George Lucas Educational Foundation
Teaching Strategies

Try One New Thing in the New Year

Check out these suggestions that include adding coding to your curriculum or turning your classroom into a makerspace.

January 13, 2016
Photo credit: Phillip LeConte via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

One of my favorite rituals of the New Year is putting up a fresh wall calendar. Like most of us, I rely on an online tool to keep track of daily appointments and deadlines. But the paper version, with all those blank pages, is a better reminder of the possibilities ahead as we start another trip around the sun.

Rather than listing resolutions (which tend to get forgotten by the time we flip the page to February), let's consider inspirations for 2016. What's one new thing you want to try in the coming year?

To warm up your thinking, consider these suggestions from Edutopia readers. Some ideas involve technology tools. Others focus more on classroom strategies. A few are healthy reminders to take better care of yourself. Whatever's on your wish list, Edutopia has plenty of resources to help.

Bring Coding to Your Classroom

Schools across the country are introducing coding to make sure students gain an understanding of computer science. If you're new to coding, here's your chance to learn alongside your students. Mary Beth Hertz offers ideas for getting started in this Edutopia post, Life After The Hour of Code. Vicki Davis shares more insights in 15+ Ways of Teaching Every Student How to Code.

Make Room for Collaboration

"Work Together Wednesdays" is one clever reader's idea to encourage collaboration and problem solving with students. Other readers plan to try cloud-based tools to foster collaboration and peer feedback. Kyle Pace offers a handy guide to Google Classroom and other Google for Education tools for collaboration in this post, Google for Educators.

Model Mindfulness

Mindfulness education is taking hold in diverse settings to help students cope with stress and focus their attention. Erin Sharaf explains why in her popular post, Teach Mindfulness, Invite Happiness. If mindfulness is on your wish list for the New Year, start by practicing in-the-moment techniques yourself. Patrick Cook Deegan explains why it's smart to engage faculty as the first step in a schoolwide mindfulness program.

Flex Your Space

Several readers are planning to give students more ownership of their learning environment by creating flexible classrooms. The blog post, Flexible Environment: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids Need, provides a classroom layout (complete with canoe!) that sets the stage for more invigorating conversations and active participation. If making over your entire classroom isn't an option, try dedicating a corner with alternative seating. Or try ditching your own desk as a bold, but no-cost remodeling move. Before you decide that ditching the teacher desk isn't right for you, read about one educator's positive experience.

Make Room for Making

Makerspaces are on the wish lists of many readers. Educators are finding creative ways to make room for making in unlikely places, such as closets, libraries, and even a bookshelf. Check out this blog post, Starting a School Makerspace from Scratch, and you might be surprised how easy it is to start a makerspace from scratch. Like famous maker-educator Emily Pilloton says, "The best way to start is simply to start."

Embrace the Novel

Edutopia readers are a literate bunch. No surprise, then, that several readers plan to encourage more reading and writing of novels this year. One teacher plans to integrate compelling fiction into social studies. Another reader intends to have students self-publish their own fiction using iBooks author. Monica Burns explains how in 5 Reasons to Try iBooks Author. Laura Bradley shares tips for encouraging student novelists in her post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And more than a few readers plan to work on their own novels this year!

Take Care of Your Teacher Self

While tackling all these nifty ideas to benefit your students, don't forget to take care of yourself. Several readers hope to balance the work-life scales this year. Some are daydreaming about international travel. Others plan to take up a musical instrument or pick up a paintbrush in their down time. Yoga, daily hikes, and romance make the wish list, too. And who can't relate to this reader's humble hope: "Sleep past 7 on the weekends."

Make Mistakes

Finally, here's a tried-and-true suggestion from writer Neil Gaiman. He offered this inspiration in a blog post a few years back, but it continues to inspire:

What's one new thing you plan to try (even at the risk of failing) in 2016? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Mindfulness

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