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Safe & Civil Schools Newsletter

April 2008

Class Size • PAHSCI • Dr. Anita Archer • Take our Survey • Upcoming Events


If Your Class is Too Large...

By Randy Sprick

We have yet to determine the optimum class size. Initial studies seemed to indicate that smaller classes make for more productive students and many states, most notably California and Tennessee, have been pushing over the years to reduce the number of students per class in an effort to improve the quality of schools and boost student academic achievement.

However, according to an article in USA Today, recent studies show that the solution is not that simple. Reducing class size can improve student productivity but it doesn’t always do so, which implies that there are other factors beyond class size that influence teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

According to recent studies on class size, one of those factors may be that smaller classes offer students an opportunity to connect with the teacher and to other students in a personal and fulfilling way. And we know the importance of connecting students to their classmates, their teachers, and their schools from analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. [See School Connectedness: Improving Students’ Lives, and The Untapped Power of Schools to Improve the Health of Teens for a discussion.]

So, the question arises, “Can you foster connectedness among your students if you don’t have the advantage of small class size?”

At Safe & Civil Schools, we believe the answer is yes. There is much you can do to structure your classroom in a way that builds connectedness, fosters enthusiasm, and develops responsibility and civility among your students—even if you have a lot of them!

It all hinges on a good solid classroom management plan—one that emphasizes positive interactions between teacher and students, proactive and caring support of student effort, and instructional responses to misbehavior. You’ll find everything you need to know about developing such a plan in CHAMPs: A Positive and Proactive Approach to Classroom Management.

Short of reading the book, though, how do you foster connectedness in a large class? Start by considering three aspects of your teaching:

  • Classroom Organization (CHAMPs, Module 2)
  • Expectations (CHAMPs, Module 3)
  • Motivation (CHAMPs, Module 5)


Make your classroom feel welcoming to students.

Organize the physical space so that it promotes positive student/teacher interactions and reduces the possibility of disruptions. For instance, make sure you have easy access to all parts of the room so that you can circulate among your students. Your proximity has a moderating effect on student behavior and allows you to connect with students one-on-one or in groups. Arrange to devote some of your bulletin board space to student work. By prominently displaying student work, you demonstrate that you are proud of what your students have done and wish to show others what they have accomplished.

Another way to make your students feel welcome is by posting three to six classroom rules that are clearly visible to all students. If you bring students into the decision-making process of developing these rules, you give them a greater sense of ownership and belonging. Posting them allows you to use them as a basis for providing feedback, giving you an opportunity to interact positively with students. Make sure you teach students what the rules are and how they can demonstrate compliance. By doing so, you show students what they need to know to succeed, and thus to feel good about their abilities.


When your expectations are clear, students never have to guess how you expect them to behave or what you want them to do. Define specific expectations for student behavior during major classroom activities (i.e., teacher-directed instruction, independent seat work, cooperative group work, etc.) and common transition times (switching from one subject to another, correcting papers, opening textbooks, etc.). Your expectations should answer questions like:

  • Can students talk with each other during this activity/transition? If so, what level of speech?
  • How do students get your attention if they have a question or concern?
  • What exactly do you want students to be doing during this activity/transition?
  • Can students move around the room during this activity/transition?
  • How do students demonstrate that they are participating in the learning activity?

Once you have developed your expectations, decide how you will teach them to students. Devise lessons, design visual displays of your expectations, teach/demonstrate your expectations, allow plenty of practice and rehearsal opportunities, and finally, verify that each and every student understands your expectations.

The school and effectiveness literature consistently shows that successful teachers are very clear with students about exactly how they expect students to behave during the school day. When students know what is expected of them, they feel confident and secure—attitudes that in turn lead to positive feelings about (connectedness to) school.


When you implement effective instruction and positive feedback, you move students to do their best academically and to behave responsibly and respectfully.

Be enthusiastic! Present your lessons in a manner that encourages enthusiasm on the part of students. If you can generate student enthusiasm, you can “drive students forward” to succeed. Here are four strategies you can use to increase students’ intrinsic motivation:

  • Explain why or how the task will be useful to students.
  • Give students a vision of what they will be able to do with the information/task eventually.
  • Relate new information to previously learned knowledge or skills.
  • Give age-appropriate “pep talks” to your students. Nothing rallies enthusiasm like a forceful I-know-you-can-do-it speech.

Beyond enthusiasm, probably the best way to motivate your students is by implementing effective instructional practices:

  • Analyze your presentational style. Students are more likely to engage with a teacher who is dynamic, clear, humorous, and excited in class than to a teacher who is confusing, boring, or who talks in a monotone.
  • Actively involve students in your lessons. Long lectures tune students out. Instead, break up a lecture with questions or activities. Set up role-plays or interactive demonstrations. Give pop quizzes. Vary tasks – make it interesting.
  • Make sure that your instruction and evaluation (tests and assignments) match. Think about classes you’ve taken in which what the teacher did in class had nothing to do with the tests and assignments that were used to evaluate your performance. You don’t want to do that to your students!
  • Ensure high rates of student success. Provide clear enough instruction and frequent enough practice to ensure that students will get approximately 90% correct on most tasks. All students learn faster when they get more correct than incorrect answers.
  • Provide students with immediate performance feedback. A student who is making mistakes needs to know it as soon as possible if he/she is going to learn from those mistakes.


By setting up a welcoming space for students, posting clear and concise rules, making your expectations clear, demonstrating your excitement about teaching and learning, fostering their enthusiasm for academic achievement, and finally, by implementing effective instructional practices, you can connect with your students in caring and positive ways.

Smaller classes make it easier to connect with each student. However, when you have a large class make the most of it by creating solid organization, directly teaching students how to function successfully in that organization, and doing everything in your power to keep motivation at optimal levels.

Take our survey — Weigh in on class size and student achievement. Go to our website and take our survey! We'll let you know the results in our next newsletter!


Pennsylvania High School Coaching Initiative (PAHSCI)

At Safe & Civil Schools, we have long believed in instructional coaching as the keystone in the professional development arch. Without coaching, on-the-job learning by teachers is muted and the measure of successful implementation ill-defined. With coaching, any professional development teachers receive is far more likely to become reality in their classrooms.

For many years, we have been working with folks at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning to spread the word on instructional coaching. Now, we have discovered another organization with like goals that we'd like you to know about.

The Pennsylvania High School Coaching Initiative (PAHSCI) is a distinctive school reform design that uses instructional coaches and mentors to further the ultimate goal of improving student achievement and productvity. Formed in 2005 as a partnership between The Annenberg Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, PAHSCI is the nation’s only multi-tiered teacher coaching initiative providing trained teacher-leaders (coaches) to schools and school districts. Coaches and school principals, in turn, receive professional and program support from the initiative’s team of mentors and facilitators.

We invite you to visit the PAHSCI website. Find out what they have to say about instructional coaching and why it works. Browse their newsletter archive (we'd especially like you to read the February 2008 issue because we're mentioned). And, finally, if you're interested in training coaches and mentors within your own school district, read what they have to say about the training they received.


Motivation a Problem?

Have you been wondering how to get your students interested in learning and excited about coming to school? Motivating students is not easy but it can be done. Anita Archer, Ph.D., will be on hand at the Safe & Civil Schools National Conference this summer (see sidebar for more information) to show you how she does it.

Her secret — deliver your lessons with zip and zest! According to Dr. Archer, gaining student attention, eliciting their responses, providing engaging passage reading practice, and maintaining a perky pace all contribute to earning the undivided attention of every student in your class.

And she should know something about motivating students! Recipient of ten Outstanding Educator awards, Dr. Archer has taught students in elementary and middle schools, as well as at the university level, with great success. Currently, she shares her knowledge and expertise with educators by writing, consulting, and speaking at seminars and workshops throughout the country.

So, if you have ever experienced inattentive, disengaged students and want to do what you can to invigorate them, come to Dr. Archer’s session at our National Conference and revitalize your teaching with effective and easy to implement teaching procedures!

First Annual Safe & Civil Schools National Conference

This summer, join us at the elegant Hilton Portland for more content, more presenters, and more tools!

We've changed our name and our venue to reflect our new expanded conference format! As in previous years, we will be offering our traditional Train the Trainer sessions, but this year we've added more sessions on general content as well. We've invited more presenters who will provide you with more strategies and tools to help make your schools safer and more civil.

Please join us in downtown Portland on July 7-11, 2008, for our First Annual Safe & Civil Schools National Conference!

For more information, visit our website or phone 1-800-323-8819.

Please sign up early—registration is limited!



Thought you'd like to know...

Safe & Civil Schools is pleased to announce that Chapman University is now offering professional development credit for our programs.

In a note to us, Jan Luxembourger, Director K-12 Extended Education at Chapman, wrote, "Chapman University College is pleased to be able to partner with Safe & Civil Schools to offer professional development graduate credit to those who attend their innovative and comprehensive staff development trainings. The programs offered by Safe & Civil Schools fill a critical need in today's schools, and that is the main reason why the staff at Chapman University's Extended Education Department knew that Safe & Civil Schools was a program that we wanted to support and promote."


SCS in the News — Schools across the country are improving school climate and culture with Safe & Civil Schools programs. Last month, two of them celebrated success with news stories in their local press:

Hill Classical Middle School in Long Beach, California won the Dispelling the Myth Award from The Education Trust-West.

Across the country in Jacksonville, North Carolina, Onslow County Schools have decreased both short-term and long-term suspensions during the 2006-07 school year.

Congratulations to these schools, their staffs and students, for the hard work they've done to earn these rewards!



InterventionsPacific Northwest Publishing is pleased to announce the imminent release of a new edition of this practical book. Interventions: Evidence-Based Behavioral Strategies for Individual Students, Second Edition will help teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, and others who work with challenging students in planning and implementing validated, tiered strategies to increase motivation and improve behavior.

In each of its 19 chapters, the authors discuss a different evidence-based intervention and provide information on implementation, sample forms, charts, and data collection tools. The book includes a CD with reproducibles.

Watch the Pacific Northwest Publishing website for announcements regarding availability.


CHAMPs Workshop in Texas — On November 4-5, 2008, Randy Sprick will present a two-day workshop on CHAMPs: A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Management at the Humble Civic Center and Arena in Humble, Texas.

Come learn how you can use CHAMPs in your classroom to design (or fine-tune) a proactive and positive behavior plan that directly teaches students how to behave respectfully and responsibly!

Watch our website for workshop and registration information beginning in August 2008.


Upcoming Events — Randy Sprick and Safe & Civil Schools consultants continue to provide presentations across the country. Some of these include open registration. Registration may be limited and/or may involve a fee. Contact information is provided for each on our website.





Students must know what is expected of them and accept responsibility for their learning .
—Ellen B. Eisenberg, PAHSCI





As the new year begins, the staff at Safe & Civil Schools wish you a productive and positive school year!

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