to the teachers, whom she admired, that taught them. She says, “Those teachers were passionate, caring, helpful, and understanding and were people I desperately wanted to emulate. These experiences were the foundation for the kind of teacher and person that I try to be every day in the classroom.”
Today, Christina (on the left) and Alysia Lambert, “Mrs. Lambert,” are friends and now professional colleagues, who communicate daily.
Christina went to Bradley University and experienced another culture of consistency in the Music Department there. Her professors were passionate and stimulating and always working to make their students better musicians, teachers, and people. Then, in her junior year she enrolled in a Classroom Management class. The adopted textbook was The First Days of School and Christina sheepishly admits, “I didn’t even know it existed not to mention, ‘Who are the Wongs?’”
Dr. Victoria Huffman was the course instructor and she brought the book and the video, The Effective Teacher, to life. When Christina first started reading the book and watching the videos, she says, “Everything that I believed about order and structure were right here! I couldn’t wait to start working on my Classroom Management plan because it had happened to me when I was a high school student.”
Christina says that she took the class project very seriously because she knew that it would only be a matter of time before she would be using it in her own classroom. The project guided her to organize her own thoughts into a practical and useable plan for her future students.
Amazingly, most all of the procedures she came up with in that project
are currently in use in her classroom today!
Flash Forward—Christina Becomes a Teacher
Christina returned to teach in her OLD high school district and all of a sudden the whole concept of organization with procedures was a major Aha that made sense, but more importantly worked for her and her students.
She realized that from the moment a student steps into the classroom, they need to know what to expect. The procedure for every class period is the same—a culture of consistency—with the objectives for the day always listed on the board. Class begins immediately at the bell and the class works for the full 50 minutes, right up until the next bell, making full use of instructional time.
Procedures for Starting Class
Students enter the room, pick up their assigned music folder from the cabinet, are seated, and immediately begin to complete the assigned Bell Work in their Bell Work notebook.
At the bell, which signifies the start of class, students are in their seats working silently on the Bell Work. The Bell Work ranges from topics on music theory to music history to personal growth.
During the Bell Work, attendance is taken from the seating chart so that the flow of class is not interrupted.
If students complete the Bell Work, they are to copy the learning objective into their daily learning target journal.
When students complete the Bell Work, the topic is discussed and questions are answered.
Bell Work is followed by brief announcements on classroom details and extracurricular activities so as to not interrupt the music environment.
Approximately 5 minutes into the start of class, the warm-up exercises begin:
Stretching: to facilitate better posture and freedom of the voice
Breathing exercise: to engage the breathing mechanism and prepare for breath management while singing
Vocal exercises: to work on opening the tone, forward placement, articulation, range, and relaxation while striving for freedom, energy, and beauty
Scales: Major, Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor, and Chromatic
Triads: Major, Minor, Diminished, and Augmented
Intervals: Major, Perfect, and Minor
Other: a variety of solfege exercise
Weekly schedule is written on the board for each class which includes the music that will be sung each day and the topics to be covered.
Daily schedule is visible on the Bell Work board that includes the order of pieces and the learning target for the day.
Procedures for Starting Class
Students will raise their hands and wait for permission to speak.
Students will request permission from the teacher to use the restroom if it is an
emergency only and will carry the hall pass with them. In all other cases, the restroom is to be used during passing periods.
Students may leave their seats to get a drink of water, sharpen pencils, or get a tissue only when the instructor is not working with their particular section.
Two minutes before the end of class is reserved for students to complete their learning target journal in which a self-assessment of individual progress during that day is made. When the journal is completed, students are allowed to move about the room to return their folders to the cabinet.
Christina’s Greatest Joy
At the beginning of the year the procedures are presented to the students in a handout as a part of the syllabus and taught on the first day and reinforced throughout the first week.
Christina has a poster with the classroom procedures that she hangs in the classroom. Click here to see Christina’s poster with the classroom procedures.
The students also get a copy with the class syllabus. The syllabus was adapted from syllabi she has collected through the years, from Alysia Lambert, and from the syllabi used by the other two teachers in the music department so there is consistency of procedures within the department. She says, “My syllabus is a work in progress as I update it each year with my newest ideas.”
Click here to see Christina’s class syllabus. Christina says that she admires the syllabus used by music teacher Nile Wilson we shared in our December 2008 column. Click here to see this syllabus.
But, Christina’s greatest joy is forming meaningful relationships with her students and sharing her love of choral music with them.
“It is incredibly gratifying to watch them fall in love with choral music, to work their very hardest, and to achieve high levels of success.
“My advice to any new teacher would be to set up your own classroom procedures before the students get to school and be confident in them. Then teach them thoroughly and consistently until they are mastered. If you do that, you will be able to truly enjoy teaching your students!
“My teaching is a reflection of the wonderful teachers I have had and this is a great way to honor them as well.”
The Power of Influence
Each day in millions of classrooms, teachers blaze the route for futures untold. Our every move, every action, and every word is scrutinized, analyzed, and synthesized, and then either accepted or rejected by our students. We are examples of what can be, what the future holds. We can be a negative influence with our disgruntled attitudes, absence of care, and lack of dedication to our chosen profession. Or we can leave a positive mark in the beliefs of students so they are equipped to make choices for their future.
Your influence in the classroom has a ripple effect with no foreseeable edge in sight. There is a Mrs. Lambert in each of us—someone who creates the music in students for generations to experience. May your music be heard loud and clear by each of your students.
For a printable version of this article click here.
About Effective Teaching...
The techniques of effective teachers are replicable. Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong's columns feature effective teachers and administrators and their techniques for enhancing student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with a abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.
For over 20 years, helping teachers become effective has been the passion of the Wongs. Writing for teachers.net is just one of the many ways they reach out to educators with their ideas on how effective teachers improve student learning.
About Harry & Rosemary Wong...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.
Harry Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. He was selected as one of the most admired people in education by the readers of Instructor magazine. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award. She was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from her alma maters, Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.
Harry and Rosemary have been awarded the Upton Sinclair Award and were nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education.
Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today. He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Today, Rosemary speaks along with Harry. In spite of their heavily booked schedule, Harry and Rosemary have agreed to write this monthly column so that more people can hear their message.
How They Develop Effective Teachers...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to developing effective teachers, one teacher at a time.
To do this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.
Their new audio CD set, How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacher, was recorded live before 800 teachers in St. Louis. Listen as they walk you through classrooms that hum with learning and share how you can replicate the same success in your classroom. In 2 hours and 40 minutes, Harry and Rosemary can transform you into a very effective and successful teacher at no cost!
This presentation has transformed the lives and teaching success of hundreds of thousands of teachers.Learn how to
Begin the school year with a plan
Start class immediately
Have a well-organized and structured classroom
Reduce discipline problems
Have students who are engaged and working
Teach procedures and responsibility
Maximize classroom instructional time
Use lesson objectives so students know what they are to learn
Use rubrics to assess for student learning
Deal with at-risk students
Improve student learning and achievement
The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 3.6 million copies have been sold. It is used in 116 countries, 2,027 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The new, fourth edition includes:
An additional chapter on procedures
A new chapter on assessment with rubrics.
A new chapter on Professional Learning Teams
A new chapter for administrators on implementation
Additional information in Going Beyond Folders
A new DVD, Using THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, presented by Chelonnda Seroyer
The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.
They also have a successful eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience. The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.
This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all effective teachers. Details for the classroom management course can be seen at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
You can hear Harry Wong LIVE on a set of CDs, called
How to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one
of his many presentations. He invites you to steal from him the secrets of effective teaching for all grade levels.
Never Cease to Learn has the power to transform your
attitude and your life. In this DVD, Harry shares his journey on the road to success and tells listeners how to become the educators they were meant to be.
When the book, video series, CD, DVD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective professional development training tool for producing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at www.EffectiveTeaching.com or www.HarryWong.com.
Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.