I teach my students that I am not the only one with a job in the classroom, I teach them it is their job right now to be professional students. I have set a culutre of formal learning within my room and this means that when students enter they will need to be ready to learn. Students who do not enter correctly are asked to walk to the end of the line and try again.
Upon entering my classroom, students know what to do because it is posted in the same place everyday. Similarly, we follow a steady routine so students know exactly what to do and when to do it. I continue to provide reminders, but this is only to reinforce our expectations. I communicate my expecrations using a firm but quiet voice helps the students understand that they are in a safe environment and have my support. As a result I ahve a great relationship with my students and overall hae a very positive environment to promote learning.
I work hard to find ways to make lessons engaging for students and make it something that they can remember. This involves incorporating many real-life lessons, common items and names, popular culture, and also changing up the way I teach and length of lessons. Sometimes we will sit at our tables, sometimes we will sit on top of them. Sometimes I will have students come close to the white board or perhaps all stand in a circle to conduct a class discussion. I also find it engaging to take students outside whenever we are speaking about environment or nature topics. Students learn in a wide variety of ways and get bored quickly, as do I, so I do my best to teach lessons in a variety of ways.
Learning within the classroom takes place in a variety of ways:
1. Textbook Reading: If we are conducting a lesson that involves reading the textbook, students keep their groups accontable to be on correct page and follow along with their finger. In addition, I display the textbook on the board using the document camera. As I read the text, I have the students finish out my sentences using a cloze read method and assure they are following along.
2. Group Learing: If a text is broken up into sections, I will split up the class and have each group research a section and later present it to the class. As groups present, the class takes notes as well.
3. Multi-media: This can be in the form of a short film, or perhaps a video I have recorded myself using Screencastify.
4. Singing: We use singing as a way to memorize formulas or special vocabulary phrases
5. Art: Many times I have students stop and create a visual of what we are learning about. This can be a drawing, a poster, a mold or anything they can come up with.
6. Computer Based: Our students have 1 to 1 chrome books and are able to learn from websites that cater to students specific levels and skills. Students are also able to create and publish their projects in a variety of ways on the Chromes.
7. Whiteboards: I'll bring the students into a seated group in front of a small section of the white board and teach them a mini-lesson. During this format, students watch what I do and listen to what I say.
8. Partner Feedback: Many times during lecture or reading times, I will pause the lesson, and have students teach eachother what they have learned using "Teach" "OK" method
9. Whole Brain Learning: While teaching students, I create hand and body motions to go along with it. Students repeat my motions and teach their partners the motions and standard learned as well.
10. COLOSO: Not only is the COLOSO posted up for myself and administration, but I make sure students know what we are doing, what it's purpose is, and what essential question this can answer for us later. Students teach this to a partner as well.
While I am teaching it is important for me to be calm, or else I will get my students wilded up and out of control. This is a delicate balance and what I have found that helps is motivating the students by rewarding their positive behavior even when it is hard to stay on task. B.F. Skinner and Baum are theorists who believed that behavior is learned by the way one is condiitioned and by their environment. I also believe it is important to assure we use POSITIVE reinforcement within the classroom. In order for me to use positive reinforcement it has got to be "cheap" as Jones reminds us. Cheap rewards are things like verbal praise, early recess, free time, student choice projects, limited time free seating or even as simple as 5 minutes computer time.
Positive reinforcement of good behvior will be given to students after we have practiced and drilled our procedures. There are many procedures I have practiced with my students that they understand and can expect to be rewarded for. Here is an example:
Expectations for Entering the Classroom
1. Greet me at the Door - Each time we come inside the room, you will entire one at a time, giving me eye-contact, a smile, a Hello, and a high 5.
2. Walk with Purpose- Students will wak into the room with a purpose. This means when we enter the room, students are getting supplies and getting straight to work. Students are not stopping by a friends desk to talk or walk around aimlessly.
3. We will recite, memorize, and repeat our clss moto: We are Mrs. Rountree's students- we are kind, we respect, we forgive, we watch out for others, we work hard and always do our best!
Students are verbally praised when they follow this procedure and earn class dojo points for their great work. When groups earn 30 points, this means they receive 30 minutes free time on Friday. Students value this and work hard for it. When procedures of any kind are not performed like we practiced, that simply means we need to practice again. I try not to punish students unless they are obviously unwilling to follow the rules. However, if I see that students do not understand my expectations then I understand this is my fault and that is why we repeat the drills and practicing procedures.
My goal for my students is to be profecient in each standard that is given throughout the year. This is an extrememly high goal, I am not sure it is realistic for my demographic however I believe that I shouldn't teach them any less just because they have less already. This will take much planning on my end, as well as being a very organized assessor in order to understand who is profiecient and who isn't. I believe this may take a while to develop this skill and I am willing to work hard to learn how to do this and be the best I can be.
I also want to work towards uplifting each student's growth mindset. We will work towards this by studying the various methods and scientific ways our minds grow and the ways failure is helpful to us. The app Class Dojo has many helpful short videos to assist with teaching this to my students. Students enjoy watching the videos and learning how the characters grow.
A final goal I have for my classroom is to improve their reading skills as much as possible. In order to acheive this, I will need to make sure I am assessing students reading level on a daily to weekly basis. I have seen this done in other classrooms and have seen great success because of the constant overview of student acheivement. I understand that this will take much planning, so I plan to be consistent and valuable. I will provide students with a weekly supply of individual reading they can do on their own that is at their level. I will also check on students as they are silent reading to make sure they aren't just staring at the book and actually progressing. I have individual reading confrence packets printed for each student for next year, and plan on doing these on a bi-weekly schedule. I plan on finding the weaknesses in my readers as well and find ways to help them learn and grow as best I can. Improving my students reading skills is my top priority next year as I understand that this skill will be their foundation for learning in their future. My goal is to set them up with the best future I can, I know they have so much potential to soar.