Harry Wong, in his book titled The First Days of School, reminds teachers that there are 7 questions students usually have on the first day. One of those questions is "Will I be treated like a human being?" An activity that I do to address this question is a Ring Around the Room allowing students an opportunity to share their thoughts on six different questions & statements and to start the process of team building.
I write each item across the top of a piece of Post-It Presentation paper (like the one shown here). The pages are placed on the walls, spread out all around the room. The students are then numbered off into 6 groups that rotate around the room discussing each statement, then leaving written feedback for me. Each group has an assigned SCRIBE to write as the other group members feed them ideas. I only give students 2 minutes with each statement, which seems to be plenty of time for my quick-thinking high school kiddos. Any longer than that and their conversations get wildly off topic.
This activity serves a variety of purposes. First, it lets me see how well they work together in groups right from the very beginning, which is crucial information for me as a music ensemble leader. By the end of the rotation, I can see the class leaders, the quiet ones, and the "do I HAVE to do this?" ones. Second, it gives me essential feedback. By this point in class, I have shared my expectations for them. Now, they can share what they expect from me, from their classmates, and from themselves. I especially like asking them why they think music is important. As a music educator, I can clearly tell my "What Music Means to Me" story. It does my heart good to hear my students share their own personal thoughts about music and its importance.
For the students, this activity gives them a great Brain Break away from the typical lectures about procedures and class requirements. Students like to know - and need to know - that they will be treated fairly and their voice will be heard. I cannot promise I will bring them food everyday (this class seems to REALLY like food!), but I can promise that their request has been heard and noted for future reference.
What types of activities do you use with your big kids in the first few days of school? Share in the comments! I would LOVE to hear your ideas!!
I use a countdown app on my phone that allows me to set up fun, cute countdown clocks. I looked at my countdown clock this morning and it said
10 days left to the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!
I have had a wonderful summer vacation, but I can see the start of school on the horizon. It’s everywhere from the back-to-schools ads to the bus drivers practicing their routes. I am sure that many of you reading this are at this point as well. As I start getting myself geared up for another year of teaching, I want to share FIVE things we all can do to prep for this new school year. Let’s count it down!
5. Do something you enjoy that makes you laugh and smile. The school year schedule is hectic. Don’t spend the last week(s) of summer in 100% work mode. Read that book that you keep telling yourself “I’m going to read this when I get the chance.” Take a day trip to that landmark you keep promising yourself to go see one day. Spend some uninterrupted QT with the ones you love. Plan a night out with some teacher friends and the first person to mention school buys the first round of drinks!
4. Reflect on the year before to plan for the year ahead. In a perfect world, I would have sat down with pen and paper and written out a formal end-of-year reflection as soon as school was out. But instead, I walked out of the classroom and left it all behind with my sights set on all things summer. With summer now coming to a close, it is time to think about what is up and coming. My method is simple: sit down with a piece of paper and make a list of classroom elements that were integral to the daily function of the room. Assess each item. Did it work? If so, give yourself a gold star! If not, it’s time to brainstorm. What can I do to make this element better? Does it need to be eliminated or reworked and tweaked? It is important to note here that this only applies to elements that are under your control as the classroom teacher. This is not the time to write about unacceptable cafeteria food or stale coffee in the front office. BE PRODUCTIVE!
3. Engage in some PPD and TPD. I LOVE PPD and TPD time. What is this, you ask? Pinterest Professional Development and Twitter Professional Development. Anytime I need a fresh idea, I turn to Pinterest (by the way, you can find me HERE in the world of pinners!) One word of caution if you are new to being a Pinterester: it is not only addictive, but can give you an inferiority complex if you’re not careful! Just because your favorite Pinterester has the time to bedazzle all the choral binders does not mean that you should, too! Repeat after me: the goal is not to be 'Pinterest Perfect.'
Twitter is great for connecting with music educators from all over the world. Search by hashtags, and then find and follow interesting and noteworthy people (and again…find me HERE in the land of tweets!) Be sure to check out #MusEd #MusicEd #MusicEducation and #MusEdChat just to name a few. Do a Google search of ‘music education hashtags’ and you will find dozens of them.
2. Work on pacing guides & on lesson plans for the first day of school plus two weeks. I believe in having a plan, and that starts with a pacing guide. Past that, focus on a plan for Day One. The first day of school is a tone-setting day. The first two weeks allow for everyone to establish and reinforce routines and procedures. If you go into the first day of school with the first two full weeks already mapped out, you will sleep so much better at night.
1. Pray, meditate, or do some other activity to settle your inner self. Remind yourself why you started teaching in the first place. Read something inspirational. Practice deep breathing. Let’s face it-teaching is stressful. Let us all go into this brand new school year with a fresh mind and fresh perspective. Do not allow for last year’s stresses or concerns to follow us into a new school year. Spend some quiet time lifting up prayers and good thoughts for students, fellow teachers, administrators, and parents.
What types of things do you do to prepare for the start of a new school year? What would you add to this list? Share your thoughts in the comments below! I would love to hear about your awesome back to school routines!
I am a music educator and lover of all food stuffs! Thank you for spending some of your day with me here on my blog. Read more...