New Year, New You- Keeping Your Resolutions Back
At the beginning of a new year, teachers, just like everyone else, make new resolutions. Most of the time those resolutions include more private concerns such as exercising more, eating better, losing weight, trying new things, etc. However, the New Year also provides a great time for teachers to take a closer look at their teaching methods, styles, and classroom practices to mix things up a little bit. Although most teachers don’t have a minute to sit down or interest in revamping their teaching strategies, especially with the craziness of the first couple of weeks back to school after the New Year, you will set the course for less work later and create more opportunities for learning. While yes, “if it works, don’t fix it”, there are some easy ways to up your game in the classroom to ensure your students get the most out of the year. As a teacher, think about viewing the new year as an opportunity to incorporate different classroom strategies, or to perfect your tried-and-true strategies. This list of suggested resolutions can help improve your teaching as well as make the race towards standardized testing more enjoyable for your classroom and YOU!
1. Sit Back and Look Around: With the amount of different subject’s teachers are projected to cover, it’s no wonder that they rarely have a chance to sit back and evaluate individual learners. Once teachers give an assignment, they are likely to begin getting ready for the next lesson, or grade papers. Instead of moving on to those tasks, take a few minutes to sit back and watch your students while they work on a project. This is a good way to get to know and understand them as individuals. Watching them work in a group will help you figure out their learning styles and identify their different needs.
2. Take Time for Critical Thinking: With all the skills teachers are required to teach in a short amount of time, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time for critical thinking activities. Each month you can focus on a project that requires students to think creatively, use their problem-solving skills, and develop their writing abilities. Depending on the grade, for example, you could ask them to work in groups to design a space ship. Supply a list of websites for research purposes, give them a “budget” for their plans, and have them list the materials they would need. Before turning them loose, provide them with a list of your expectations. This gives the project more structure while also not allowing them to get too out of hand. With a project such as this, you can incorporate critical thinking along with math, language arts, and history.
3. Incorporate Test-Related Questions into Routine Assignments: Often the key to success on standardized testing is to identify the type of question that is being asked. Use steps previously learned to dissect, underline, highlight, etc. While many teachers use test-preparation books or programs to familiarize their students to the types of questions that will be asked, a good way to reduce the stress is by incorporating test prep into weekly assessments. For example, when giving a spelling test, have students look at a list of four words and identify which one is spelled incorrectly, instead of asking them to spell the word. This is a type of question they will encounter on their standardized tests.
With just a little thought and some extra time, you can set out and achieve of making the new year a HUGE success.