Aaaaaaaaaa, so long July, hello August! As a teacher, I have a love/hate relationship with August, but we must learn to work it out as we’re both here to stay. With that in mind, I happily begin thinking about how much I love my classroom. It’s a place where my students thrive academically and socially. I’ve found that there are three key ingredients that make my classroom a place where my students love to be (me too)!
First, my classroom is a place focused on active instruction and learning. “Sit and Git” is so yesterday! I want my students to be engaged in learning and discovery. If you peered inside my classroom, you would observe a non-traditional classroom. You would see students actively participating in hands-on activities. They would be working in teams, moving around and talking! You would hear me asking higher level thinking questions, as I encourage my students to gather and interpret evidence and form hypotheses about the past. You would see students engaged ‘on task’ and hear students talking about the lesson and activity. You would experience true learning that takes place when the teacher is the facilitator, not lecturer. I want my students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Second, I want my classroom to be a place where mutual respect is apparent between students and teacher. You will see my students effectively working in pairs, triads and quads to complete assignments. You will hear noise, you’ll see movement, and you won’t see behavior problems. You will experience the sights and sounds of success! I spend the first month of school on activities that allow the students to get to know each other – time well spent in order to foster a cooperative tolerant classroom environment the rest of the year!
I’ve saved my favorite ingredient for last. I follow a consistent lesson cycle that builds schema for the students. I begin each lesson with a Preview Assignment. Preview assignments connect to prior knowledge and are used to introduce the lesson. A preview allows student to make real-world connections, in order to understand events from the past. Next, I make sure that I introduce the content with an activity that is engaging and hands-on. This is where I hook my students – they say “WOW” and I know they are getting it. This part of the lesson cycle sets the purpose for digging deeper and remembering the content! I rely on TCI’s Six Powerful Teaching Strategies to deliver my social studies content. I end every lesson with a Processing Assignment. Processing assignments allow students to apply what they have learned at the end of the lesson.
Think about your classroom. What do you want to see? What do you want to hear? What you want your classroom to look like this year? Do you need to make some major changes or some minor tweaking to make it student-centered? You can download the Look Fors in the Classroom (PDF) to help you create a classroom that incorporates best practices. Your students deserve your best shot! Here’s to a wonderful new school year, I hoped you fall in love with teaching all over again! August isn’t so bad after all! For Administrators: What to Look For in an Engaging Classroom