The First Days is a series of blog posts aimed at new teachers, or teachers just looking for ideas or reminders. The purpose is to help in the establishment of a solid foundation on which you can build an awesome school year. This is by no means a definitive list. The best way to fully prepare for the year ahead is read as much as possible, open your mind, commit to the idea of change, and to proactively seek out experienced colleagues willing to share their best practices. Hopefully, the ideas below will be one of the steps on your road to awesomeness!
When you are first setting up your classroom, it is tempting to fill those blank walls with posters that are fun, bright and/or motivational. For instance, there’s that one with the cat clinging to the edge of a precipice with the caption “Hang in there!”. Or, “Listen has the same letters as Silent”. And there are those bazillion “Keep Calm and…” posters.
These posters are fine. They communicate positivity and a certain whimsical nature.
But, there are more important messages you can post on your walls – messages you can refer to regularly, and often with simply a gesture.
For instance, in my Social Studies classroom, I am always harping on the students to support their ideas with evidence. So, I created anchor charts that do just that. Here’s some of the reminders I have posted right above my whiteboard:
- I think _______ because _______
- I agree with ______ because ________
- That’s a good idea, but in my opinion ___________ because _________
- My idea is related to ______’s idea. I think _____ because _________
During the first few weeks, when a student utters an unsupported statement, I stop them and point up to my poster. Then I encourage them to add a “because” to their idea and follow through with evidence. Later in the year, I don’t have to speak – I simply point to the poster.
Sometimes students don’t remember or even know what constitutes evidence. So, another poster I use lists examples of supporting evidence. The poster includes things like:
When a student presents an idea and has no idea how to support it, I can gesture towards that poster to spark some ideas.
To ensure classroom discussions are always polite, I have a chart that offers a variety of ways of indicating disagreement without being rude or demeaning:
- “That’s a good idea. Another idea could be _________”
- “I’m not sure I agree. Maybe __________”
- “Has anyone thought about __________”
- “Let’s look at it from this point of view _________”
For me, the name of the game is usefulness. If a poster isn’t doing a job (other than just being punny!) then maybe it shouldn’t be up on my wall, or – at the very least – maybe it shouldn’t occupy prime real estate in my room.
What are your thoughts? What do you post up in your room? We would love to hear from you!
And BTW – here’s hoping your admin team doesn’t schedule too many meetings or “team-building” activities and you actually get enough time to work on your room!