I’m having mixed feelings about how we’re going to open up this school year. (I think a lot of people are feeling this way) I want to get a normal start to this school year, but I also want to be safe and keep everyone else safe as well. I’m honestly not sure the best way to handle everything, and I don’t think the people in charge know either.
I think some states have already pushed back their start dates and may be planning on doing online learning for the beginning portion, but I’m going to plan like we’re not. It’s always easier to shift gears from that point of view than the other way around. Here are 10 things to try this school year:
- Hands-on Science
We already do a few hands-on experiments, but not enough. I planned to focus more on this subject that seems to fall by the wayside when there is so much emphasis on reading and math… but when I watched TKS’ webinar, I immediately knew this was exactly what I wanted to try in the classroom. Each child is able to participate which I LOVE. It’s not going to be easy, but it’ll be worth it. Mr. Greg is able to do these experiments with kindergarteners, so it makes it easier to imagine with first graders.
- Morning & Afternoon Meetings
I first learned about morning meetings in my grad school program and partially implemented them in my first two years of teaching. I felt that they were a lot to keep up with and I just wasn’t motivated to commit to these meetings the first thing each morning. However, I do think they are extremely beneficial for relationship building, which is the most important part of being a teacher. So I have been looking for something that will ease the burden of planning, and I found this resource! I loved the idea of an afternoon meeting as well because that is a time of the day that I HATE. It is always chaos! Hopefully this will help everyone calm down and reflect.
- Emphasis on Spiral Review
Teachers always think about reviewing at the end of the year (naturally), but I know that sometimes I lose sight of reviewing throughout the year, too. I was definitely better this year about reviewing after getting back from Christmas break, but being intentional about a daily review will help even more. I plan on incorporating this spiral review at the beginning of each lesson, taking less than five minutes. Number talks have a natural review component, and fluency and fitness is a great way to move and review (ELA and math). Check out my post for more ways to spiral review!
- Research Projects
This is something else I gained from TKS’ webinar. I like that you can spend a whole week on one topic (like weather, dinosaurs, etc.) and really dive deep. We don’t seem to do a lot of that when we have to cover so many standards. Focusing on one topic also makes it fun for the kids! We can do a wide variety of projects within that topic.
- Fine Motor Skill Practice
This is crucial for so many things, one of them being handwriting/writing in general! I watched a segment from GYTO 2020 from Katie Mense where she listed a TON of ways she incorporates fine motor skill practice in her day. An easy way to do that is putting them into games… playdoh, tweezers, stamping, puzzles, etc! Morning tubs are also a fantastic way to get that practice in. I’ll be writing a post on how I do that next month!
- Students Doing Most of the Talking
I’m sure a ton of fabulous teachers already have their students do this 24/7, but I need to let go of the reins more. While I do have them turn and talk and talk within groups, I don’t do this nearly as often as I should. I also want to incorporate more repetition. For example, if I want to highlight an important point, I can have them repeat it for emphasis and to have it stick. Mr. Greg is really great at this.
- Students Highlighting their Name
This is a simple one, but important. MoNique Waters described it best during her GYTO segment where she said she has a bucket of highlighters next to her turn-in basket. Everyone loves to use highlighters AND it is easy for students to go back and write their name if they forgot. I always struggle with this and I KNOW this will work wonders!
- More Fun in the Classroom
Wow, broad, much? While my first priority is having students learn first grade standards, I want to do it in a fun way! I’m teaching first grade, after all. I think the enjoyment can get lost because we have so much pressure on us to have the kids perform, but it’s important that they love coming to school. I want to make sure I do an escape room or two, a room transformation, incorporate more class games like Jeopardy, Kahoot, and do challenges.
- A Physical and Verbal Greeting Each Morning
Again, you might say: wow, I’ve been doing this forever… you’re just now getting to it?! No- I am pretty good with greeting each student by name each morning. (as I’m running around making sure things are getting done) But I want to build on that. I want to check-in with them to see how they are and do some kind of physical component. (fist bump, high-five, handshake, hug, wiggly fingers, etc.) Whatever each student wants! This will keep us more connected and hopefully allows each student to feel more seen.
- More Celebrating!
We do some cheers and celebrating in the classroom already, but I think it’s important to really go above and beyond here. I really like some of these cheers, where students can choose one randomly from a bucket and the class will cheer, or they can pick their favorite. There are a bunch of free cheers if you search, but here’s a place to start. Cheering and celebrating others will really boost students’ confidences and build our relationship. It’s all about relationships!
I know what you’re thinking: 10 things is A LOT to incorporate for one school year. ESPECIALLY when it’s such an unpredictable one. These are just lofty goals – if I’m able to get them all incorporated, great! If I can only get a handful done really well… that’s a win in my book. Plus, this gives you as the reader more to chew on for what you want to try for this year.
That leads me to my next question… What is ONE thing (or two) that you really want to try this school year?
Have you seen my other teaching posts?