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Keeping a Studious Classroom


Over the door in one studious classroom is a sign reading, "Quiet, please. Learning underway." Another classroom has this sign: "You are here to work." All the students not with the teacher are working independently. One student is writing an unknown word on the whiteboard, where the heading reads, "New vocabulary words." Later, the class will discuss the word, and each student will enter the word with its meaning in a notebook. On a corner of the whiteboard are the assignments for the day; separately, there are the assignments for the week - "Write one half page on your pet." "Find information (no more than half a page) on Apaches." "Write a number problem requiring division for the class to solve." "Look through the dictionary for a spelling word ending in 'tion'." Students are busily engaged in completing these assignments. Several students are finding information on Apaches, a current class topic; one student is using an encyclopedia; another is in the Internet. The student in the Internet has found some resources to write away for. Other students are working on worksheets and work from kits.

The teacher is not harassed. Students in this classroom are eager to produce and to have their work checked and sometimes expect more of the teacher than one person can do; consequently, the teacher limits his or her commitment: weekly written assignments must be no more than a page, monthly reports must be no more than two pages, etc.

Discipline in the studious classroom is a matter, first, of convincing the students of their ignorance. When a student misbehaves, the teacher calls out, "Who was the fourth president of the United States?" If the student answers, "James Madison," the teacher calls out, "What is the capital of Hungary?" The wrong answer is followed by a short lecture on how much the student has to learn and how short is the time for learning. Students in this classroom are not time wasters because they realize how much there is to learn.

Discipline in the studious classroom is also a matter of liking to learn. Students are convinced not only of their ignorance but also of the desirability of overcoming it. They diligently write vocabulary and spelling words in their notebooks. They use the dictionary, the encyclopedia, and other reference books. Each student keeps a notebook of half-page comments about books read.

Much teacher time is spent at the teacher's desk with a student. The teacher reads and corrects written assignments with the student. Math assignments are checked individually. Workbook pages are corrected. Since the teacher's time is valuable, work with any one student is limited to a few minutes; however, a few minutes devoted to overcoming a student's specific weaknesses or mistakes can be more valuable than much full-class instruction.

This is not to say that full-class instruction does not exist in the studious classroom. The teacher introduces new topics, explains principles and rules, such as in spoken and written language or math, and hears student reports. However, in general the students are working on their own.

At one time in the development of schooling it was thought that students should be generally social. Since many students would rather talk than learn, the consequence of a social classroom was much talk and little learning. Students have plenty of time for socializing outside of the classroom. One poster says, "There is a place for socializing. This is not it." The purpose of being in school is to learn. Fortunately, learning can be interesting, and students who would rather talk can become absorbed in their work. Although being a student in the studious classroom is work, the rewards of this work are great.

Periodically, the teacher meets with each student to evaluate progress and to make decisions about appropriate learning materials. Because of limitations on the teacher's time, plans for work to be accomplished must cover at least a month. A student placed in a workbook or a kit works in that workbook or kit over a period of time. One criterion in selecting a workbook or kit is, how suitable is it for long-term use.