Wednesday, July 5, 2017

4 Ways To Make This School Year Different



As teachers, we strive to improve every year. If you had an usually rough year last year, or just want to improve, this post is for you!

I've tried a lot of different things to prepare for going back to school. These 4 have made the biggest impact!

1. Overhaul your classroom management system.

One of the major things I've done recently is to make changes to my classroom management system. I used to save hundreds of classroom management pins to Pinterest every summer, and then spend weeks getting it all set up. 
  • Keep it simple. A complex reward system makes it easy to fall behind, and then students don't take it seriously. The best rewards are ones you can prepare before school starts and use seamlessly within your instruction.
  • Keep it positive! I hate behavior plans, and so do my students. Get a form ready for next year that has an area for student goals and self reflection. Ditch anything that has bad behaviors listed or negative consequences.
  • Keep rewards free. You're going to spend enough money on other stuff for your classroom. Any rewards you give students should be free. A few ideas I love are a V.I.P table, choose a seat pass, and a pass for extra reading time. One year I spent almost $200 on chips and candy from Sam's Club. Lesson learned.
Here is what my plan is for this school year:
  1. Print 500 note home postcards on Vistaprint ($15)
  2. Prep my Digital Brag Tags using a spreadsheet of all the sharing links from my Google Drive
  3. Continue morning meeting.
positive notes home classroom management idea
Click here to download the free template.


2. Get organized, and stay organized.

One of the biggest issues I have during the school year is staying organized. There's usually plenty of time to get organized before school starts, but once school is in session, it becomes impossible to keep up on it! 

Here is how I solved this problem in my classroom:
  1. Posted supply procedures: Next to each area in my classroom that students have access to, I posted procedures for the supplies. At the end of the day, we all reviewed the procedures for the area and checked to see if they were followed. We did this for a couple of weeks, and then I assigned students to do it for me. If there was an issue with an area, we addressed it as a class. My students were very good about following the posted procedures as long as we continued to review them. This saved me a lot of time having to go through and reorganize these areas myself.
  2. I got a teacher apron. Yes, it's super dorky, but I leave stuff everywhere. It got to the point where I would spend 10 minutes hunting for a pen I set down, just to find out that it was sitting on a student's desk. I had so many areas in my room where I kept stuff that it was overwhelming. I bought my teacher apron, and every morning I would go through it to make sure I had the correct supplies and it was cleaned and organized. Having one small area of teacher stuff to organize really helped.
  3. Create a sustainable class library system. My favorite way to do this is by having students input our books into Classroom Booksource. There aren't any bar codes needed or anything complicated. Students search for the title of the book and then click it to check out under their names. I keep an old laptop next to the library for just checking out books. When Scholastic orders come in, I have students trained to add them to the library and display them in our new book area (see below).
Our New Release Section

3. Set personal goals.

We get so wrapped up in teaching during the school year that sometimes we forget that we have lives outside the classroom. Set some personal goals for the year, like reading a couple of books, or spending some time at the lake one weekend a month. Setting (and keeping) personal goals will improve your attitude in your classroom. 

Here are some items you may want to include in your personal goals:
  • Not grading anything on Saturdays, or the whole weekend if you can swing it.
  • Leaving your classroom on time.
  • Making yourself a priority by doing something just for you once a month.

4. Give students ownership.

If you were constantly exhausted last year, chances are you were doing too much for your students. Let your students take on more responsibilities this year. 
  • Put students in charge of ALL classroom chores and prep work. 
  • Instead of grading every single writing piece or homework assignment, give them a self-reflection form and let them grade themselves occasionally. 
  • Give less whole group instruction. Students lose interest quickly, and whole group instruction is a lot of work for the teacher. Focus on small groups, centers, and open-ended activities. Project-based learning is my favorite instruction method. It allows for students to make choices, is real-world, and allows me to facilitate their learning instead of cramming it down their throats. Find more information on project-based learning here.

Have a wonderful school year this year, and don't forget to relax!

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