Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beginning Teaching - some practical advice to start the year

Teaching is one profession where there is no shallow end.
 From day one you are presented with up to thirty plus young individuals for you to shape into a learning community; and every class community will be different. Even experienced teachers have
No shallow end for new teachers.
second thoughts about starting a new class .
This blog shares some ideas to select from..

Please share with other teachers or schools who you think might find ideas useful.
Teachers need to negotiate with their students as much as possible to ensure empowerment or a sense of ownership and then to hold students to completing what they have agreed to do to develop a sense of responsibility.

First read this  excellent advice to make a shiny happy classroom!
Another link for new teachers
The challenge for teachers is to think up ways to tap into their students innate sense of curiosity. of curiosity. Educationalist Jerome Bruner has written that teaching is ‘the canny art of intellectual temptation.Thankfully students are easily trapped by their innate
curiosity if what is put in front of them appeals
The whole purpose of education is to help every learner develop a powerful learning identity, a strong sense of self,  a feeling of being a valued and worthwhile person. This involves the teacher really listening to their students’ questions, ideas and concerns. With such a vision in mind teachers can slowly, as students develop skill, pass greater responsibility to their students.
First impressions count and the students' parents will be waiting to hear from their children what their teacher is like so it is important not to leave it to chance. Dress well!
Develop a class treaty

Teachers will be planning their first few days now. Wondering about routines to establish and behaviours they want to establish.

 One good idea is to undertake a mini unit around the Treaty of Waitangi and use this as an opportunity to develop a class treaty outlining behaviors required of both students and the teacher.

An idea some teachers use is a letter to parents about your goals for the year - but if this is done it needs to be done with input from your team leader or principal. At least have something prepared to introduce yourself to your class . Students will be very curious to learn about their new teacher.
Catching an eel

Another  idea is to share with your class one of your holiday experiences and then get them to do the same.  They could 'mind-map' or list all the neat things they did and pick one to expand on. This activity will give you an idea of their writing and handwriting skills

If you do the above them students could add a drawing - one again get them to focus on exciting event.
Crossing the wire bridge

Learning to observe is an important and overlooked skill. You could bring in a simple leaf for the class to draw. This is an ideal means to encourage the class to work carefully - many children spoil work by rushing.

With the weather so great do some nature walks.

The first few days are a good time to assess your classes attitudes towards areas of learning. Prepare a list of learning
I love music
areas or aspects of the curriculum and get class to indicate their attitudes with five point scale from love it to dislike it.
This would best be drawn up by all teachers. The results will give you an idea of areas you need to change for various individuals. Be interesting to use the same survey at the end of the year.  Do the survey with your class as if you were their age - and tell them how you have improved your attitudes since then - or areas you still want to improve.

If you know about the mindset research of Carol Dweck you could add to your survey  add : 

Well worth the read
1 Do you think were are born as smart as you are ever going to be ( 'brains' or sports ability) and there are some things you just can't do ? Or 

2 Do you think you can get better at anything if you try hard and practice? 

The first is a 'fixed mindset'.Low ability students get their lack of ability affirmed at school ( through ability grouping, national testing or streaming) and high achievers ( often girls) do not risk their status by new areas of learning becoming risk averse. Those with a 'growth mindset' just have a go at anything believing in effort and focused practice and see not succeeding as a challenge.This 'growth mindset' underpins the New Zealand Curriculum; ' have a go kids' 

An idea to work on is to  ensure your class appreciate your stance as a teacher - what you stand for as a teacher.
What are your strengths

Discuss with your class how they think they learn. Discuss with your class what they have learnt recently and how they went about it.

Take the opportunity to find out the range of talents class members bring to the class - and share the ideas about Multiple Intelligence of Howard Gardner.

A study based on sport
Personalizing learning is the ideal but the best way to get to the individual is by using group work. Most teachers use group work as part of their literacy and numeracy programmes but group work also works well for study ( inquiry) work as well.

(A link to some advice on classroom management )

Plan out a study unit to introduce to the class to introduce an inquiry approach to learning . The Treaty of Waitangi might be
Great mini study
one. Two good mini unit to make use of might be a study based on cicadas or a flax bush in flower.  Develop a model of inquiry teaching to make use of during the year.

The units above, or any idea you have chosen, will provide ideas to introduce as part of your language programme - and, if appropriate, maths as well.

Whatever is chosen it is worth helping students present their ideas well - and to encourage them to show gradual improvement  as the year unfolds. Encourage them to improve on their 'personal best' in all they do.
Teach simple layout skills

At first students may have little skill in presenting their work well but with time they will gain skill through your teaching ( if you think this is important) and as work is completed display it well. With time create a powerful learning environment.

All students buy a set of exercise books to begin the year. Some schools I know have reinvented these books as portfolios as they ought to show qualitative improvement (the Japanese call this continual small improvement 'kaizen'). The first days of school is the time to introduce students to this expectation. It is a good idea to
Simple powerful display
introduce them to simple graphic presentation ideas
. It is also a good idea to aim, by Easter, for all books to show improvement.In the schools that have developed their books as portfolios all books are sent home before parent interviews for their comments and later to discuss during interviews.

This last link provides a summary of the ideas presented above.

I appreciate that the ideas presented  above reflect my own teaching beliefs and as such  my advice is to take only ideas that make sense to you. I see the classroom as a community of young scientists and artists exploring ideas they want to learn more about - with an emphasis on the immediate environment. My emphasis is on inquiry learning with literary and numeracy as much as is possible seen as 'foundation skills'. I am not sure many school have the same emphasis.

Developing this learning community is the real challenge for any teacher. Good schools will provide structures,
organisations and curriculum guidance to assist but it always worth having ideas up your sleeve.

First impressions count and the students' parents will be waiting to hear from their children what their teacher is like so it is important not to leave it to chance.

It is worth keeping in mind that the New Zealand Curriculum has its vision for all students to be 'confident life long learners', for them to have the necessary key competencies to do so - to be 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'.
Advice for new teachers!

Have fun during your first week

A link to some quotes about learning to reflect on.

Good advice is regularly visit other classrooms to see what they are doing. They will be pleased to assist you and you will soon find teachers with experience and ideas to help - you need to 'seek, use and create your own knowledge' as it says in the NZ Curriculum.



Anonymous said...

Thank you Bruce for some excellent ideas to begin the year. I think attitudes towards Learning Areas are as important as achievement. I wonder how many schools have data to show attitudes towards learning.

Bruce said...

I originally wrote the basis for this blog when I was talking to a teacher about to take up a position in a new school - the school had provided him with no information at all.

Don't know of any schools that keeps data on their students attitudes to learning, If they did then perhaps so many students wouldn't leave school with negative attitudes?