3 Things NOT To Do in Your Classroom This Year

I was in the classroom for 26 years and I have to admit I fumbled many times. The good thing is I found what works and what doesn't work. Throughout those bumps in the road, there are lessons to be learned- even for teachers! Read on to find out what NOT to do in the classroom and alternative suggestions that will have your students begging to learn!



1.  DON'T USE A TEXTBOOK EXCLUSIVELY


I'm not going to lie. When I first started teaching back in the dark ages, I thought the textbook was the best way. Who knew better than an already created source of information? I quickly learned that students weren't learning as much as I thought and guess what? They were bored reading one page after another. Look at a textbook as a guide, not the sole plan of your lesson. Think of Social Studies for example. When I was teaching American History in fourth grade, we had a textbook. My students were learning the bare minimum. There was so much information, that I didn't know where to focus my time. Then I started digging deep into the standards and picked and pulled the important information out of the text and created fun and motivating activities into my lessons. Students can learn about a part of the Revolutionary War by holding a protest. Have your kiddos make "No Taxation Without Representation" posters and march around the room (or the halls if your principal will let you!) That left such an impact on my students! Not only did I find ways to engage my students, but I also implemented language arts lessons to kill two birds with one stone. Genius right? Students can be learning essential reading skills along with Social Studies content. For example: learn about cause and effect, text evidence, inference! And don't forget writing! Students can dig deep into the curriculum with writing. For example, pretend you are one of the explorers coming to the new world. What did you find? In summary, use the textbook or other text for information, but provide activities for students to use their critical thinking skills. They will not only enjoy your class, but their learning will develop exponentially! Trust me!

2.  DON'T ASSUME YOUR STUDENTS KNOW HOW TO WRITE


Did you ever give your students a writing prompt or assignment and expect them to write this wonderful story or essay without giving them basic instruction? Come on, you know you did! I'll admit I did! I thought by fourth grade, they knew the basics so I would give them prompts from the very beginning of the year. I thought they learned to form complete sentences and write paragraphs in earlier grades. Well that is a huge assumption. I quickly learned that many of my students needed to go back to square one and others needed a refresher. Since then, I started scaffolding my writing lessons. I started off every year with basic sentence structure, moved into paragraph writing, and then they were ready for stories and essays. Using a step-by-step approach was the answer to writing success in my classroom. There is a writing blog series of STEP-BY-STEP WRITING MINI LESSONS found here. Use as you wish! You will find the order that I taught my lessons. It was a game changer for me. My students also loved using interactive writing notebooks in my class. Writing quickly became their favorite subject. It helped them keep a record of lessons to refer back to when writing. And guess what? It also follows the step-by-step instruction along with modeling for every lesson. If you are interested in learning more about INTERACTIVE WRITING NOTEBOOKS, visit this post.  It will tell you everything you need to know about them! In summary, don't assume! Start off the year with basic writing instruction!


3. DON'T GIVE UNNECCESARY HOMEWORK


I can't stress this one enough. Do you know I used to load my students with homework? I wanted to make sure they were reviewing every subject. I actually thought the parents would like to see what they worked on each day and have the opportunity to review with them. I quickly realized parents were overwhelmed and not as accepting to the homework load as I thought. Not being a parent myself at the time, I didn't quite get it. I learned that kids are involved in so many things these days. From sports, to after school activities, to church functions. Not to mention, they need to wind down and play after school! That is when I decided to minimize homework assignments. First of all, if we had a test coming up, I would give them a study guide well in advance. Yes, a study guide! Please give your students a study guide. If you want them to learn certain information, give it to them! I learned from my own children, when a teacher doesn't give a study guide, it is a wild goose chase. We had to dig through all the materials to find what to study and half the time it wasn't the right thing. Study guides are important! I gave study guides for everything- from simple poetry vocabulary to large Social Studies unit tests. They knew exactly what they needed to study. Other than studying for tests, I made it simple. I wanted the students reading. Regular reading logs just didn't work for me. How did I know they were reading each night?  This blog post How To Know Your Students Are Reading Each Night goes into more detail. The basic concept is to provide them with a variety of reading responses to go along with their reading. In summary, keep your homework simple by providing study guides and a meaningful reading log.

I hope you found some useful ideas on what NOT to do and what you can do to make an easy transition into the school year! They worked for me so I hope they work for you as well!





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