Firstly, I’d like to point out that:
- This isn’t gospel and only my take on things. You need to decide for yourself what kind of teacher you want to be.
- You don’t need to use a single thing I’ve written but it’s nice to have some ideas and a starting point or maybe even a reminder of something you hadn’t considered.
- Students have usually got 10-15 different teachers across their timetable and each has different expectation so don’t get frustrated if you told a class what you expect once, because chances are they will forget next time you see them. Take some time to decide what you expect of the students and what sort of teacher you want to be.
I think organisation is very important in teaching. Not only being able to organisation yourself but also the students themselves. It’s one thing to have your lessons planned and homework printed each week but if you don’t teach/show students how to organise themselves then the homework won’t be completed or at least not on time. I’ll explain this in a bit more detail later.
The first thing I like to do in the new year is organise seating plans for each class. That in itself could be a whole blog but I try to seat students with other students they would be comfortable discussing their work with. I don’t think any seating plan approach is wrong or right and they all have their issues and merits but for my way of teaching I want students to be able to turn to the person next to them and say ‘look I did it this way, what did you do?’ I do look out for characters/talkers/those needing more support in the class and try to keep them closer to the front so I can redirect their attention when it wanes or address issues without disrupting the lesson. I make notes on my seating plans if needed and there are some great excel documents like ‘seated for success’ that I’ve seen (also idoceo have a good seating plan on their app) The initial seating plan is so I can learn names. I try to move students around on a half termly basis, trying out different combinations of students.
The next thing I do is plan which days I want to set and collect homework in. For me, this must be the same day each week for a class. I have found when I do this student are likely to remember and hand it in. If I set it Wednesday some weeks and Monday on others, then there always the complaints that ‘I didn’t know we had homework’ regardless of ‘Show my homework’ or their journals etc. I also like to collect homework on a day when they have lunch straight after or it’s the last lesson of the day. In the first week I explain to the students that if the homework isn’t done they can stay back and I can help them after school or at lunch. This has stopped the stress of trying to get homework in from students as they leave for another lesson. On the lessons where homework is coming in, I always set a starter that they can spend a few minutes discussing. This is so I can go round the room and check who has/hasn’t done the homework and it stops the group around my desk telling me which pet ate their homework. It also stops students trying to complete the homework in the lesson when they should be doing something else.
When I set the homework I like to just do a check that homework has been written in their planners (although SMH is cutting the need for this a little bit) I do find that these habits in the first few weeks/months mean that the class generally don’t forget to write/do/hand in homework and the remainder of the year I am not needing to chase students up or keep them behind and because everyone completes it we can use some of the lesson time to peer assess the homework.
As I mentioned before, you need to decide yourself what kind of teacher you want to be but for me I find that a pot of pencils, rulers etc on the desk are handy for those who don’t have equipment. I know we expect students to bring in their equipment. I know we even have a behaviour policy in which negative points can be awarded for forgetting equipment but in my experience the time consumption to dole out points and lecture the student could be better spent. Also, some students have very turbulent lives and my number one goal in the classroom is for learning to take place. Yes, bringing in a pen is important too, but for me it’s not as important as every students being able to have the equipment and I don’t really want to start the lesson on a negative vibe.
Also, its good to explain what you expect students to write in their books, do you want dates/titles underlined? Is homework to be done at the back? Does it need labelling? Is it important that books are neat?
Noise in the classroom
There are at times noise in the classroom and at other times there is silence, maybe at times one person is talking, other times many.
As long as you feel in control of the noise and it’s what you want then this is fine.
I find that if I explain at the start of the year what I want, students are clear on my expectations and will follow it.
For me, I like only one voice at a time when it’s a class discussion and then I will expect a noisier classroom if its paired or group work. It’s helpful to have a method to get the class back once they are noisy.
Not sure this would work in a classroom in the UK but I worked many years in summer camps in the USA with huge groups of students. They adopted a method of clapping and saying in a loud but not shouty voice… ‘clap once if you can hear me’… this was usually followed by the closest students clapping and that created a louder noise for when you said ‘clap twice if you can hear me’ I find standing still at the front of the classroom just alerting the closest that it time to be quiet, then the rest follow.
Whiteboards/Match up Activities
I was told in my first year that whiteboards and Match ups should wait a few weeks, learn names first. Knowing a name is very powerful, not: ‘hold on, let me look you up on the seating plan’ but actually knowing their names. Also, whiteboards and match ups can be chaotic so if you want to use them asap then make sure you plan how you want to hand them out and take them back in.
I like to hand out the whiteboards/rubbers at the start of the lesson but hand out pens when they actually need to use them. This prevents students doodling during explanations. I also test all my pens regularly. Nothing more irritating then setting a MWB task and hands shooting up to ask for a pen that works.
With match up activities, I like to wait before using them, because they can be time consuming to prepare. Are you going to cut the match ups for them? Will they be putting them in an envelope after or sticking then down?
At the end of the activity I like to tell the class how I want them packed away. Even classes I’ve taught several years forget. Please pass the boards forward and along to the left. Or do you want each students to walk out with a board, pen and rubber?
I have free minutes on my mobile so whilst marking books I do try and make a few phone calls home for positive reasons. I also try and iron out any issues that have occurred via a friendly phone call home. Parents like the contact and then it’s nice at parents evening when I have already spoken to most parents several times in the year.