Monday, 4 February 2013

Start of the Year GOLD

The school year in Australia has recently kicked off and as part of that I've been setting up many classroom routines and procedures. We're now in the midst of full learning mode, however, there were a few extremely helpful elements of the set up that I'd like to share here:

- Descripto faces: These proved a great relationship building exercise and a light-hearted fun, literacy-based activity with a hint of numeracy (in the key that features in the code). These are explained on my BRAND NEW CLASS BLOG @ www.meltonwest.blogspot.com.  

- Discussing classroom rights and responsibilities in the context of values: For example, in discussing resilience, I referred to the blind American Masterchef winner (Christine), who refused to let her impairment stand in the way of her passion. I told the students Christine's story, that she fought on throughout the competition despite her doubters. Even when another contestant tried to thwart her by giving her a live crab to cook with she came up victorious. Just prior to the commencement of the grand finale, her competitor said to her that he'd already won the title. She replied not with, "Oh we'll see," and not with, "I'll try my best." No, she replied resiliently and confidently with, "I've got this baby." And she won! We created posters on the school values, with students first brainstorming the meaning of each of the values themselves in mind maps with examples like the one above, and then shared together to create class anchor charts that will remain above our whiteboard all year. Photos to come in the next post.

- Maintaining a calm demeanour myself: I vowed this year to remain calm (not that I was crazy last year), however I often moved fast around the classroom or occasionally would raise my voice in class during my first half year of teaching. This year I made a deal with my students: "I know students prefer teachers who don't shout and I personally don't like shouting myself. Here's the deal: you don't let the noise level raise so high that I need to shout, and nor will I raise my voice." I'm not planning on ever again shouting or raising my voice in the classroom; even if they don't keep up their side of the bargain, I'll use positive reinforcement to those who show me attention promptly and my stare for those who don't.

- Speaking to students with extremely meticulous courtesy: Never once forgetting to say please or thank you and expecting the same in return.

- Setting up specific walls around the room for numeracy, writing, reading and inquiry: These will remain those specific walls for the duration of the year. I've begun adding to these and they will remain anchors for my students. I'm also planning an extremely unique word wall, which I will be posting about in the coming weeks.

- Practising routines: During the first three days we spent a fair amount of time practising lining up, moving to line two-by-two in a routine manner around the tables of the classroom. We practised the morning routine, the afternoon routine and I've already appointed my monitors after a persuasive letter writing task. Four days in, my monitors are already writing the date on the board, handing out notices from our class mailbox at the end of the day and displaying my WALTs for lessons as part of the routine without being signalled or asked, and wiping off the board at the cue of a single hand motion. We spent an entire hour, in the process of labelling our books, practising ruling up exact margins perfectly with only the precisely accurate ones passing the test. I've been following the motto: do the small things right, and the rest will follow. High expectations start with the small things and the students sense that I think.

I do feel blessed this year with a wonderful class though some part of me wonders how the class might have been if I had not put in so much effort and thought into my set up procedures and routines.

What sort of practices help you establish your classroom at the start of a new year?

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