It’s finally happening! Green grass is sprouting up, birds are singing, and our mammoth snow piles have melted. Although all of these signs of spring are welcome, anyone who spends any time in schools knows that spring can be a challenging time in the classroom. Students may be more talkative than usual and it’s easy to let the consistent routines that were established in the fall go by the wayside.
Here are three quick tips and resources to help shore up your classroom routines and procedures so you maximize learning in the fourth quarter:
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Greet students at the door with a sign that says I Love a Silent Start and train them to read the board and begin the entry task silently. This is a great way to channel the high energy that may be coming in from the hallway and get students focused on the learning that they’ll do during the hour. Some teachers do a quick write on the topic that you’ll be working on or a quick review from the day before.
The Teaching Channel has this great video of the routine!
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Plan for Movement
Since we know students are going to be needing to move even more in the spring, plan this into your lesson. Here are some of my favorite teaching moves that allow students to move and talk with one another:
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Be Explicit about Behavior Expectations
- How should students enter the room?
- What should students do when they hear my signal?
- What should students do when they return from being absent?
- What are the teacher’s expectations for electronic devices in the classroom?
- What are my expectations for classroom clean up?
- What is our ending classroom routine?
If you would like help with any of these tips your instructional coaches are an awesome resource! You could request that they support you with one particular hour that may need additional reinforcement or just do some planning with them.
Here’s to an awesome and productive spring filled with learning and engagement.
That has certainly been true for me. I've been a teacher for 25 years and I love the profession. But at different points in my career, I have felt intense stress and exhaustion from the demands of the job. It usually hasn't been the heavy workload that gets to me. Rather, it's the emotional labor of the work that I have found to be particularly draining. We all have students coming to our classrooms with high levels of stress, trauma, and mental health needs. These issues affect our ability to teach our content material.
I finally realized what might seem obvious. I could only control myself- my reactions- the way I perceived these challenges and the way I managed my stress. And, so I turned to a practice that I thought might provide some relief- mindfulness. Not only did it make a difference in how I handled stress in the classroom, it helped me slow down and rediscover my happiness in being a teacher. Mindfulness is not a panacea, but it can be an incredibly useful tool for teachers.
Here is the classic definition of mindfulness from Jon Kabat Zinn: "Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally." He also says, "The real practice is living your life as if it really mattered-moment to moment."
Here is a video that I think sums up mindfulness in a fun, perfect way:
We all feel stress, and it can get the best of us in the classroom. Learning how to notice strong emotions, pause before reacting, and calming down our own nervous systems can be hugely beneficial to teachers. You don't need any special cushions, bells, or clothes to learn mindfulness. All that is required is an open mind and a little time every day. Teachers deserve rest, relaxation, and renewal, and mindfulness might just be the tool to help.
Here are a few tips and resources for beginning to learn about, and experiment with, mindfulness:
Start with 1-2 minutes a day of mindfulness practice. Or focus on taking 5 deep breaths when you're feeling stressed.
Don't go it alone.
There are a ton of resources out there. We all need guidance and support when learning a new skill. You are not alone.
- Use an app like 10% Happier, Headspace, or Insight Timer (free).
Take a class. If you have an interested group at your school, contact me and I can come on a PD day or for an after-school session(s).
- Take an online class like Mindfulness Fundamentals through Mindful Schools. (Contact me for a discount on Mindful Schools classes.)
- Sarah Rudell Beach, a former high-school teacher in Apple Valley and my mentor in the year-long Mindful Schools program, also offers online classes on mindfulness. She has classes for beginners, teachers, mothers, and stress reduction.
Read books on the topic. Here are a few titles that I recommend specifically for secondary teachers who are interested in mindfulness.
- Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom by Patricia A. Jennings
- Happy Teachers Change the World: A Guide for Cultivating Mindfulness in Education by Thich Nhat Hanh
- Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Instant gratification is the enemy.
Mindfulness practice is not Candy Crush or Instagram. You're not going to have a huge hit of dopamine every time you practice or become instantly calm. So, take the long view and be patient with yourself. Over time you'll notice a difference.
Bring your mindfulness practice into your daily life.
Formal mindfulness practice (where you sit and pay attention to the breath) is the practice, the training, the bicep curl for real life. The idea is for this training to transfer to your daily life and kick in when you need it. So, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, your brain can remember to take a deep breath instead of going into a state of road rage (as depicted in the video above).
Last spring, I found myself speaking to a group of 343 high school students about mindfulness at the SE MN Student Government Conference at Century High School. I had been presenting on mindfulness quite a bit at that point, but this gig was slightly terrifying to me. Not only was it a huge group, but they were all high-achieving teenagers. They had invited me, but I was worried about the message resonating with them. They were the best audience I had have ever had. Not only were they responsive to the concepts and practice of mindfulness, they were hungry for it.
At the end of the session during the Q and A, one student pointedly asked me, "Why aren't we all learning this?!" I didn't really have a good or satisfying answer for that question, but I told him I was working on it.
What I am confident about is that the first step in bringing mindfulness to our students is for teachers to bring mindfulness to their own lives and the way they teach and relate to students. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in the title of his book, "Happy teachers change the world."
And then I had an AHA! moment: perhaps learning styles are not completely bogus, but more likely, we haven’t looked at them through a cultural lens.
- She comes to school every day talking a mile a minute about everything from the latest episode of her favorite show to who was sitting next to whom at lunch yesterday. She is bubbly and bright and loves school.
- First hour she walks into a classroom where there are opportunities for her to verbalize her thinking and to work in small groups and talk with her friends about her ideas.
- Second hour, she heads to a different classroom where she is expected to sit quietly and work independently.
When it comes to students like Fazia, how often do we ask ourselves why a particular student is a verbal learner?
- What does her home culture value about orality and verbal expressiveness?
- What does her gender group or age group value about it?
- What experiences has this student had that have informed her approach to learning and being in the world?
As I wandered into the rabbit hole of research on this topic, I found so many articles and studies. (If you want to have a few cups of coffee and talk about it all, give me a call! This stuff is my jam!) But, then I came back to the foundations of the work we are doing with Dr. Hollie. He explains, “Notably, the teacher has to know what is cultural and what is not. Fortunately, research provides ample data…about the commonly accepted cultural behaviors of many underserved students” (103). The chart below helps illustrate those particular behaviors.**
Yet, we don’t stop there. This work recognizes the importance of teaching all students in all styles so they can practice modes of learning that may not be as comfortable for them, but that they will need to be successful in both the classroom and the world beyond the classroom walls. The power of this work lies in our intentionality and the moments when we see our students as bearers of cultures that may not be validated in traditional school culture. When we come up against those moments of struggles and can say to our students, “I see you and I honor you, and I care about you enough to give you the tools you need to be successful.”
And so, as we continue on our CLR journey, we continue to ask ourselves the following questions:
- Is this behavior cultural or not?
- What experiences have my students had that inform their learning styles?
- Similarly, how do my own cultural experiences impact the way I view my students and their learning styles?
- How can I validate and affirm my students’ learning styles and am I providing opportunities for them to practice other learning styles so they can build up their cultural dexterity?
If you have any questions or want to talk more about how culture impacts students’ learning, give me call or email me!
** I want to acknowledge that culture is much more fluid than this particular chart shows, and there is a mountain of research on various ways to consider this fluidity, but for our purposes here, it is helpful to consider cultural behavior in this simplified way.
So, Casey reread it. He vacillated on what to do. He called his spouse. He called a friend. He vented to co-workers. Eventually, he went back to the source: he re-connected with the teacher, but this time over the phone.
Hearing Casey’s voice, the teacher sensed his anxiety and assured him that the email had been misunderstood. The teacher had meant to convey, I’m going to explore some ways I can best support your daughter; but Casey had interpreted it as, your daughter needs some immediate behavioral interventions.
This misunderstanding, and all the anxiety that came along with it, could have been avoided by skipping the email and picking up the phone instead.
As teachers, our lives are hectic. We have to manage our time, and often an email appears to be the quickest route for parent/guardian communication. We hop on Skyward, grab the parent/guardian’s email address, open Outlook and we’re off—just a few clicks, some tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard, and we’re all set. Communication home is done. But, in truth, it’s rarely that simple.
In my last classroom, the phone was on the other side of the room from my computer. Calling home meant (1) clicking into Skyward, (2) writing down the number [and crossing my fingers that it wasn’t a long-distance number since my classroom phone blocked such calls], (3) walking across the room to dial, (4) crossing my fingers that the parent/guardian picked up, while also (5) crossing my fingers that if s/he did there were only questions asked that I could answer without having to reference something on my computer which was still across the room... But, despite this complicated process, it was worth it.
Calling home has power:
- It is a two-way process, helping us build a collaborative relationship.
- It allows us to interpret the reactions of those on the other side of the line and adjust accordingly. It enables us to be empathetic.
- It is sociocentric, just as are many of our students and parents.
- We can say more in less time (well-crafted emails take longer to write than some might think; plus, they often lead to a series of replies being sent back and forth which can add to the time factor.)
While, calling home can may be daunting to some, here are three ways to make it more manageable.
This is where the strategy “8 Greats” comes into play.
- Print out your class lists (or simply add a ‘phone call’ column on one you’ve already printed out).
- Each week, pay attention to the good things that you see in your classroom. Jot these down somewhere safe, including the names of who were involved.
- Once a week, refer to your list of good things and choose 8: call these students’ parents/guardians and share the positive story with them.
- Track who you called. This will help you ensure that each student’s parent(s)/guardian(s) get a positive phone call at least once each semester. As the semester goes on, do your best to look for the positive occurrences that connect with the students’ whose parents/guardians you’ve not yet called.
- The 2018 ASCD Road Tested article: “Good reasons to Call Home” by Clint Heitz.
- Chapter 5, “Make that Phone Call,” from the book Kids Deserve it! by Todd Neslony and Adam Welcome.
- Chapter 6, “Positive Communication with Parents,” from the book Dealing with Difficult Parents by Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore.
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Make a Sandwich
Whether you are of a similar generation or are simply not sure what to say once you get someone on the other end of the line, the “Make a Sandwich” strategy might be for you.
- For a difficult conversation, consider this opener: Hello [Mr. Diaz], this is [Heather Lyke]--your daughter’s [4th period English teacher]. I’m hopeful this is a good time to talk. I wanted to connect with you on how we can best support your daughter’s learning.
- For an uplifting conversation, consider this opener: Hello [Mr. Diaz], this is [Heather Lyke]--your daughter’s [4th period English teacher]. I’m hopeful this is a good time to talk. I wanted to connect with you so we could celebrate together something that happened [in your daughter’s class yesterday].
When sharing details, the words we choose, along with the order we put them in, really matter (for more on this topic, check out the past blog post Digging into Diction).
- Avoid phrases that may cause the adult on the receiving end to bristle. Nix phrases like: "I’m concerned about your daughter’s behavior," or "other students are having difficulty concentrating with your daughter always walking around."
- Instead, keep the focus on the student and her learning. Try phrases like: "Your daughter is struggling to stay in her seat during whole group instruction," or "due to your child’s struggle to stay in one spot, I wonder how much of the lesson she is processing."
- Share what strategies you’ve already tried. This illustrates that you wish to work collaboratively, and assures the parent/guardian that you're not simply calling to pass the buck.
Listen. Be open-minded. Understand that there might be pieces of information you’re unaware of.
- While it’s a great idea to have thought out what you’re going to say, it’s important to not have such a tightly prepared script that you forget to collaborate with the parent/guardian. Be ready to adjust based on any new information you receive.
- If you feel better having a tight script, add in moments for listening. Try adding to your script a question like, "Do you have any thoughts on this?" followed by time to hear and process what they share in response.
- For a difficult conversation, consider this closer: Thank you [Mr. Diaz] for your time. I’m certain that together we can best support your daughter’s learning.
- For an uplifting conversation, consider this closer: Thank you [Mr. Diaz] for your time. I’m looking forward to seeing your daughter in class again tomorrow.
If you’d like to read more on this idea, consider exploring chapter 6 “Positive Communication with Parents” from the book Dealing with Difficult Parents by Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore; as well as chapter 13, “Delivering Bad News.”
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This is where the strategy “Quick Calls” works well.
- Early in the year, teach students how you would like them to respond when you ask them to make a “Quick Call.” For instance, one teacher may ask students to use the classroom phone, while another might say cell phone use is fine; one teacher may have a prewritten script at the front of the room for students to use, while another may have students practice with a peer using different scenarios before making a real call home.
- Consider informing parents ahead of time to expect such phone calls, say at parent-night or via a whole-class Skyward message. (If this step is skipped, you might find confused parents emailing you or calling you in reply to the seemingly random phone call they received earlier in the day.)
- Establish a way to easily communicate to students that it’s time to make a call and what you believe the focus of the conversation should be, such as a simple phrase you say or sign you hold up.
- Stand near the student while s/he makes the call. Student messages will vary: from “Hey, mom, I was tardy for the third time this week,” to “Hey, dad, I just want you to know that I now understand why finding a common denominator is important and how I might now use this understanding outside of my math class!”
- Have a way to verify the information and the purpose of the phone call.
Whatever structure you use to make phone calls home, keep parents/guardians like Casey in mind. We want to work collaboratively with our students and their important adults, and that often begins by picking up the phone.
The power in this classroom is that everyone in class is expected to do everything. All students write, all students share, and all students give feedback to each other. No one is able to opt out and all are engaged.
In many classrooms, this same scenario often happens but with one change. After students write or respond, one or two students are chosen to share. Typically, these end up being the same students each day, while the same students remain silent. This silence turns into apathy. Eventually, disengagement.
In 2014, Alexis Wiggins, a fifteen year teaching veteran and daughter of Grant Wiggins wrote a blog post about what she experienced after shadowing two students before beginning as an instructional coach. This is a summary of her first two key takeaways:
Key Takeaway #1:
Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.
Key Takeaway #2:
High school students are sitting passively and listening
during approximately 90 percent of their classes.
- Ask all students to answer any question you pose. You may want to first give them a bit of time to write and then ask them to share their answer with a partner or in a group.
- Use Hold Up Cards. Make a set of cards that say ‘agree’, ‘disagree’, ‘agree with reservations’, and ‘disagree with reservations’. Create statements that students have to respond to; then, after they’ve chosen their response, have them discuss and defend their answers.
- Use Triads. One of my favorite strategies comes from Rick Wormeli’s book Summarization in Any Subject. Begin by asking a question in the typical fashion. The person who answers becomes the first person in the triad. After they’ve responded stay silent as a teacher and ask another student to refute or support what the first person said. The third person in the trio is now called upon to discuss the merits of the second person’s argument. Finally, the first person gets the last word and can add anything they want to their original answer. (Want more details—find them here by clicking on “Instructional Dialogue”.)
- Use Numbered Heads. Place students in table groups and have them number off 1-6. Ask students to discuss any questions you would have normally asked but after they’ve had time to discuss roll a virtual die and ask the student with that number to share from their group. This keeps all students engaged in the discussion but they have the support of their group members before they answer. (Want more details—find them here by clicking on “Instructional Dialogue”.)
- Don’t Let Students Opt Out. If you’ve asked a question and a student doesn’t know the answer be sure to come back to them and have them summarize what they’ve learned or heard from other classmates.
If you’d like to explore more on this topic, some great books to read include Total Participation Techniques by Himmele and Summarization in Any Subject by Rick Wormeli. Also, if you’d like help implementing any of these ideas, please reach out to your Instructional Coach, an Implementation Associate, or me.
“They want to learn,” he said, “but they seem to have too much energy to sit while they do it.”
This influx of energy was causing behavioral problems and productivity issues on the students’ part, and frustration and angst on his part. So, we brainstormed a few strategies (each of which are shared below).
It’s no secret that movement in the classroom is essential, and not just for behavioral and productivity purposes. In short, movement helps to “increase the baseline of new neuron growth” and this neurogenesis leads to “increased cognition, better memory, and reduced likelihood of depression” (Jensen). In fact, “the average learner, regardless of age, needs to briefly move their bodies every 20–30 minutes” because “this enables learners to maintain focus, integrate learning across both of the brain’s hemispheres, enter information into memory, and avoid feeling overwhelmed” (Lamprecht).
- Divide the class into two equal groups—have ½ form an inner circle and ½ form an outer circle
- Have the inner circle face the outer circle, each student partnered with one other from the opposite circle
- Ask the class a question that each pair then discusses
- Once done discussing, have the inner circle move to the right, the outer circle move to the left; then, stop the rotation whenever (try ending the rotation with music that ends, a whistle, or by clapping in rhythm)
- Again, have each inner circle student face an outer circle student—a new partnership has been formed.
- Repeat steps 3-5 until you have gone through all of the discussion questions
- When a circle doesn’t work with the room arrangement, try forming students into two lines (personally, I often took my students into the hallway to form lines because of classroom space issues): just be sure to explain to students how to rotate around when they get to the end of the line.
How it works:
- Set up stations around the room—each station includes a different item (an exemplar essay, a map, a set of fabric swatches, etc.) that each small group will analyze. Be sure the expectations for each station is made clear by having a set of directions set out or having them projected on a screen that all students can see.
- Break the class up into small groups and then assign each group a starting point
- Have students rotate through the stations until they have completed all stations
- If there is a place where students can leave their key takeaways at the station as they rotate through (such as on chart paper or a whiteboard near that station) then, once students have completed all stations, they could do a “Gallery Walk.” To do this, each group takes a few minutes after the “Active Rotations” have concluded to simply rotate through those stations they did earlier in the period, reading the key takeaways at those stations. This allows them to absorb and process the learning of those groups who came after them, adding to their own personal understandings.
Text-on-Text / Text-on-Pic in Stations
An added bonus of this activity: it is done without talking—a great way to ensure that our introverted students are comfortable in the learning environment, too.
- Set up stations around the room—each station has a quote/excerpt/picture in the center of a large piece
- Before rotating, ensure the expectations for each rotation is made clear by going through them ahead of time, as well as possibly having them printed out or projected on a screen that all students can see. (One possible set of expectations is shown in the chart.)
- Break the class into small groups and then assign each group a starting point
- Have students rotate through the stations until they have completed all stations
- It’s tempting to set up these stations at desks or tables, which means students are only moving when they rotate. Consider having the papers taped to the wall instead: this gets students reading and writing while standing, and standing is better for the brain than sitting.
Finally, consider when movement in the classroom is critical, and plan for it. Students are especially antsy the Friday of Homecoming week, during the high-sugar holidays of Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and any school day right before a long break—these are the times where classroom movement is especially welcomed by students.
As you work toward adding more movement into your classroom, please reach out to me or others on the C&I team. We would love to help you explore even more ways to get your students moving while they learn.
This is what the first day of class looks like for students coming into my chemistry class:
The teacher (that’s me) greets students as they make their way to the door.
Students are a lot like adults in that their anxiety level is raised when they are about to meet a new person. By greeting each student, I take care of this anxious moment quickly and help the student put a face with the name. I continue to greet the students at the door as the year progresses. The greeting also allows me to give quick instructions to students who may have been, or soon will be, gone from class.
The room is arranged in double rows allowing for a quick share/pair with a partner or a lab group discussion. The student’s name is written on an index card on his/her assigned seat. There is also a handout entitled: “Class Rules for Conduct and Grading” set out for easy access.
Giving a student an assigned seat to start the period has many advantages that help to support student learning. The teacher knows where his/her students are so that (s)he can quickly and efficiently take roll and the student knows that you have a place reserved for them and that (s)he can quickly get started on the warm-up activity for the day. A seating chart gives the students a predictable starting position and allows the teacher to easily transition to the day’s activities. As opposed to a seating chart, a seating arrangement only informs the teacher and class of the location of desks. No matter the seating arrangement, I always have the students start the day in an assigned seat.
(To read more about various seating arrangements, please visit our previous posts entitled “Room Arrangement Matters”.)
“Objective: To learn the first few of our class routines as a foundation for future learning.”
“Assignment: Record the homework assignment in your notebook/planner..."
After taking attendance, I turn the class’s attention towards me with a raised hand and an attention getter. I pause for a moment and then tell the class that we will start each day with assigned seats and a warm up. I then formally introduce myself to the whole class and then state two truths and a lie about me. I pause for them to guess as to which is the lie and them talk about my truths.
I have students pair with their elbow buddy and take turns listing two truths and a lie. I give the students a few minutes to go through the process. I will use the same attention getter when it is time to end the activity. I collect the index cards and keep them for reference.
With this simple routine, the students see that there will be steps to follow when going in and out of groups. The same procedure is used for each activity that the class will do throughout the year. I describe the activity and make sure the students know how I plan to get their attention for transition to the next activity.
A well planned first day lays the groundwork for the coming days by helping our students know that you are a teacher who has a place for them in class and that you will use procedures and routines to assist them in their learning.
I was wrong.
Needless to say, this has been an eye-opening, learning experience. It has changed my thinking. Soon, when I return to “my own” classroom next year, it will change my actions. Here are some things I now plan to do:
Have a one-page summary of class policies and procedures.
If I were to go by what students tell me as a substitute, the teacher never collects homework, students work in groups while laying on the floor, nobody ever brings paper or pencil to class, they always work outside or in the hall, restroom passes are given freely to anyone and everyone multiple times, friends from other classes are welcome to join at any time, they always line up at the door 10 minutes before class ends, they always use phones and iPads, and the teacher plays music for them throughout the entire class period.
I know I won't be able to keep my students from trying to bend the rules, but it won’t be hard to create a list that includes the following:
- My definition of tardy (in the door, in the seat, a one–minute grace period, etc.)
- What materials students access through me (where I keep the classroom set of textbooks/iPads/calculators, where I keep extra pencils and paper should they be provided, etc.)
- My policy with passes (not given out during first/last ten minutes of class, written in back of the student planner, accessed via QR code on their iPad, etc.)
- My standards for how students do daily work (in pairs, groups, with/without ear-buds in, etc.)
- My flexibility with student movement around the room (there's a group that sits in the corner during work time, I don't allow students to work in the hallway, students can switch seats during work time but not before that, etc.)
- How I have my students turn in materials (basket on the front table, folder attached to the whiteboard, pile on the corner of my desk, etc.)
- Where my students find materials handed out previous days (on my website www. .com, in the binder at the front of the room, from their 'class buddy', etc.)
- A list of areas in my classroom that are off limits to students (my desk, a computer at the front of the room, the art supplies in the cupboard, etc.): believe me, students know where you hide your candy and they will take it or attempt to convince the sub that the teacher hands it out generously.
Have an up-to-date, marked or highlighted seating chart--with pictures.
Attendance is a nightmare for a sub. (Don't believe me, check out the Comedy Central skit "Substitute Teacher" by Key and Peele...) Names are difficult to pronounce. Calling roll is time-consuming and emphasizes the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing, and gives the students a perfect chance to start the hour by playing all kinds of name-changing games. On the other hand, a great seating chart can be a sub’s best-friend. With a great seating chart I can get attendance taken in under a minute and know a variety of information about the students in the class.
When I return to the classroom, my seating chart will certainly include:
- Pictures (this is a must)
- Some markings on the chart (where the desks are in relation to the windows, my teacher desk, the podium, etc.) so the sub can get oriented: this is especially important should I have tables or desks that aren’t in simple rows
- Notes of any seating changes made since the chart was printed
- A key with marks to let the sub know:
- Special Ed students
- Students who can be trusted to answer policy and procedure questions
- Students who are most likely to need some redirection
- Potential conflicts between students
Have an assignment that is relevant to the class and for which students will be accountable.
This is perhaps my biggest takeaway from my experience. In the past I would either ask the sub to play a DVD of the TV show Numbers or tell the students to work on any missing assignments. There are problems with both of these: showing a video requires turning off the lights and it often becomes impossible for students to work on missing assignments because they have either finished it, left it at home, need the teacher to explain it, or have to work with a partner who isn’t in the class that day. Even if a class is not a management problem and the students talk quietly all hour, there is nothing slower than the minute hand of a clock when a sub is just sitting at a desk watching students talk with each other (plus, what learning is happening then?). Okay, there is one other thing slower--the clock when it is the fifth time the sub has watched that same episode of Numbers...
In the future, I’ll just ask the sub to continue with whatever assignment is next in my lesson plan. It may be a little rough, but if I teach the same course more than once, the sub will be great after the first time through. If it is just not possible, see my next suggestion.
Have a set of folders with a variety of stand-alone assignments.
When I return to my own classroom, I’ll be sure to have a variety of stand-alone tasks, and I'll mark each as 10-minute, 25-minute, or a full class period in length. For math, these will be an assortment of logic puzzles or real-world use of math that is at least somewhat connected to the course. It won’t fit perfectly with the day and current standard, but it will be something the students can turn in at the end of the hour for feedback that I can give them later. On the front of each folder will be the time needed for the assignment and a chance for the sub to record the date and hour it was used so I know what can be set out again in the future. (These are also great for when your absence is sudden and you have no opportunity to prepare for a sub ahead of time.)
Foster a respectful classroom environment.
I know this sounds like a cliché, but a class doesn’t change overnight. If I have a class that is built on positive relationships and consistency, I won’t have to threaten them to get them to behave for a sub. On the other hand, if class management is based on fear or there is no consistency, the class won’t respect the sub even if I, the classroom teacher, threatens to write up or assign double detention to every name the sub writes down. A sub can come in and work with any class that has a respectful classroom environment already established, but she'll surely struggle if there is not such an environment already present.
Oh, and one last thing: I’ll hide some chocolate and let the sub know where it is.
Feel free to connect with Dave Pugh via email
The start of the second semester is the perfect time to reflect on our own practice. What is my own philosophy for teaching and learning? How do I see my philosophy reflected in that of my students? Do I see any patterns in student learning? Are any of these patterns based on gender, class, ethnicity in the students I have? How can I adjust my practice to address these patterns?
Rearrangement of the desks or students offers a perfect opportunity for reestablishing expectations for behavior. When students move to a new location in the room they feel less at ease and in need of reassurance of expectations and norms. Use this opportunity to reengage students in resetting and redefining their classroom norms. Finally, now that you have established the norms, remind students of expectations each time you transitions into and out of group activities. Reward students after the transitions for their good behavior with praise.
Reject the idea that student teacher relationships are set in stone because they evolve and change throughout the year. Find opportunities to reconnect with your students by giving them group tasks that require communication with you as the instructor. For instance, assign students to the role of group communicator in charge of relaying information between you and the student group during activities. Use each of these small interactions to build relationships.
Finally, take care of good old number one. Find time outside of the school to enjoy time with friends and family. Reengage in the recreational activities that help you to rejuvenate, relax and recharge. In taking take care of yourself; you are re-energized and ready for your students.
1. Set expectations
Remind your students of how you want them to share their ideas. One author calls this “important participation.” It might sound something like this: “I know you are all anxious to share your thoughts and you have a lot to say. I’m going to give you a number of chances to turn and talk to a partner as well as time to share. To keep things interesting and fun I need you to keep your comments or thoughts in your head until we have a talking time." For students who are having a particularly hard time, schedule a one-on-one conversation to talk with them about your pride in their great ideas but your goal for them to let others share as well.
2. Set Up Routines that give students wait time
When you ask a question, give students time to stop and jot down a few ideas before they share. This gives everyone time to think and reassures students that their ideas won’t be lost.
3. Plan for academic conversations every ten minutes
Students are less likely to blurt out if they know they’ll have time to chart. Research suggests that students need two minutes to process information every ten minutes in a lesson. You can make this work quickly and efficiently by assigning talking partners and by planning these stops into your PowerPoints if you use these to help organize your lesson.
4. Post your expectations for discussions and refer to them
Have a discussion with your students about what a productive discussion or contribution looks like. Create a chart that captures these ideas and refer to them when you need to reteach expectations or redirect behavior.
5. Give your chronic blurters a bit of one-on-one time
If you know you have a student that has a difficult time waiting to share ideas, try to give them a minute of one-on-one time as they come in the door. Often this bit of attention will help them feel valued and will make them less likely to steal the show later.
If you are having a difficult time with one class hour, remember you can connect with your instructional coach for more ideas.
Ideas inspired by the Scholastic article "Seven Ways to Cure the Blurts: How one teacher curbs disruptions and keeps things running smoothly" by Ruth Sidney Charney.
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