This week I continue to present ideas that connect to the four beginning-of-the-year priorities introduced in Teaching Tip #1. This tip addresses the second priority: begin to build a cooperative classroom culture through icebreaking and team-building activities so students feel safe and comfortable and see one another as friends and assets, not rivals.
Below you will find the names and descriptions of four of my favorite icebreaking and team-building activities.
1) Compliments - In this activity students brainstorm a list of compliments to use throughout the year. During this process we are helping the kids build the type of positive vocabulary we wish to promote in our classrooms. (Time: approximately 15-20 minutes)
This week I continue to present ideas that connect to the four beginning-of-the-year priorities introduced in Teaching Tip #1. This tip addresses the first priority: establish procedures, routines, and expectations so students know how to function efficiently and effectively in our classrooms. This type of training generally takes 4-6 weeks.
Due to the very real pressure to start teaching content standards right off the bat so that students arenâ€™t disadvantaged come testing time, many teachers choose not to devote sufficient time and attention to these matters. Such a decision is understandable, but itâ€™s also shortsighted. The long-term benefits of training far outweigh the short-term costs. Investing time during the beginning of the year to set our students up for success will save considerable time down the road and result in a more productive classroom environment.
Over the next several weeks the Teaching Tips will connect to the four beginning-of-the-year priorities I introduced last week. This tip addresses the fourth priority: communicating with studentsâ€™ familes in a proactive manner.
The First Day Letter is the educational equivalent of a movie trailer. It offers a sneak preview of the year ahead, whetting parentsâ€™ appetite for whatâ€™s to come. The First Day Letter is a sincere articulation of who you are, what you value, and what you hope to accomplish. Your words paint a picture for parents of what the upcoming months will look like and create a sense of possibility, optimism, and excitement by charting the direction in which you want to take the class. Writing a First Day Letter provides you with your first and best opportunity to establish your leadership of the class, build goodwill, and capture parentsâ€˜ attention.
At the beginning of each new school year, we need to focus significant time and attention on the four critical priorities described below.
Over the next couple months all the weekly teaching tips will address these priorities. I describe these priorities in much greater detail in my book Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8: Bringing Out the Best in Your Students.
To help you implement the weekly tips, I will frequently upload various items in the "Free Resources" section of this website.