Happy New Year!
A Mini Fresh Start
One great thing about the school calendar is that students and teachers get a nice break in the middle of the academic year. Everyone can take advantage of a mini fresh start in January. Let’s make the most of this time of year in our classrooms! True, once the kiddos return there will need to be a refresher course on routines as everyone gets back into the groove of school. However, I always find the span of about mid-January until Spring Break to be the most productive and invigorating time of the school year. Students have acclimated to the new grade level’s expectations, parents are on board, and, best of all, teachers now understand their students’ needs and know where they want to go next. The honeymoon period of the school year may be over, but now it is time to get down to business without the distractions of the holidays. How does a teacher fully exploit this wonderful time of year to help build robust ELA lessons and learning? I have a few suggestions below.
Reinvent the Wheel
Chances are something in your classroom instruction might not be hitting the mark. You can feel it in your teacher gut. With all the commotion of the holidays, you coasted until you could make it to the break. Now is the time to change things. Isn’t insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome? For example, maybe it is your small group reading instruction time. The students are not following expectations and this is a source of frustration to you. You can start from scratch and reteach the routines. Maybe students are a bored and they need some new materials or activities to explore. Consider adding one new element at a time, but be certain to be direct about your expectations for the activity by modeling exactly what students should and should not be doing. Don’t be afraid to throw something out if it is not working. Each class is unique. You may have discovered by now that you need to try something different than what worked last year. Plus, you as the teacher may be burned out with the same old routines- thus making you less effective. Go ahead and grab that new read aloud resource your librarian purchased to try something new with your students. You’ll be glad you did!
Take It to the Next Level
Now pick one area of instruction that is going well in your classroom. Perhaps it is your students’ writing. It is easy to stay stagnate in one area and not really push students to go further- especially when things are going smoothly! Pick one goal: a classroom New Year’s Resolution. What will this year’s students be very confident in as they turn the corner on this year and begin to prepare for the next grade level? Here is an opportunity for you to communicate with the grade level above yours and ask what areas their students seemed very prepared in and what areas they wish students were a bit stronger. Set one literacy goal for yourself and your students. Maybe you finally get those fluency folders refilled with new materials and your students really begin to soar. It will feel awesome! Good news, you don’t have to set your goal immediately. Perhaps start back to school and the area for growth will reveal itself. Talk to experienced peers for suggestions or explore awesome teacher blogs like Tenspire to get your project off the ground. Baby steps!
When we consider the literacy skills we want our students to master by the end of the school year, we consider an enormous amount of responsibility. Take this mini fresh start in January to throw out the old and bring in the new. Take things up a notch, too. Your students are ready and they are counting on you. Who knows, maybe there will be a few snow days sprinkled into your winter to help the brainstorming process? Best of luck in literacy and in life in 2017!