New year, new start! As we enter 2018, people across the world, give up chocolate, take up exercise and make new resolutions. But, what will you change in the classroom? Here are 10 easy tweaks you can make to your professional practice that can make a huge difference to you and your children!
No. 1 - 'Have I explained it well enough?'
'Do you understand?' is the phrase most often said by a teacher, moments before the children start an activity. And of course, is the child in the corner, who has absolutely no idea what you have been waffling on about for the last ten minutes, really going to stick their hand up and admit it? The answer is no. However, by replacing 'Do you understand?' with 'Have I explained myself well enough?' the ownership of the issues shifts from them to you. It is you who has not explained it well enough opposed to them not understanding. This frees a child's anxiety to admit that they need a little extra help. Give it a go tomorrow and you will see the difference it makes.
No. 2 - A questions only lesson
Fancy a challenge? Try teaching a full lesson without saying anything other than questions. One of the most common comments during lesson feedback is 'too much teacher talk.' This challenge encourages teachers to put the ownership back on the children. Instead of giving instructions ask the children what they think they should do next with the resources provided. If a child asks a question to you, throw the question back and encourage them to solve the problem themselves or with their peers. Let us know how you get on!
No. 3 - Headspace
With a consistent focus on testing and achievement, schools schedule students for days full of academic work; hours of sitting still at a desk and an expectation that they can compartmentalise their feelings. When those emotions seep through in the form of outbursts, it is seen as misbehaviour and is often punished. Additionally, we as teacher suffer the same trials on a day to day basis of trying to tick boxes and force children through these test preparations.
Mindfulness gives each student and yourself an opportunity to study and value their/your own thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Those who may not routinely experience success in other, more academically focused classes can show particularly wonderful growth. Their ability to speak with clarity about themselves can grow, and with it a sense of self - as valued members of the school community. After practicing mindfulness, you may notice that they sit a little straighter, participate more readily in other components of class, and, over time, are able to manage their inner selves in new and powerful ways.
Headspace is a free app which can facilitate these short but important sessions during the day. Plug it into a speaker and start your assemblies off with some mindfulness. Give it a go today!
No. 4 - Teach yourself something new
The internet is a wonderful resource for teachers to gain new ideas, gather free resources and share experiences. In 2018, take some time to sign up for online courses, start a blog or participate in #EDCHAT discussions on twitter. There is nothing more valuable than communicating with other practitioners globally. We offer our own free online classes which can be found here. Enjoy!
No. 5 - A digital Story Hunt
The idea surrounds taking the children on a journey as a story is told! WAGOLLs can be cut into sections and placed in various places around the classroom, school or even an external location such as a park or school trip. The teacher and children then move through the story, reading the paragraphs as a journey.
By doing this; Stories and narratives are brought to life; Children are engaged more with the text; Pupils are eager to predict what happens next and Settings and objects from the story can present at each station to add extra engagement.
No. 6 - Use Adhesive Whiteboards
Sick and tired of handing out whiteboards and markers every time you want a child to note down an idea? It may sound simple but by adding adhesive whiteboards to your tables, children's' creativity, critical thinking and independence suddenly increases because they are not hindered by a lack of space to note down ideas. You can even purchase whiteboard paint and turn your classroom walls into whiteboards.
Here are a few examples to get you started:
No. 8 - The power of 'yet'
We will let Sesame Street explain this one...
No. 9 - Feedback only marking
Too often do you hear of teachers' workloads being heavily increased due to marking expectations and policies. Additionally, too often do you see the marking having no impact on a child's progress and learning. The focus should not be on marking but on feedback. feedback does not have to be recorded. Indeed, Ofsted themselves state 'While inspectors will consider how written and oral feedback is used to promote learning, Ofsted does not expect to see any written record of oral feedback provided to pupils by teachers.'
Evidencing the impact of oral or written feedback can be done in many ways but the best is a simple record of how children have improved, edited or added to their work. Children can do this in a different colour pen or pencil to make it stand out or can make their own recordings of their learning. So, scrap the marking and focus on feedback for learning.
No. 10 - Logical Consequences
A 2006 study found 81.5 percent of schools allowed students to be excluded from play time. While teachers may think taking away play time is an effective way to punish students for bad behaviour, play time plays an important role in children’s development. Research shows the value of play time: It gives kids a much-needed break from intense studying, teaches them social skills, encourages them to use their imagination, and allows them to exercise. On top of this, the students that are kept in at play times for misbehaviour are usually the students that need it most. The children that can’t sit still and focus are usually the children found being stopped from doing this at play time.
According to Mike Anderson, a developer for Responsive Classroom, their approach distinguishes between logical consequences and punishments. Logical consequences are directly tied to the behaviour and are aimed at teaching students the skills to channel their energy in more productive ways. In addition to being directly tied to specific instances of misbehaviour, logical consequences should be respectful of both the student and the teacher and developmentally appropriate. So, a logical consequence for making a mess in the lunch hall might be to clean up that mess, but not to clean the entire cafeteria. it would make sense to have a logical consequence related to play time if the misbehaviour is related to play time. For example, if a student has been pushing other kids on the playground, that student might miss play time for a few days in order to meet with a school councillor to talk about safe behaviour on the playground. punishments, in Anderson’s view, are less effective in the long-term because they are not directly related to the misbehaviour and often aim to humiliate or shame the student opposed to countering the negative actions.