5-4-3-2-1 Brrrrring! It is that time of year again. Decorating classrooms, early morning coffee, and papers to grade is just the tip of the iceberg for teachers. For me, back to school is bittersweet. Summer sped by way too fast; however, I look forward to fall weather, new students, tailgating, and bouquets of sharpened pencils. For a new teacher, it may all seem rather daunting. Here are some tips that I have learned along the way.
#1-Welcome to the classroom!
Always, always have a seating chart. Not only will it help you learn student’s names and take attendance, but it will also prevent discipline problems down the road. True you won’t know which students should not be sitting together at first, but it will be easier to move them later on if you have already established a seating chart. On the first day of school, I have index cards taped to the top corner of the student’s desks. On the index cards, I have each class period listed down the left hand side. Next to each class period, I write the name of the student that will be sitting in that desk during that session. Students have so much fun coming in that first day of class and searching for their names on the desk. It will also help the student remember where they sit the first couple of weeks and prevent you from having to look it up each time. If you want to project your seating chart feel free to do so, but to students that don’t understand how to read that seating chart it may be a little chaotic and cause you more work.
#2-Mrs., Mrs. call on me!
You will always have students that try to dominate the discussion and students that choose to not answer questions at all. Popsicle sticks are the best solution for this. I have used both mini buckets and pencil holders to hold these for each class period. Make sure you label the holder so that you can easily pick up the container that goes with the class period you are in. Popsicle sticks should have the student’s first and last names written on them and also the period that they are in your classroom. That way if they spill or you find it under the podium later (yes, that does happen) you know which container it belongs in.
Sticks have many functions. The first is when you are in a classroom discussion or reading text. You draw a stick to call on students to answer questions or read a passage. This makes sure everyone gets a chance to answer and keeps kids paying attention because they don’t know when their stick will be pulled. Tip: if a student doesn’t know the answer have another student answer the question but then come back to that student and have them repeat the correct answer. That way they aren’t put on the spot necessarily and it helps them feel safe. Always ask the question first and wait a few seconds so that they can think of an answer before calling on a student. Better yet, have them pair share and then call on individual students to answer.
The other great function of sticks is for pairing or grouping students. It is random and they will work with someone new most of the time. Make sure that you tell them not to make rude comments or noises and that in life you may always end up working with someone you don’t necessarily like or get along with. It is a life-skill and next time they will have someone new to work with. To prevent grumbling, I have them all clap and cheer when they find out their groups.
Have a great year!