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Secrets six through eight focus on the importance of creating an academically and engaging community for learning. The significance of clear and explicit routines is well established in the research literature. Studies document specific, effective practices including: explicit instruction of classroom expectations, routines and procedures, providing a clear rationale for classroom rules and procedures, and modeling and practicing procedures and routines. The significant points emphasized in this literature are that effective teachers have detailed and explicit procedures for routine classroom interactions and tasks, that teachers’ procedures are rationally grounded in the need for respectful classroom interactions, and that the teachers spend time at the beginning of the year teaching and practicing classroom routines just as carefully as they teach academic content (Bohn, Roehrig, & Pressley, 2004; Emmer, Evertson, & Anderson, 1980; Evertson & Anderson, 1979; LePage, et al, 2005).
Research also clearly documents the importance of being consistent and insistent in establishing expectations for behavior and in dealing with classroom misbehavior. The studies stress frequent use of praise and humor, absence of threats, quick attention to inappropriate behavior, and careful attention to students’ needs. The research describes the teacher as a “warm demander” – a teacher who is personally connected to students yet consistently reinforces appropriate behavior and insists that inappropriate behavior stop. The literature stresses that teachers must be insistent in order to ensure a respectful environment that ensures children respect and support one another (Bondy, Ross, Gallingane & Hambacher, 2007; Brown, 2003; Patrick, et al, 2003; Ware, 2006).
Clearly, a well-managed classroom with explicit routines and procedures that are consistently enforced establishes a safe and orderly classroom conducive to learning. The teachers also stress, however, that the classroom must be engaging. Research suggests that students learn more when their teachers make the effort to make learning meaningful and memorable. Teachers do this by using varied strategies including many listed in the section on Teaching Strategies that Work. However, the significance of teacher enthusiasm and energy is expressly documented in the literature as are varied techniques that teachers use to ensure that learners are actively involved in the learning process (Bondy, Langley, Mayne, Williamson & Forman, 2007; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Pickens & Eick, 2009; Stortz &Nestor, 2008).
The use of tangible reinforcers is one area where the research literature is divided with some researchers advocating reinforcement as a strategy to increase desirable behaviors and others arguing that external reinforcers undermine intrinsic motivation. The appropriate use of reinforcement seems to depend on its skillful use. Appropriate use by these teachers involves reinforcement for academic effort, not compliance with rules. In addition, these teachers use reinforcers to add an element of playfulness into the classroom – a use of reinforcement not described by researchers (Akin-Little, Eckert, & Little, 2004). Humor, appropriately used, is another strategy that helps engage and motivate students and make learning more memorable (Minchew & Hopper, 2008; Wanzer, Frymier, Wojtaxzczyk, & Smith, 2006). However, as Wanzer, et al. note, the key is “appropriate” use as there is conflicting evidence about the use of humor. Certainly, humor to be effective must be developmentally appropriate, perceived as humorous by the learner, and connected to the content being taught. Wanzer and colleagues found that inappropriate and therefore ineffective humor is disparaging or targets students or groups by their characteristics.