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.
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!
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?
We all remember the excitement and anticipation we felt as Halloween neared when we were kids. Let’s be honest, some of us still feel that way as adults! I am one of those adults. As soon as my calendar turns to October 1st, I get up early to go to the store and buy mini pumpkins that I can distribute around my classroom (I usually buy about 10). Then, about half-way through the month, I decorate for Halloween. The week of Halloween is usually a delightful mash-up of Halloween themed lessons/demos (like this), labs (like this), activities (like this) and silly movies (like this). Sometimes I think I get more into this holiday then my students do (some of them, at least)!
Below are just a small sampling of my classroom decorations; I really hope you enjoy them!
(All decorations came from the Dollar Tree, the pumpkins came from the grocery store. In total, I spent less then 10 dollars total!)
These paper bats were pre cut, but decided to laminate them so that I can reuse them from year to year. I taped string to the back and tied that to a paper-clip that I used to hang the bats from my light fixtures. I really enjoy the 3-dimentionality that these hanging bats create in my classroom.
I have found that really working on building trusting relationships with my students is the best tool I have ever had for classroom management. Once your students trust you and respect you, the level of required classroom management drops significantly. I try to keep my classroom fun and feeling safe to them. Teenagers already feel targeted by adults and are so sensitive to any punishment; this is why I try to make my classroom management strategies more ‘friendly’ than serious as they are less likely to blow up and freak out. Here are my ‘friendly’ classroom management techniques: