Imagine going to the theater or movies to see a show. Now imagine if the first 45 minutes were filled with the director explaining his expectations, his outline of the story, when you should clap, what to look for, how to get in touch if you have questions, and when and where you can use the rest rooms. No one would buy that ticket.
When I go to a show, I prefer an attention-grabbing opening scene that ignites my interest and has me on the edge of my seat. So why do so many teachers feel the need to begin their year with a mundane regurgitation of marginally important information? Is it habit, lack of vision, or an expected routine? I believe a little of each is true, but I also believe a gentle nudge to be creative should be encouraged (and can be contagious). Let's make that a part of the school's opening expectations.
The first action does not have to be an icebreaker activity, but even though students participate begrudgingly, it does help. I often cringe while attending a professional development session and the instructor feels the need to get me out of my seat at 8:00 a.m. to hop around or play a guessing game. I just want to ease into the day with a cup of coffee. Although, after I participate I usually enjoy it. Usually.
When I wear my student "hat", I get a sense of what the class will be like by our first session. I'll decide if it's going to be a long year or a challenging, fun one.
So what should teachers do?
- Set the tone for learning by beginning with a great lesson or activity tied to what the students will be learning. It should be short, exciting, fun and challenging. It can be content specific and derived from the curriculum.
- Make sure the lesson is student-centered. They should do the talking, interacting, and presenting. Incorporate movement as often as possible, especially if you teach the younger ones.
- Feel free to involve other teachers and classes in your wing, department, grade level or section.
- Be empathetic. Would you want to sit through class after class of teacher-led explanations? Kids do know how a classroom runs, trust me.
- Save the review of the syllabus for the middle or end of class. Or better yet, make a short screen cast and post the video for students to watch. A short quiz (online) to ensure they read the important information will suffice.
- You CAN begin the year without going over the year first! Save the boring stuff for day two!
Remember, set the tone for learning, not just compliance! Have a great year.
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