Depending on when your school year started, you’ve probably made it through the initial sprint of setting up routines, establishing the foundation for your class culture, and everything in between. Now as you move into the fall, it’s time to evaluate and refine your communication with families.
- How are you letting them know about your classroom’s activities?
- How are they learning about the progress of their children?
- How are you getting families involved?
Check out these four tips for communicating with your students’ families throughout the school year.
At the beginning of the school year, we spend a lot of time and energy building class culture. And with good reason: once we get into the school year, having a positive classroom environment goes a long way.
But as you settle in with your new class or classes over the first few weeks, you begin to move away from community-building activities and spend the majority of your time teaching content. When that happens, it’s time to turn your attention to planning. Follow these five tips and get inspired to create engaging lesson plans.
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“High school students hate history. When they list their favorite subjects, history always comes in last. They consider it “the most irrelevant” of 21 school subjects, not applicable to life today. “Borr-r-ring” is the adjective they apply to it. When they can, they avoid it, even though most students get higher grades in history than in math, science, or English. Even when they are forced to take history, they repress it, so every year or two another study decries what our 17-year-olds don’t know… “
And so begins James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.
The study of society and our collective past is important. It helps us understand ourselves, how we got to the present, and the world around us. It’s interesting that, as a society, we show a great interest in our culture and history. Whether it be historical novels and nonfiction, games, television programs, feature films, museum exhibits, or Broadway shows, American audiences — young and old — are fascinated with the “story of us.”
Yet our students sleep through the classes that present it.
One thing we know for sure is that the world of the neatly compartmentalized content teacher has changed when it comes to teaching literacy. Whether tackling speaking and listening standards or student writing, many secondary teachers outside of ELA struggle with how to give appropriate and meaningful feedback to students through a literacy lens — which is not their specialty — and still meet the demands of their content area. The good news is most content teachers possess strong literacy skills. A few great strategies are all they need to feel more confident and help students grow as communicators and in content knowledge simultaneously.
Welcome to The New Year!
A time to celebrate, reflect, and set goals. As teachers, we naturally set goals for ourselves in January. Even though it’s a midpoint in the school year, for some reason January feels like a fresh start. But what about our students? Do they use January as a time to reflect, reboot, and set goals for themselves? While hopefully reflection and goal setting are a natural part of your class culture (and if not, check out our Growth Mindset Deep Dive for ideas), January is a great time to ask students to reflect and set some larger learning goals to work toward over the rest of the school year. Here are four ways you can help:
In math class, we often see students pull numbers out of math problems and operate on them without thinking about the context. Many students arrive at an answer, but don’t realize their answer doesn’t make sense within the context of the problem.
When this happens, we’re left wondering many things that are extremely important in our future planning:
- Are they struggling with the math?
- Are they struggling with comprehension of the text?
- Are they making sense of the problem as mentioned in SMP1?
After reading Brian Bushart’s blog post, I’ve found that taking the numbers and questions out of the problem itself engages students in making sense of contexts. Students are then able to notice and wonder about the context without the worry of having to solve for something.
As students walk into school every fall, I focus on routines and procedures emphasizing classroom management. I have students repeatedly practice these expectations to effectively maintain a safe and engaging classroom. However, over the past few years, in addition to focusing on routines and procedures, I’ve become increasingly interested in the intentional and sustained engagement of students in critical conversations and curious thinking practices. Once students are engaged in the core of my content area, procedures make more sense and become embedded in the learning foundation already established.
The following strategies represent 5 ideas that will help to create engagement while also focusing on a sense of community in your classroom.
Most of us realize the importance of a warm-up to get our bodies and minds ready, whether we’re talking about exercising, singing, or learning. But what about the cool down? How you close a lesson is just as important as how you open it. Yet all too often, we run out of time. Or, we look at the clock, see our students are still working hard, and think to ourselves, why interrupt their flow? But there are proven benefits to taking even just one minute to wrap up a lesson.
In those last moments, you and your students have a chance to check for understanding, reflect on what you’ve learned, tie up loose ends, or make sure everyone is ready for the next part of the day. You could even just take a moment to breathe! If you’re looking for new ideas on how to wrap up your next lesson, here are five things you can try.
Managing a class isn’t easy! Before you can teach content, you need to create a positive learning environment (check out our Class Culture Deep Dive for tips on how to do that). Building culture is a long process, one that eventually makes management easier. But what do you do when you need your class to calm down and focus? Or how do you deal with a student who is outright defiant?
Attention getters, do nows, morning meetings, hugs, and high fives. These are often the ways teachers start their days. By now, you probably have your routines in place for how you start your day or class period. But sometimes it’s good to mix it up. Or maybe you’re looking for an exciting entrance to a specific lesson plan. Just like writers, teachers often need a hook!
Whether you’re mixing it up or just curious about what other teachers do, check out these five videos to see five different ways teachers start their lessons.