Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tips and Ideas for December

Last night teachers in the 2010-2011 Inspired Teaching Institute shared strategies that have worked for them in response to common classroom challenges. Please share your thoughts and we'll update the lists!

How do you encourage independent reading in your students?
  • Have books of various reading levels constantly available to the students and teach them how to identify books that are at an appropriate level of difficulty for their personal reading level.
  • Topics of non-fiction reading should be current/popular things that the children are motivated to learn about.
  • Change the books that students see on the bookshelves so the library is never static.
  • Parent/student book club where all students in the class read the same book and their parents do too. At the end of the book they all come together and discuss the book over a meal (prepared by the participants).

Describe a “right-before-winter-break” activity that has gone well in your classroom:

  • Posters/art projects that combine seasonal imagery (turkeys, snow-scenes, winter hats, etc.) with writing (prompts such as: What are you thankful for? What traditions do you celebrate with your family in December?)
  • Communal meals in which every student takes a part (families are even better!)
  • Making ice cream!
  • Writing personal autobiographies - anything to do with "me" grabs attention.
  • Service projects that incorporate social studies, language arts, and math - like working at local shelters, conducting food drives or penny wars - each project has lots of opportunities for research, reflection, building social skills - and applying academic learning in life outside of school.

How do you address the needs of students who never understand directions?

  • Seek ideas/feedback from co-workers, parents, peers.
  • Give them written instructions to go with my oral instructions, or the other way around.
  • Ask the child to repeat the instructions back to me.
  • Have students write down instructions given orally.
  • Ask students to check their understanding of the directions by explaining them to their peers.
  • Give students time/strategies to be ready for the directions.
  • Have students act out the steps of an activity physically before sitting down to do it.

What kinds of things do you do to “get back in the routine” when school starts again in January?

  • Have students create New Year’s resolutions for what they want to accomplish in the second half of the school year.
  • Games that review and reinforce procedures/expectations.
  • I let the students set up the classroom space (redesign).
  • I give a survey before winter break that gives ME feedback from the students about how they feel the class is going and what they want to see change. When we return from break I explain how I am using that feedback to create specific changes.

When do you have students teach each other? (And how?)
  • We do lots of reciprocal teaching, complete with rubrics!
  • We are buddies with another class (younger students) and my students develop “lessons” to teach their buddies. They really have to understand the material to figure out how to communicate it to a younger audience.
  • Often if I’m teaching a science unit with lots of components (about the planets, for example) I break the class into groups so each group becomes an expert on a particular part of the curriculum and then their project consists of creating a lesson to teach the rest of the class about what they’ve learned. Students learn about lesson design, facilitation, as well as really grasping the content at the highest level because they are able to teach it to others.

How do you get in touch with parents or guardians who are unreachable?

  • Come to school early so you catch them when kids are being dropped off.
  • Stay late one day so you can catch them when kids are being picked up from after school programs.
  • Call at times that are convenient to parents – talk to students to figure out when those times might be.
  • Ask the principal for assistance.
  • Set up conferences at times that are convenient for parents – consider meeting on weekends when they might not be working.
  • Invite parents to school events either during the school day or afterward. Make the events inviting by including food.
  • Class plays or school-wide events can be good times to catch parents.
  • Talk to older siblings in the school to find out how best to reach parents.
  • Find out other family members you can reach out to – are there aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. who regularly come to the school for this child, or relatives of this child?