Monday, January 7, 2008

What can I do in my classroom to maximize student success?

So you have 5 and a half months of school to go, and a room full of students primed and ready for the most important stretch of the academic year. You want every one of them to be successful, but you have SO MANY to keep track of! What can you do to maximize their potential right now? Consider the following questions and ideas as they relate to your class:

The Physical Classroom
Study your classroom throughout the day and look at how the space is being used. Consider the following questions and think about new ways to organize the room to best suit the needs of you and your students.
  • Do you have a quiet corner for students who need to get away from external stimuli to focus?
  • Can you easily move students from individual work to group or partner work?
  • Do students know where to find things in the room if they need to get their own supplies (pencils, paper, staples, paper clips, scissors, etc.)?
  • If you have a teacher-desk, where is it located? How do you use it? Is there another way to use that space that would be better for students?
  • Do you have computers in your room? If they don’t work, is there a way you can move them to free up space? If they do work, is there a way you can use them more for students who learn best with this tool?
  • How do you move around the room throughout the day? Is it easy for you to reach all students? How could you rearrange desks so that your path is even easier to travel?
Student to student relationships
There is only one of you in the classroom at any given moment, but there are always many students. At this point in the year you can use that to your advantage and share a little more of the responsibility for teaching with the class. For example:
  • Partner students of different abilities so some have teaching opportunities and others have an additional support.
  • Create small working groups that focus on different projects (reading different books, taking math problems at different levels of complexity, research projects on different topics).
  • Try the “ask 3, then me” rule where students can ask for help from 3 of their fellow students before they ask you. This gives you more time to work individually with students and fosters more self-reliance in the classroom.
Creative Techniques for Each Individual Child
You can’t possibly meet every student’s needs all the time, but there are some tiny individual things you might consider that end up helping everyone in the class. For example:
  • Can you give your more physical students something to manipulate (like a squishy ball, or a piece of yarn) so they can burn off energy and pay attention?
  • Do your students always have to sit in chairs? Some might be more comfortable on the floor (consider getting some cheap carpet squares, pillows, or yoga mats for this purpose), and some might even be more comfortable if they can stand. See if a local office supply store will donate clipboards to your class for those students who hate to be confined to a desk.
  • What happens when you play music in class? Some students really do learn better when there is a little noise in the air. Some need total quiet. Think about what would happen if you allowed headphones in class when students are working independently. (In some schools these aren’t allowed and they pose problems when it comes to stealing, but for some students they can make the difference between acting out and getting down to the business of learning.)

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