These guides for first-year teachers offer crucial tips for managing the classroom, students, curriculum, parent communication, and, of course, time.
One of the biggest shocks to new teachers is the sheer amount of time involved in evaluating and grading students' work. Veteran teacher Lisa Roe recalls, "When I was going to college, I was never told how much grading and record keeping there'd be. As a student teacher, I wrote the lesson plans and my supporting teacher did all the grading. I was just never exposed to all the paperwork. If you're not on top of it daily, you'll be swamped." Here are some suggestions on keeping the paperwork to a minimum:
- Instead of correcting each and every homework assignment, give quick and random quizzes to assess what's been learned. Collect and grade them on some days, and on others, give students the answers to evaluate their own quizzes. That way they will always be motivated to learn from the homework you assign.
- Informally assess by having students sign or signal answers. A simple head shake, raised hand, or hand signal can indicate answers to your questions. Deviant signals stand out. If you suspect students are following their classmates' signals, ask them to close their eyes and signal their answers.
- Verbal responses, individual or in chorus, are another way to check learning. Student-to-student methods of response give each student the chance to respond, and a peer will usually correct wrong responses.
- Measure student achievement formally by preparing short quizzes that test specific skills and concepts. These are easy to correct, and they give information you can use immediately.
- Get help from your students. Instead of developing and duplicating practice pages, have your students make their own practice problems. To gauge their comprehension, for example, have students make up five questions that could be used to test whether their classmates understood the chapter. Have them star the question they think is best. Examine that one question. If you doubt the student's understanding, then check the rest. Choose several of the best questions to discuss as a class or answer individually.
Homework and in-class assignments serve specific purposes, usually to give students a chance to practice new skills or brush up on old ones. Even though you don't always have to grade the work, you have to show them you value their efforts. Otherwise, they won't take the work seriously. Here are some ways you can demonstrate that:
- On worksheets, mark a circle near each problem a student answers incorrectly. When the students correct the mistakes, simply add a K beside the original circle to show it's OK now.
- Use an all-purpose chart to keep track of completed assignments on a daily basis.
- Have students mark their own or each other's papers when possible. (Check your district's policy before you use this idea.)
- Use a pen of one color to record work that is handed in on time and another for work that comes in late. Avoid using red to mark anything because it is considered a negative color.
This article was adapted from Learning to Teach...Not Just for Beginners: The Essential Guide for All Teachers by Linda Shalaway (© 2005, Scholastic).