I am only in my second year of teaching, so classroom management is something I am still struggling with a lot. One of the things that does help is the way our program does student grouping: factions, a name derived from the factions of Roman chariot racing. This idea is the brainchild of a dear colleague of mine. You can think of factions as an old-school Class Dojo.
Each of the three of us does factions a little differently. Here’s what I do: a few days after the start of the semester (our students switch classes at the mid-year point), once I have a little bit of a feel for student personalities and needs, I divide the kids into factions. Typically, I want these to be four to five students (remember: we have small class sizes, capped at 24 but usually closer to 18). Factions work together in class on various activities, which is their big draw for me as a teacher. They’re a great way to have students group up, and if you use heterogeneous grouping, students do a fantastic job of explaining concepts to one another.
For the kids, the big draw is the point system. Students earn points toward extra credit on their stage test, so the faction with the most points the day of the test will get the highest extra credit. Students earn faction points in a variety of ways: earning a 100 on a quiz, coming to me for help before or after school, emailing me cool Latin-related things, making Quizlets and Kahoots, answering tough questions in class, asking insightful questions, etc. It goes on and on. The main idea behind the points is that every type of student is rewarded: kids who struggle, kids who pick up Latin like it’s their first language, and everyone in between. It also rewards students, especially my freshmen, who are learning a lot of academic skills, for trying new ways of studying and being an active participant in an intellectual community.
I keep track of points by student rather than solely by faction, for two main reasons. First, if you didn’t earn any points for your faction, you can’t get any of the extra credit if your faction wins the competition. Second, if I have to move students during the course of a stage for whatever reason, the points are easily transferable between factions. It also helps me to reflect on who might be better matched together if I rearrange factions between stages.
It’s a great system for classroom management because you can also take a point away from a faction for a minor misdeed committed by a student – anything more than a point, in my opinion, becomes too much of a group punishment.
Finally, I love factions because they let you do something with all the games you play in class. They allow you to have an easy prize for any class competition: “whoever wins this one gets 3 points for their faction!”
Keeping track of the points is easy. I keep all the factions for my classes on the same Google Doc in a file called Current Factions. I created one one-row table for each period I teach with one column per faction. The students are listed together in columns according to their faction. I print this out, keep it on my clipboard I use every day, and make tally marks next to students’ names as they earn points. Here’s a screenshot of a fake class:
Let me know if you have questions about this system. It’s simple, effective, and the kids totally buy in. Win-win-win.