I think many of us have fond memories of our classrooms from our elementary years. The special reading nooks, the fancy floor rugs upon which we would sit as we happily listened to stories or discussed our classroom plans for the day during morning “meetings”, the colorful and thoughtful decor that conveyed a sense of creativity in our teacher as well as their personality. These days, it is very easy to look online and find so many wonderful ideas for primary classrooms, but it can be more difficult to find the same level of excitement for decorating a secondary classroom. Why is this? Why do secondary teachers not get as excited about their classroom “theme” or decor? Perhaps we feel that our students will not appreciate it. Maybe we are afraid that they will roll their eyes or poke-fun at our attempt? Although this may be true on the outside, I honestly feel that they do appreciate it– even if they don’t express it to you directly. Here are my ideas for things to consider when decorating your secondary classroom (some are more focused on fun and some are more focused on practicality):
I may be biased on this one, but, I really believe that Science is the great ‘connector’ of all subjects. In this new era of common core, we will need to be creative on how we integrate all of the subjects as we teach. I believe that science is the answer as well as the easiest common thread in which to sew together our educational blanket, so to speak.
I think many people can be intimidated when it comes to Science. They might have flashbacks to dissecting a frog in Biology, or calculating moles in Chemistry… that is not science. Science is much more than those memories. However, I think those negative memories can become all-encompassing and people may begin distancing themselves more and more from science due to feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by it. Don’t let science scare you away from incorporating it into your own curriculum. Remember, any subject can be connected to science; it has a place in every classroom. Let’s examine some ways to bring science into your classroom where you are teaching something that you feel more comfortable with:
Mistakes are a very, very important part of the learning process. However, I notice more and more that my students are afraid to make any kind of mistake. It appears to me that they are fearful of looking foolish in front of their peers (and even me, if we are working one-on-one). We know that teenagers can be extremely self conscious and do not want to ‘lose face’ in front of others. However, I find it valuable to teach them that there is no shame in being wrong or in making errors. In fact, I try to instill in them that these ‘faults’ are valuable and should be celebrated in the classroom.
I was having lunch with a friend recently (she is in her 3rd year of teaching) and she talked about the difficulty of dealing with students who “already know everything.” I think this is something that almost every teacher has faced at some point and subsequently asked themselves: “How do you teach a child who already knows the material?” The following are my thoughts on this common classroom issue:
As a close for the year/as a start to the year, I thought I might discuss a successful mini PBL (project based learning) I tried out before the winter break began! My students have just about finished chemistry and I thought it might be fun to have the students come up with the review game for a change! Below you will find a summary of the week(ish) long project as well as some examples of what they created!
I just recently got back from a conference. I love going to conferences. I mean, I REALLY love going to them. I think most teachers have a strong affinity for learning. After all, we have chosen to stay in school for the rest of our lives! I love learning. I love sitting in classrooms, I love listening to other people who are considered experts in their field, I love hearing new ideas that inspire me and make me want to try new things! If you have not been to an educational conference (or any conference for that matter), I would highly suggest it. That being said, it can be a bit overwhelming. So, here are some friendly tips on properly preparing for attending a conference.
Most teachers are well aware that we are one of the few professions (if not the only) where you have to do more work if you call in sick then if you were to just go to work and struggle through it. It doesn’t seem right that when we are feeling terrible we need to try and create or write up a coherent lesson plan that anyone could implement while taking our place in the classroom. Even if we want to just take a day off, we need to prepare ahead of time and come up with a plan-of-attack for our substitute. It’s unfair, but it is also the way things are. This is what I do to make my life easier when I am out of the classroom.
This is the time of year when we are able to reflect on what we are grateful for. I, for one, am eternally grateful for my amazing and supportive spouse, without whom I would not be be writing this blog. I am also grateful for my wonderful family and my adorably sweet dog. I am grateful for my job, my quirky and strong coworkers and, last but not least, my outstanding students! Gratitude is a beautiful thing that shines a light and brings our focus to all of the good that surrounds us (even when it appears that we are only surrounded by muck). So, how do we teach our students to be grateful?
Everyone likes to play games. Games make things fun! Games help to pass the time! Games allow us to turn an otherwise dull task into something exciting! A lot of it might also be the competition. How else do you explain why spelling words with little wooden tiles can be so entertaining?? If you asked me to do that by myself as an assignment or task: no-thank-you! If you asked me whether or not I could do it better then someone else: challenge accepted!
I have found that incorporating play into everyday routines in my classroom has allowed my students to enjoy tasks and participate more in things that they normally would not. It has also created buy-in when it otherwise would be very difficult to achieve. The following are ways in which I have incorporated play and competition into my classroom:
We’ve all heard the words “If you do that one more time…” which are quickly followed by some kind of threat. Most of us may have heard our parents say that, probably followed by “you’ll be grounded for a week!” However, this phrase is not unfamiliar to teachers either. This old parenting “gem” is generally brought out in dire situations when we are at our wits’ end and don’t know what to do; we generally follow it up with “You’re going to the principle’s office” or “I’m writing you a referral” or “You’re going to have to spend the rest of the period in the corner wearing a dunce cap!” (oh wait, it’s not 1956. Never mind).
I have found that when trying to motivate students to do what is right (or what I want them to do in class), the carrot works much better than the stick.
Motivating students can be difficult, especially if you are asking them to do something they don’t want to do, like sit quietly at their desk and work on an assignment without distracting others (or themselves). However, it is at these times that we should try the carrot, rather than the stick. Threats rarely work, and if they do, the motivation you are giving your students is coming from the wrong place; students should not be working out of fear they will get into trouble. When students are fearful, this can lead to them feeling uncomfortable in your classroom because it has become an unsafe learning environment (not physically unsafe, but they may begin to fear getting into trouble everyday and thus dread coming to your classroom. None of us want that).
Here are some situations when I implement the carrot, rather than the stick: