Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching

Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching
By Larry Ferlazzo & Friends
(Education Week Press, 2013 – Learn more)

Julie-Dermody-100Reviewed by Julie Dermody

If you could invite three people to join you at your next PLC meeting, who would they be? Dewey? Vygotsky? Kozol? Ravitch? Dweck? After 31 years in the classroom, I’d have to say one of my top three would be Larry Ferlazzo.

If you’re saying “Larry who?” you’re in for a treat when you purchase his latest book, Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching and get to “listen in” as Ferlazzo and his friends answer teacher questions about classroom management and student engagement. Collected and refined from posts at Ferlazzo’s Education Week blog “Classroom Q&A,” the information shared in this new digital book will have you reflecting on your current classroom practices. Better yet, the combined wisdom offered here will have you changing some of your practices to become a more effective and happier teacher.

Who is who

classroom-management-qa-larry-ferlazzoLet’s start with who Larry Ferlazzo is and why he is so qualified give “us” advice?  First of all, Larry has been a classroom teacher for 10 years and currently is teaching English, social studies and IB classes to English Language Learners and mainstream students at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento, California. Before teaching, he was a community organizer for 19 years. He’s not only one of “us”; he’s a reflective practitioner who tirelessly seeks creative ways to improve his own classroom practice. He’s also written other books.

Now, about his co-author friends. In this e-book Larry questions authors such as Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business) and discusses what many consider one of the most important – if not the most important – habits for individual success: willpower. Art Markman, author of Smart Thinking, shares how to help students create good study habits. Middle grades expert Rick Wormeli is also among the many education writers interviewed. There is even information from Michael Opitz and Michael Ford’s upcoming book, Engaging Minds in the Classroom: The Surprising Power of Joy.

Larry also sought out innovative educators (in addition to published authors). So his book features many experienced teachers sharing insights from their current practice. One thing that really impresses me about Larry is that when a question is asked that is outside of his experience (the earliest grade Larry has taught is 7th grade), he doesn’t assume what he would do. Instead, he “defers to others for their immense range of expertise.” Because of this, the eBook covers questions and answers suitable for K-12.

Inside the classroom

I’m also impressed that what I know to be true about classroom management (and expert strategies for teaching) is not only discussed, but new research is tied to it. For example, I understand the power of relationships. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” In the book, Chris Wejr, an elementary principal in British Columbia, Canada and creator of the blog, The Wejr Board, affirms that “In order for us to make the curriculum relevant to their learning, we must build relationships with our students.” Jill Suttie, author of the article “Eight Tips for Fostering Flow in the Classroom,” adds information about the importance of relationships in creating a learning space where students are happy and engaged.

Larry shares that his need to look at his own classroom with “fresh eyes” is what prompted him to begin the “Classroom Q & A” blog at Education Week Teacher. He cites the idea by Daniel Pink that schools (among other organizations) need to place a higher priority on “problem finding.” In Larry’s typical resource-sharing fashion, this eBook contains a link to an interview that he conducted with Daniel Pink (February 2013). Valuable links such as this one are located throughout the book, making it even easier than QR codes in print books to go more in-depth on a topic. The links also introduced me to some new resources, such as Mark Barnes’ Learn It in 5 site.

14 Questions Answered

Since this eBook is a collection of posts from his very popular Ed Week column, the format of the eBook is question-and-answer. Here’s a list of the 14 questions posed. Each question is fully answered by offering several expert viewpoints.

How can I get the new school year off to a good start?
How can I help students develop self-control?
How can I minimize unpredictable student behaviors that negatively affect my classroom?
What’s one thing to remember about classroom management if you don’t remember anything else?
How do I apply classroom-management strategies with younger students?
How can I help students develop good habits?
How do you teach students to listen better?
How can you engage students without carrots and sticks?
What does student engagement look like?
How can we foster more student engagement in taking high-stakes standardized tests?
How can teachers best assist students with special needs?
What are some ways to apply social-emotional learning in the classroom?
How can I connect with disengaged students?
Can teachers be friends with students?

Why buy an eBook?

For several reasons, I usually have wanted my professional books to be “off line.” Why did this eBook change my mind? I realized eBooks are just as easy to access, highlight and make notes in; they are actually harder to misplace, and, as a tired-eyed teacher who’s been reading student work all day, I can enlarge the print! (The lower cost for eBooks is a big plus too – $8.99 for Kindle, iPad or Nook format.)

In lieu of lunch with Larry

Larry writes that he hoped his blogging would encourage all educators – himself included – to reflect more deeply on their practice and find creative ways to improve. He has succeeded admirably, and more than any other single person, Larry’s sharing in his blogs, books, and now, this new eBook, has created lasting positive changes within my own classroom.

If I could, I’d take Larry out to lunch just to thank him. But, since we live 3,000 miles apart, I’ll settle for using the lunch money to purchase and share his eBook advice. You should too, especially since all author royalties from this book will be contributed to the National Writing Project. Nice.

Julie Dermody, NBCT, is currently an elementary ESL teacher in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro (NC) City Schools. She has also served as an elementary, middle and high school teacher, a reading specialist and a teacher of gifted students. Her article about ESL students, “Going for the Growth,” appeared in the September 2012 Educational Leadership (online edition). Julie presented at TESOL’s International Convention in March 2013 and is looking forward to presenting at the NC Math Conference, November 2013. She writes and reviews regularly for MiddleWeb.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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