My Tried and True Way of Managing Phones in the Classroom

This post needs a disclaimer.  I have admittedly only used this method with high schoolers.  The homeschool co-op I’m working with right now has a strict no personal technology policy, and honestly I don’t know if all my students even have a phone, so I haven’t been able to try this with middle school kids.  But in high school, this is my go-to system for managing kids and their phones.

My tried and true way of managing students and phones

My method for handling students and their phones

During my teaching certification observations, I realized very quickly that the teachers who forbade phones with no exceptions had more kids trying to sneak them, or had more phone policy violations than teachers who were more lax (within reason).  Plus, I found periodically that for some activities, students need to look up information and in the last school I taught in classroom computers barely even existed for teachers, let alone for students, so I knew I needed a policy that accommodated cell phones but while making sure I had “no phone” times in class too.

So my policy very quickly became this: when the cell phone sign is red, your phones are in your backpacks and when the cell phone sign is green, you can have them out but they can’t make noise.  My “sign” was red and green construction paper.  Depending on what was going on in the classroom, I would just put either red or green in front so that my kids knew what was expected of them.  Typically these would be laminated to last longer.

my method for managing high school kids' phones in class

My method for handling students and their phones

This policy was thankfully respected by my students most of the time over the years.  When a student would occasionally violate the policy, I would give him or her a warning, and if they violated the policy again I followed the school policy of sending the phone to the office where the kid picked it up at the end of the day.

Those kids who worked better listening to music could have their ear buds in (when doing independent work), students could access the internet if they needed to look up some information, and since they knew the sign would turn to green at some point during class (except on test days), they didn’t try to sneak their phones and abuse the system.  Many of my co-workers had similar policies, just with slight variations for age/overall class trustworthiness/etc.  To me this seemed the natural way to go because it seems like the more you completely forbid something, the more a teenager will try to do what is being forbidden.

I do have a quick related story to share.  When I was in my very first month of subbing (honestly it was probably only my 3rd or 4th time in the classroom), a few years before I was certified, I didn’t mess around with kids and their phones.  I was strict because I was the sub and  I wanted to follow the school policy to a T.  So this one junior, after being warned twice, was using her phone again and I told her now I had to take the phone and send it to the office.  She, and I can’t make this up, put her phone down her shirt and into her bra so that I couldn’t physically take it from her.  I called for a hall monitor, she was brought to the office, and they took whatever measures they took.  That was a VERY eye-opening experience for me in terms of the things kids will do to feel like they are in control, to try to embarrass a sub, to put on a show for their classmates, or whatever the case would be.

One last disclaimer.  I know this system won’t work for all groups of students.  Some teachers have to abide by the overarching school rule no matter what, some teachers can have a classroom rule in place.  I don’t expect this to work well for me each year and depending on my school and kids I know I’ll have to try out different methods.

I’d love to hear how you deal with students and their phones.  The more tips and tricks we have up our sleeves the better!

Teaching an Under the Radar Topic

It’s always interesting to hear what is and is not taught in various high school history classrooms around the country.  One teacher might spend 3 weeks on Civil Rights, another only 1 week.  One might discuss the Cambodian Genocide and another might not.  I know it is a challenge to fit in all the required topics each year and to go into each topic in depth enough to do it justice, so finding time to discuss under the radar topics might be impossible, but with it being standardized testing season, keeping kids busy with these types of topics after they finish their tests might be a good way to start incorporating this type of material.

teaching some under the radar topics, like Nazi Germany's Lebensborn program

World War 2, the Holocaust, and related people and events from the 1930-1945 time period have always been my passion.  Since 3rd or 4th grade I have read about children in hiding, Auschwitz, a Jewish soldier in Hitler’s ranks, the bombing of Dresden, medical experiments on twins at Auschwitz, the Monuments Men, and so much more (probably close to a thousand books just on people/places/events/topics from 1930-1945).  The Nazi program of Lebensborn is a topic that I always spend a day teaching my students about though I have yet to see any of my colleagues mention it in their classes.

This was a program designed to increase the “pure Aryan” population by having genetically ideal Aryan men and women who were pro-Nazi/Pro-Hitler procreate (regardless of their marital status) and have what would hopefully be genetically ideal Aryan babies.  Children who had the ideal physical characteristics Hitler wanted were even taken from their families as Nazis spread across Europe, they were brought back to Germany to “good” Nazi families, and attempts to “Germanize” them began.  If the kids couldn’t be “Germanized” they were taken to extermination camps and suffered the same fate as Jews.

A couple of years ago, I printed out an article on Lebensborn for my students to read, analyze, and reflect on when they finished their state standardized test of the day.  I knew virtually all of my students would be learning about this for the first time, but it didn’t occur to me that it was new information to many of my colleagues as well.  I was incredibly flattered when I was asked to speak about it at our department meeting and to provide each of the other classes of juniors with the same assignment.

teaching some under the radar topics, like Nazi Germany's Lebensborn program

Flash forward a few years and here I am on TpT and I decided to make a more universally teacher friendly version of the assignment.  So just yesterday I made a Lebensborn Webquest and posted it to my store.  Out of curiosity, I did a search for other TpT resources on Lebensborn and the only results I got were my webquest and the 2 bundles it’s part of.  So that was very interesting to me.  It implies that no other teachers have made resources for it because either they don’t teach it themselves, or if they do teach it, they don’t think anyone else would teach it so why take the time and effort to make something that no one will ever use.  So let’s see what happens.  This will either sit untouched in my store forever, or someone will happen to come across it and think the same thing I did a few years ago: that this would be a good under the radar topic for their students to learn about after sitting through a standardized test.

Are there topics you teach that are under the radar?  I’d love to read about it in the comments!

Links for more information on Lebensborn: