Happy new year! What can you try in the classroom in 2019?

I have been very quiet on my blog and on twitter recently. Mostly because like most people in December, I found myself overrun with things to do. But in some part because I was spent. Now though (after a lovely break), I’m back, and as it’s the new year I thought I would suggest some new ideas (although some might be things you already know/are using) for you lovely teachers to try out this first Spring half term. The things I suggest are things I’ve used in class myself and have found them effective.

Class Dojo

Lots of teachers out there are already using this I know, but if you aren’t then you should really think about using it. Not only is it a great reward/behaviour system, but it will open up your classroom, and your school to parents (permission from heads and parents needed of course). The class pages are a space where you can post updates, pictures and even videos from within your class, and from around the school. You’re probably thinking this sounds like Twitter, and or Facebook, but the difference is that Class Dojo is built specifically for schools, and so the only people who can possibly access it are those who are given permission. School pages, or class pages can’t be stumbled upon via a google search and it also comes with lots of handy resources and videos with it. I find the class randomiser and group maker to be especially useful. If you haven’t looked into it yet, then do! Trust me you won’t regret it.

The Numeracy/Literacy Shed

The Literacy Shed in particular is brilliant for visual stimulus videos to inspire writing. There are activity ideas, images and everything you could possibly wish for to help with writing, all there and available. I haven’t explored the numeracy shed as much, but have found it useful for getting visuals and posters to support learning which aren’t plastered with a particular branding, and so look the same as the visuals in nine out of ten classrooms (I’m sure you know the site I’m referring to beginning with a T and ending with an L; I’m not complaining about it at all, but merely offering another place to get visuals if you feel so inclined).

Golden Time (but earned)

There’s always a debate over golden time, and I know some heads are firmly against it. But I think if it’s earned, then it’s different. Get a piece of squared paper, stick it at the front of your room on your board, and bingo you’ve got your golden time square. Every-time the class does something well (I tend to keep it as something the class earns together) they get to colour in a square. Once it’s full, they’ve earned golden time. Simple, yet effective.

Traffic lights

Another behaviour strategy, but one which I’ve always found effective. Firstly, because it’s visual; secondly because it gives students the chance to turn their behaviour around. So many systems out there don’t give students the chance to do this which so many of them desperately need (and want). It’s simple enough: put three circles on the board – one green, one yellow/amber and one red. All students start the lesson on the green (you make small laminated bits of card with their names on) – green means they’re behaving, and working exactly how they should be. First, a warning for any low level disruption etc. Then, the next time to yellow/amber. From here they can either get themselves back up to green, by demonstrating they can work and behave as expected. Or they move down to red whereby they lose part of their break time or lunch etc (you can personalise it yourself). I always get the students to move themselves up or down as it’s much more effective. I also always reset it for every lesson (at the start of the year). For example, if in lesson 1 they go to amber, but don’t get back up, or move down. Then, for lesson 2 they start again from green. After a while as the students become accustomed to my expectations, I gradually make it so that the expectation to stay on green is for all morning, then all day, and not just for a lesson, but obviously again this goes at your discretion as the teacher.

With this you can also add a star, or gold section above the green to give all students something to work towards which is beyond the norm. When they really excel and challenge themselves. I make this something which is really hard to reach, which then makes it even more meaningful when students do achieve it.

I have always found this to be an effective system with all manner of classes and students, but like any system it takes time and consistent use to really become effective.

Traffic lights for self-assessment

Do your students really reflect on their own progress and learning in the lesson? Do they feel comfortable enough to do it? Or even know how to? If you’re not sure then the traffic lights for self-assessment is a great tool. I put three boxes in the classroom, one green, one yellow/amber and one red. At the end of the lesson, the students put their books in the box which corresponds with how they feel their learning went. Basically it goes:

Green = I am happy and confident with what I learnt in today’s lesson.

Yellow/amber = I am ok with what we have learnt, but might need a bit more practise.

Red = I found today’s lesson difficult and need more help.

I always mark the yellow books first, and a lot of the time the students might just need a five minute boost on something at the start of the next lesson. If students put their books in red, then I reflect how I could’ve taught the lesson differently and will use that to inform my planning for the next lesson.

This therefore is not only a way for students to reflect on their learning, but for you as the teacher to reflect on your own teaching. If you consistently find students putting books in yellow or red then you might want to reflect on whether your pitch is right. Alternatively, if you’re getting all books in the green, then perhaps your challenge isn’t enough.

Hotel bell/or a similar sounding item to get the class’ attention

I put a tweet up about this a few months back, but I’ll put it here again as it is something I really like. I bought a cheap hotel bell online, and every class I’ve worked with, both as a permanent teacher and as a supply I’ve used it with. I’m not a big fan of clapping patterns, or show me five as I find they take too long, and don’t always get the attention of all students. My hotel bell on the other hand, one ring and all students turn to me, pencils down and voices off. Of course it takes practise with them, and you have to be consistent with it. But honestly it’s one of the most effective tools I’ve ever used in the classroom, and means I never have to raise my voice, and no matter what the activity the class is doing, I know the little hotel bell’s ring will cut through it.

You could use other things too though, like a hand little bell, it’s just a sound that is completely different to anything else they’ll hear in the classroom and so will immediately grab students’ attention.

Why not try something? Or is there something you have which you think works well?

At the end of the day, what I like and think works effectively won’t be the same for everyone. But as it’s a new year, why not try something new, even if you don’t think it’ll suit your class. You never know, and personally I think a little change and experimentation is never really going to hurt you as a teacher. Please let me know of any other brilliant tricks and ideas you have, but most of all have a fantastic 2019 with your students.

Thanks for reading, and please subscribe with your email to get alerts for every new posts.

If you have any questions, or comments please feel free to get in touch here through the contact page or@teachn4teacherson twitter.

James

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