These guides for first-year teachers offer crucial tips for managing the classroom, students, curriculum, parent communication, and, of course, time.
Been There, Done That: Managing Disruptions
Experienced teachers share their tips for dealing with disruptions and keeping the class schedule on track.
PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
Whether it's a school assembly, a shortened day, or a student acting up in class, there are many things that can disrupt the flow of your teaching day. These breaks in the day's schedule don't have to blow you off course. Here are some suggestions from experienced teachers on how to stay on track.
How do you stay on track with your teaching plans despite unexpected interruptions?
"To ensure that we stay on schedule in spite of things like impromptu assemblies, I use lesson compaction. For each standard, I have a quick mini-lesson of just the basic concepts behind the standard. . . . Also, at the beginning of the year, I train students how to respond quickly and efficiently to one- or two-word instructions. For instance, when I say 'line up,' they know to silently form a line at the back of the room and then proceed in the direction I point to — outside for fire drills, inside to the library, to the back to the cafeteria. Plus, I use a wind chime to get silence and signing to show complete quiet is required."
—Chris Knoblaugh, San Jose, California
"When I moved into a new school and school system recently, I was overwhelmed by the many, many distractions going on throughout the day. Things started feeling fragmented and halfway done. So, I made a list of the things in our schedule that could not be compromised. I included activities such as 'I will individually conference/meet with 4–5 students daily on their writing/reading,' and 'My students will read/write for at least 30 minutes daily.' To me, if I can provide this time in the schedule for my kids, then I need to stop worrying about that worksheet on helping verbs being missed. What matters to you most? What matters to your kids? Let THAT stay in your schedule and don't let anyone take it away from you."
—Angela Bunyi, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
"Some of the biggest disruptions to the day are those birthday treats! One great way to manage this is to incorporate it into your star student schedule. At the beginning of the year, I plan my star student or student of the week according to each student's birthday or half-birthday. During that week they do various 'star student' activities each day, but on Friday we celebrate their birthday or half-birthday. That way parents know when to bring in treats in advance and your regular daily schedule is not disrupted."
—Melissa Blevins, Leawood, Kansas
"I teach sixth, seventh, and eighth grade Language Arts and Science. With schedule changes happening all of the time, it is important to be flexible. I found a way to 'schedule' schedule changes. Here's what I do: I block one period for each grade on Fridays to do an integrated science and writing activity. On this day, students research current events in science or read the Current Science magazine and reflect on it in writing. Sometimes I implement other writing or integrated activities. However, the activity is not related to whatever unit we are working on at the time. If for some reason a lesson is missed during the week because of an assembly, it is done during this period instead of the current events activity. This way students stay on track with the unit and my lesson plans do not need to be completely rearranged."
—Kelly Savasta, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
"Disruptions in the daily schedule, such as an assembly program, an unplanned fire drill, etc., can be solved by simply requiring the students to always have good reading material with them or by maintaining a classroom library. Anytime there is a shift in the expected lesson plan and you need to fill a gap of time, ask students to read silently or to volunteer to talk about a good book they've read recently. Either way is a productive method of handling an unexpected change in schedule."
—Deleana Badger, LeCanto, Florida