In my first two practicums I tried to memorize student names early but it took a lot of time to establish meaningful connections with my students. It was far easier to establish relationships when I taught grade 6 because the students were eager to write detailed letters of introduction to me and I saw them for three quarters of the day. I felt that I got to know my Science 14s early because there were only eleven of them. However, my two grade 9 classes of approximately thirty students each were only in my room for 45 minutes a day.
I hope that when I have one class of students for 3 hours a day I will be able to spend more time with each of them. That said, I only have 10 weeks to complete an entire course so I must establish these relationships early in order for my students to feel a sense of belonging and set them up for success.
I believe that building relationships is the key first step in education. The short truth is that youth will not learn from someone who they do not like. More fully, students need to like a teacher in order to become engaged in the classroom and enjoy their learning experiences. High school students do not always need to like their teachers but they need to respect them and trust them in order to buy into their teaching with a feeling of confidence that their teachers will help students to pass their courses.
- Name game
- Getting to know you formative pre-assessments
- One-on-one interviews
- Circulating during group work
- Circulating during partner projects
- Stand in the hall during break and make self available during Flex block
- Continually check in with students and learn more about them as the quarter continues on
- Know every student's name by the end of day 1
- Know at least one unique thing about each student by the end of week 1
- Having at least 2 positive interactions with each student one-on-one in the first week that lasts longer than 5 seconds
- Meet with each student individually for informal interviews to discuss their pre-assessments and goals
- Have at least 1 small interaction with each student each day (such as a greeting or a question how they are doing) throughout the entire quarter to maintain positive relationships and build them stronger
- Maintain positive relationships by having casual conversations during project work time throughout the quarter
- Have informal interviews to discuss projects and give feedback while asking students how they are feeling in the classroom
My Education 2500 Teacher Associate said that she used the "rule of thumb" that children's attention spans are as long as their age in minutes, plus or minus a few minutes. Considering this strategy, my Teacher Associate would change up her readings, activities, or worksheets approximately every ten minutes for her 10-year-old grade fives.
In my second practicum I tried using calm.com guided visualizations to settle in my grade 9 classes. However, this was not an effective strategy for my 45-minute classes as a 2-minute visualization could take 10 minutes of class time if students would not stop talking before and immediately after this quiet time.
Maintaining focus can be difficult for many people. Students need efficient transitions and multiple activities to hold their attention for an extended period of time. Changing activities allows students time to re-focus on a topic and extends their attention spans. Being engaged also extends a student's focus. Even with engaging and well-transitioned activities, sometimes students need a break to calm down their minds and rejuvenate their bodies.
I want to maximize the potential within my classroom to be an efficient and effective learning environment that sets students up for success and reduces stress.
- Fun science fact of the day
- Quick brain games
- Body movement breaks (stretches, chair yoga)
Chunk activities into 20 minute blocks
Utilize a brain break every 40 minutes
- 3 hour lesson plans show clear 20 minute chunked sections and plans for scheduled brain breaks
- Classroom management is effective enough to make transition time less than 30 seconds between learning activities
- An effective brain break will rest the part of the mind that is focussed on science class and will help students to re-focus once the brain break is over. This will be qualitatively measured by observations/field notes and teacher reflections.
All free images were obtained through a "labelled for re-use" Google search.
- Knew every student's name by the middle of first block on day 1 for both quarters
- Knew at least one unique thing about each student in Science 10 by the end of day one from getting-to-know-you sheets
- Knew at least one unique thing about each student in Science 24 from 1-on-1 conversations the first two days of class
- Interacted with each Science 10 student by scheduled 1-on-1 interviews during project work time, and when students were in room during lunch
- Constantly interacted with each Science 24 student, and made sure to follow discipline with praise for a different action within a half hour of reprimand to keep the relationship positive
- Greeted each student as they entered class each day (unless had headphones in or were talking with friends, and I made a note to ask them later how they were doing that day)
- At the end of quarter one I received feedback forms that were full of appreciative words, such as, "you helped me to settle into high school life and gave me confidence in myself " and "Thank you for everything, and not giving up on me. Including helping me catch up!"
- In quarter two, my previous students would come say hi to me and tell me how they were doing.
- My lesson plans showed chunked sections, different activities, and scheduled brain breaks that were embedded into PowerPoint slideshow
- Transitioning with Science 10s took less than 30 seconds, however transitioning with the Science 24s would take longer
- All brain breaks used were effective in getting students to refocus, brighten up, and appear less lethargic
- My collaborative professional inquiry project sought out effective and efficient instructional strategies that I was able to use throughout my practicum experience. This project is available online at: http://easyteachertoolbox.weebly.com/
- The learning environment of my classrooms became more efficient as I gained confidence in the strategies that I employed within them