I love this time of year. January 1st means little to me. For those of us who call ourselves educators, the “new year” starts when the school buses start rolling again. Everyone is fresh-faced and full of excitement. For those of us who teach, it’s a chance to reinvent ourselves and our methods once again.
I’m back to full steam with this little blog too- as usual, I have more ideas for you than time. As I sat down over the weekend to gather my thoughts, I filled a page with things I want to share with you; new research, puppet ideas, movement based lessons, arts integration concepts… wowee!
Ultimately though, I kept coming back to a little slogan that popped into my mind and wouldn’t go away.
It’s nothing earth-shattering at all. Ready?
“What works? Let’s do that.”
I think it came to me when I was listening to my mom (who is a high school principal at a school of almost 4,000 students- yes that is four thousand) prepare her opening remarks for her faculty. She was recalling the teacher who made the biggest impact on her during her high school years (back in the early 1960s.) The teacher implemented these practices:
1. Learning was a highly social endeavor. My mom recalls that students were frequently put into groups or pairs to work together. Very little work/thinking was done in isolation.
2. Learning related to current culture. The teacher found ways to connect content to events and information that was current with the culture. She harnessed student interest areas and curiosity.
3. Learning was active. Even though the class was a social studies class, my mom recalls that they rarely sat at desks. The teacher often asked the students to stand or move around.
4. The teacher was passionate about connecting to her students on a personal level and valued a positive sense of community in her classroom.
5. “Work”/ assignments operated within the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Students were required to THINK. Words used to describe the kinds of work done by the students would be research, decide, judge, evaluate, present, debate, create, and persuade.
This was back in the 60s, friends. And yet, it’s all still considered “best practice” today.
While many things in education seem to change at warp speed, some things haven’t changed at all. Good teaching is good teaching.
As you start your new year, put this question in your mind. What works?
Be brutally honest with your answer.
Does the 30 minutes your students spend on “morning work” each day bear rewards in terms of your classroom community and student growth? If not, replace it with something that does.
Does your behavior management system work? If not, change it!
Does your current writing curriculum produce writers who can generate ideas, compose thoughtful and clear pieces, and write passionately for a variety of audiences? If it doesn’t, try a new approach.
Figure out what works, and then do that!
To inspire you, here are a few things that work for me (and many others.)
1- Be intentional about building a strong classroom community. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for a successful school year. It is my key to effective classroom management.
2- Plan experiences that provide authentic, “real world” learning for students. I’ve talked about this topic a good deal. One of my most popular posts is 7 Ideas for Replacing Worksheets with Wonder.
Another way to bring authenticity is through “real” projects that integrate multiple curriculum areas. I showcased my friend, Cassie’s, Shoe Store project in the past. You also *must see* Bevin’s Fun-Doh project. It’s a fantastic example of a project-based experience that is rich with integrated, authentic learning. Love it, Bevin!!!
3- Arts Integration! The arts are so misunderstood (just like so many artists.) I’ve talked before about the power of the arts to reach and teach our students- especially those who struggle the most. I have a lot more to say about the arts this year so stay tuned.
There are so many other things we could add to the “what works” list. What would you add? What works for your students?