________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002

cover Class Meetings: Building Leadership, Problem-Solving and Decision-making Skills in the Respectful Classroom.

Donna Styles.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2001.
95 pp., pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 1-55138-134-6.

Subject Headings:
Classroom management.
Group problem solving.
Decision making in children.

Professional.

Review by Gary Evans.

*** /4

The term "class meetings" has been around for a long time, but the concept has been used with varying degrees of success. This book outlines a structure that can be used to help ensure that a favorable outcome is reached. In the current climate of zero tolerance towards bullying, the use of class meetings would be very useful, as the goal is to improve self-concept, encourage open discussion and to improve cooperation among students. The book is laid out as a "how to" guide to setting up, developing and maintaining class meetings.

     The contents include why teachers should make time available for class meetings, a proposed model for the meetings, how to get ready for the meetings, how to run an effective meeting, how to create a respectful environment, and how to celebrate the success that is sure to happen if you follow the steps that are so clearly outlined. I wish that I had had this book when I was in the classroom because the ideas and suggestions are clear, concise and easy to follow. Depending on your class, with modifications for some students, success can be achieved.

     The blackline masters can be run off and laminated, allowing them to be used over and over. The training that is required for your students is detailed so teachers could easily follow the program. Timetables are shown so that meetings get included in your weekly plans and not be "bumped" because of other commitments. As difficulties arise on the playground or in the classroom, they are noted on slips of paper that are placed in the class meeting box. The agenda for the meeting is set up by listing the problems that are mentioned. Once the agenda has been established, seating is formed in a circle and a time frame is discussed. It is important to stick to a schedule if any problems are to be solved. Expectations as to respect and proper behavior are discussed and taught so that meetings run smoothly and duties of the participants are given. Brainstorming of possible solutions is a major part of the meeting, and suggestions are given as to how to do this. The teacher eventually becomes the secretary after the students have been trained how to be discussion leaders. Everyone gets a chance to be the leader for at least one meeting during the year. It is very easy for the teacher to want to take over and be the one in charge, but this does not allow the children to develop the responsibility that they are so often able to show if we give them a chance. If the steps are followed as outlined in the book, the teacher becomes a coach and facilitator.

     One chapter deals with how to build the child's self-concept through techniques such as personality packs, silent messages, "Me" mandalas, Student of the Week. Student teachers will especially appreciate the examples of letters to parents, and experienced teachers will find some new ideas as to how they could adapt some of their present practices. A discussion of how teachers would like their classrooms to be is valuable for any teacher. We all strive for a caring, "community" learning environment, and we are always looking for new ideas to accomplish this idea.

     The author gives suggestions for assessing how well the classmates have fulfilled their responsibilities in the class meetings. Blackline masters of how to evaluate a mandala, an oral presentation, and a personal best self evaluation are documented. Specific examples of goals and how to evaluate their attainment are described. Suggestions for teacher observations, interesting ideas for celebrations at the end of a term and awards are listed.

     Throughout this concise book, Styles has included actual comments from students about what they have learned from participating in class meetings. It is important that teachers hear what students feel and whether they understand what we are trying to do.

     One problem that I did find was that the author suggests a picture book, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, but she does not give any bibliographic information to help the reader locate it. Professional resources are given in the bibliography, but many are from 1977, 1980, 1985 and 1986; only one of the seventeen resources is from 2000. There is one videotape from 1999 and only one web site is suggested.

     This brief book would be useful for teachers already in the field as well as for student teachers who are preparing to enter the profession.

Recommended.

A recently retired teacher, Gary Evans is also an instructor of Social Studies, Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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