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Building a Productive Classroom Step-by-Step

Building a Productive Classroom Step-by-Step

Eric Hougan


Most likely we have heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” Today, this phrase kept ringing in my head as I stared down a classroom of 30 freshmen in our Information Technology (computers) class. Each child represented a different needs, skill sets, background (language, culture, etc.), ability, and experience.

I was about to transition to their next activity – creating a flyer, using their textbook – when I realized I need to do this in a smart fashion. Moments after giving the whole class instructions, hands began to fly into the air.



“I need help”

“What page?”

“I am confused.”


I needed to act fast to make this class a fine-tuned learning machine. Here’s my plan:

1) I began by telling the students they need to ask at least 2 of their peers their questions before asking me.

2) Vocally encouraged students to help peers that are stuck/confused

3) Vocally praised students for helping others, e.g. “Sam, thank you for helping Gina with how to formatting.”

4) Utilize students that finished early to aid struggling students, especially the ELL students.


Towards the end of class, I looked out and realized nobody was asking for me. Students felt empowered to walk around, helping each other out. Students were on-task and most importantly learning. This allowed me the freedom to visit the students individually, checking in on their understanding and developing the important student-teacher relationship. Not to mention, the stress level decreased.

Ongoing Process

Tomorrow we will follow the same process. I will repeat these steps over and over until there is a culture of collaboration and team work. It’s hard work on the frontend, but over time it pays huge dividends.

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