Tightening Up Strategies for the New Year

By Eric Antuna on January 7, 2010

Happy New Year! I hope that everyone had a great time during their Winter Break. Now is a great time to inventory what's been working in your classroom. Remember that although we each work differently and have our own styles, take time to assess which strategies have been working in your classroom and make a fresh start of the New Year!


Chances are you've been to countless in-services and workshops that all have to do with student engagement, instructional strategies, standards tracing or backwards mapping – you name it and you've done it. At some in-services you took away invaluable information, while at others you begrudgingly attended as a mandatory teacher in-service training. If you're like me, your classroom has become a wasteland of different instructional strategies with attempts at trying to duplicate those strategies, good intentions at getting a system started, or countless ideas sitting on the back burner. Use the following suggestions, in addition to your fantastic professional judgment, to determine which ideas you should keep and which ideas to throw out for the New Year:


Instructional Strategies: 

Are you seeing student success and engagement? Do you constantly find yourself fighting for students’ attention? If so, maybe you should reevaluate the delivery of your lessons. Also, take into account timing. Students’ attention spans are very short, 10-15 minutes, at best. The rule of thumb that I've heard is ten minutes plus a minute for each grade (so for second grade it's 10 + 2 for 12 minutes).


Classroom Management Strategies:

Do you spend more time dealing with student behavior than teaching? Try giving challenging students different types of attention and tasks to do. Give them a journal to write in when they need to ask you a question. Allow them to sit in 2-3 different places in the classroom or to work standing up so they are able to burn off that extra steam while working. I've had great success with a student that spends about an hour in rotation between three teachers. Each teacher had to sign off on a behavior contract with the student and then his grandma would give him a prize based on how well he did. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it worked wonders with his behavior and academic progress.

Routines:

Are your students into a routine? Do they follow the classroom rules while working independently work or during center time? Take a moment to review classroom rules or create a student-made video like teacher advisor Megan Power did with her kindergarten students. 


De-Stress Your Life:

I know it's easier said than done, but finding an activity outside the classroom will help you to become better focused on the things that need to get done in the classroom. Yoga, exercise or reading a book helps to relieve stress. In fact, I started a new fitness plan to help me de-stress. Remember to take breaks, we all need them!  And one more thing (I am terrible at this), learn to say NO! It's in our blood to want to help. I often find myself on countless committees or hosting parent night with very little help (all worthy projects), but there's a limit to what we should allow ourselves to do without feeling guilty.
 

I've found that writing down these things makes it easier to evaluate my teaching and helps me to focus on student success. If you have had any success with reevaluating yourself for the New Year, please share! I hope everyone has a great year!!!

Thanks for reading!

Eric

Comments

Where can I find information about first grade reading workshops?

Sandy-

I would check with your district office for local workshops, otherwise check out organizations like: www.reading.org www.ncte.org www. californiareads.org

And, of course, www.scholastic.com has an amazing amount of information and videos on reading and teaching reading.

Thanks!

-Sandy

You should read some works by Alphie Kohn. He is a former educator who writes about building your class into a working community without the use of rewards or punishments. You talked about the student with the behavior chart and if he did good, his grandma would give him a prize. The drawback to this approach is that the kid will associate good behavior with a prize, and in the future when the prizes don't come when he does something good, then he will either be confused or get upset. It's Pavlov's dog. Will the student really understand the benefits of making good choices or is he merely making good choices to get the prize?

Clint-

Thanks for the comment! I have read and watched many of the books and videos by Alfie Kohn and I almost completely agree with the all lectures he writes and speaks about, my particular favorite is the article, "The Case Against Competition." Forgive me for not clarifying in my blog about this particular student: It was a very special case in which this child had very strong emotional problems and we needed to intervene with the family. Without going into the private details of the matter, he was emotionally disturbed and could not, would not listen or behave in school or at home. Since the intervention (in October 2009), we have seen a huge difference in behavior and have changed how we "deal" with him. He is now in class all day and does not receive a daily reward from grandma. I think just the fact that he saw different teachers throughout the day using the same "system" as well as seeing that same "system" at home showed to him that there was a network of people who cared about him and helped to calm him and bring him around again. Meeting this child today, you would not know of the situation that caused him to behave the way he did. I do not believe that teachers should have a system in place that is compensatory to behavior - all students will eventually see through this system and allow for further behavior issues.

-Eric

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