As we are on the brink of starting a new school year, I thought it best to reflect a bit on some things I’d like to change in my classroom. I think it’s important to take notice of what’s working well versus what could be changed and set goals that I’d like to achieve. What better time to do this than at the beginning of a fresh new year?
I’ve practiced Mindfulness in my personal life for a couple of years now. Inevitably, this has also spilled over into the time I spend in the classroom. My goal this year is to consciously practice it more often and add it to the many tools I have in my teacher’s survival kit. For more information on using Mindfulness in the classroom, read this article.
As teachers we’re normally focused on the students’ skills but this year I’d like to make an effort to improve my listening skills. A lot of times I find myself asking for input or feedback from pupils but rushing them through what they want to say because of time constraints. I’m going to stop rushing them and really listen to what they have to say. Even if that means we have to skip an activity I had planned or modify the plan in some way. I want my pupils to be more vocal in class and I figure that listening more intently to what they have to say is a good place to start. This resolution goes hand in hand with practicing more Mindfulness in the classroom.
Less is more
I always plan too many activities for one hour of class. In some ways, it’s better to have too many activities planned than not enough but I’m one of those teachers that strives to ‘get through’ everything I planned for class. This year I’m going to focus on the activities I believe to be the most useful and meaningful for the pupils. I’m also going to manage our time better, allowing us to do these activities properly. I’m hoping that this resolution will make lessons more memorable as well as more enjoyable for pupils.
Pairs and peers
I’ve often used pairwork in class but this year I’d like to do more with it. Pairwork has many advantages: it give pupils more interaction with their peers helping to improve social skills, it helps to reduce TTT (Teacher Talking Time), it can be very useful in classrooms with mixed-abilities and it gives pupils a greater sense of control and responsibility for their learning. For more advantages in using pairwork, see this article on the British Council Teaching English web page.
Along these same lines, I’d also like to start using more peer correction in class. I teach mostly primary-age young learners; peer correction can be a complicated task for them but I don’t think it’s impossible. As with any new skill they may have a tough time at first, especially in noticing mistakes that need to be corrected, but with some training I’m hopeful that they’ll show some progress. My reasoning for including more peer correction is that pupils become ‘the experts’ when they peer correct. It can make them feel more involved in the classroom and adds to their sense of community. In the long run it can also make them more aware of their own mistakes as well as how to prevent them.
‘Classroom Management Techniques’ by Jim Scrivener was on my summer reading list. I haven’t finished it yet but so far I’ve found it to be a good mix of new (to me) ideas and techniques as well as a brushing up on concepts that I hadn’t really thought about in some time. In his unit on ‘The Learners’, Scrivener describes synergy as, ‘the energy and achievement that comes when people combine their abilities and efforts to work together, seemingly achieving more than the sum of what all the individuals could achieve on their own.’ He then goes on to describe ways to encourage synergy which involve respect, value, trust and a focus on the task at hand as well as on the process needed to carry out the task. This year I’m going to strive to promote synergy in my classes. I like to believe that I’ve always encouraged pupils to respect and value each other but this year I plan to discuss how to do this (as well as how not to) on a regular basis with them. I also plan to use more group/project activities, which are more conducive to developing synergy.
These are my resolutions for this school year. As always, I’m being more ambitious than I probably should be, but I will make every effort to at least move in these directions with my pupils. Mindfulness will help me appreciate the progress we’ve made without the unnecessary judgement that comes with not meeting every single goal.
What are your resolutions for the new school year?