Avoid Teacher Burnout

As any educator can tell you, the beginning of the year is the most time-consuming, crazy-busy time there is. It’s like moving in to a new house, starting a new job, finishing up your Master’s thesis, and hosting a big party all in the same week.

I’m not sure there’s any way around it. Everyone is busy the first six weeks or so, and everyone puts in extra hours – even educators who’ve been at it for years. But for some, the busyness becomes more manageable as the year goes on, and for some it doesn’t. And you don’t need me to tell you that the first-of-the-year level of activity just isn’t sustainable, especially if you want to have what’s commonly known in the non-teaching community as “a life.”

So how do you convert the crazy-busy time into a sustainable schedule? I believe it all comes down to habits – actions we take automatically in response to a situation.

Play Video ThumbnailThe cool thing about habits is they don’t require a lot of thought once they are learned. They just become what we automatically do. That’s why I believe the most important thing to do in the first six weeks of school is teach the students (and ourselves) habits that will automatically save us time. If we do this, we will eventually have a sustainable schedule instead of a burned-out-train-wreck schedule.

Think about it. If the students have the habit of running around for 15 minutes before class starts, you will be wasting time getting them to settle down – time you could be using to take care of all those little administrative tasks you need to do, like checking in homework.

If the students instead have the habit of putting away their things, preparing for the day’s activities, and getting started immediately on the first learning task, you won’t have to use your prep time for the administrative tasks. And the students will feel more in-control and successful, too.

So use these first weeks of school to create good habits and enjoy the benefits for the rest of the year.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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Spring Fever – 7 Ways to Deal With It

The top definition of Spring Fever in Urban Dictionary is:

spring fever

  1. wanting the present moment to become summer
  2. slacking off in school because the year is almost over
  3. wanting to be outside every day rather than inside

Teachers encounter Spring Fever on two levels – we have it and our students have it. It seems everyone is tired, distracted, and just DONE. So how do we squeeze in those 500 remaining Lucy Calkins lessons before the end of the year without sparking a rebellion?

Ineffective Spring Fever Approach #1

Some teachers pretend Spring Fever doesn’t exist. They crack down extra hard and load students up with high-stakes assignments, projects, and tests. This definitely keeps everyone busy, but it also tends to keep everyone stressed-out. And there can be other unintended consequences, which I wrote about in a previous Sanity Boost.

Ineffective Spring Fever Approach #2

Other teachers just give up on getting anything academic done and facilitate the Spring Fever slacking. These teachers plan a lot of fluff activities like extra recesses, parties, and dress-up days. Their thinking? You can’t get the students to do anything, so you might as well have some fun. There are several reasons this approach is ineffective (besides the fact that you’re slacking on the academics.)

1- Students who struggle the most with behavior also usually need the most structure. If the structure is suddenly taken away, their behavior can get out of control, and there goes your low-stress, fun activity.

2- Unless you plan to let the students do literally ANYTHING, you will still need to plan the activities and set up your behavior guidelines. This can be even more work than continuing with the routines you already have set up.

3- Believe it or not, some of your students actually like to learn and will resent wasting time when they could be learning. (I know this is a rare one, but don’t we want to honor this attitude?) Parents and administrators may also want students to continue learning.

Finding the Balance

It is possible to accommodate Spring Fever and still complete important tasks. Here are few suggestions and things to try.

1- Let your students know exactly what still needs to be accomplished academically. Put a list on the board, or give them a calendar, list, or agenda. This can be motivating to both teachers and students. It also lets the students know you aren’t just giving them meaningless busywork.

2- Do a low-key countdown, such as writing the number of days left on the board. This helps prepare students for the transition for summer, and you can also say, “We only have ___ days left to get everything done before our end-of-the year party. Let’s stay focused now so we can play later.” You can encourage them to make their last __ days memorable and fun.

3- Refrain from taking down your walls until the second-to-last day. Taking down your decorations, posters, and anchor charts too early communicates that learning is over.

4- Integrate content and skills with activities that help students reflect on their year or look forward to next year. For example, students can write a letter of introduction to their next year’s teacher or a thank-you letter to a previous teacher.

5- Consider adopting a class currency, token economy, or incentive plan that students can use to purchase prizes (such as unused supplies or books) on the last day of school. This can be a good opportunity to learn about keeping track of money, as well as a way to keep students focused.End of the Year Jobs for Students

6- If individual students finish projects early or lose focus to the point of being unable to work, you can give them a sorting or organizing job to do. Often this short break helps them get their focus back, and it helps you get ready for year-end, too. Check our Awesome Teacher Nation Resource Library under “Educator Resources” for a list of possible jobs.

7- Take your class outside from time to time when the activity will allow it. You can do it “just because” or use it as an incentive or reward.

Now it’s your turn. How do you find the balance when dealing with Spring Fever in your classroom? Feel free to comment below, post in our private Facebook group, or send me an email. I always like to hear from you!

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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Rethinking Assigned Seating

Differentiated seating is all the rage these days, with students working at their choice of short chairs, exercise balls, wobble chairs, bean bags, stand-up stations, and traditional desks. In most classrooms utilizing this model, students are empowered to move at will, and their choices are only limited if they are off task or disturbing others.

Two years ago I wrote a Sanity Boost explaining why I thought assigned seating should be the norm in a well-managed classroom. So I started wondering… was I wrong? See what you think.

Should Students Sit Where They Want?

Should Students Be Allowed to Choose Where to Sit?No. End of story. Have a nice day.

Haha! Just kidding. I can actually think of two good reasons for students to choose where they sit:

  • As a reward or incentive.
  • So the teacher can learn which students are dysfunctional when they sit together and separate them when making a seating chart.

On the other hand, I can think of more than 20 reasons to assign seats. A few of the reasons have to do with making things easier for the teacher, but most make it better for the students in some way. Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Reduces anxiety for students – Most people like knowing what to expect. Your students are no different. When they don’t know where they are going to sit, they can feel insecure.
  • Cuts down on bullying opportunities – Some students intimidate other students to get preferred seating. Having a seating chart makes this less likely to happen.
  • When given a choice, the more eager students are likely to sit up front and the students who struggle will sit in back. The students who struggle will then struggle even more.
  • It’s real world practice for your students –In the real world, you don’t always get to sit by who you want (particularly on airplanes) and your students need to learn how to cope.
  • Allows for differentiation for multiple special needs, including:
    • ADD/distraction
    • Left-handed vs right-handed
    • Vision
    • Hearing
    • Movement needs (such as standing at their seat or walking around)
  • Saves steps for the teacher – Putting students who need extra help near the teacher saves steps for the teacher and allows the student to get help faster. (That’s really two reasons.)
  • Is usually perceived by the students as more fair than letting dominant student get the best seats.
  • Helps the teacher learn students’ names, a great way to develop positive relationships with students.
  • Helps a sub (assuming the students actually sit in their seats).
  • Makes attendance easier – No need to call out names or ask students to report who is absent. Just look for empty seats.
  • Can facilitate efficient paper passing – If you can create a seating chart that is aligned with your grade book, it can save you hours.
  • Can help students make new friends – I discovered one of my best friends in high school when we were assigned seats next to each other.
  • Tardy students don’t have to disrupt class to find a seat – They already know where they belong.
  • Can make sure desks and chairs are the appropriate size – Have you ever sat in a too-small chair or tried to write on a too-tall table? You can make needed adjustments when the student uses the same chair each day.

Do you agree that assigned seating should be the norm in a well-managed classroom? Why or why not? Feel free to email me with your comments, or go on over to www.Facebook.com/PositiveTeachingStrategies and leave your comments there. (April 5, 2015)


I still think there are many advantages to having students have a “home” area to sit in. Having an assigned seat doesn’t mean they have to sit in a traditional chair, or that every chair needs to be the same. It also doesn’t mean they have to stay in the same seat for the whole year, or even the whole class period. I often allow students to sit or lie on the floor, stand, sit on their knees, move to another desk to work with a partner, etc, during appropriate times of the day. 

I’ve also noticed that most teachers using the differentiated seating model require students to sit at a carpet area or other group meeting area for direct instruction and/or have different seating patterns for different activities. Some even have assigned seats during these times. This model is really no different than allowing students to move around the room once direct instruction is over.

The one difference I see is the “coffee shop” look. And I do think this is cool. Very cool.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

 

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Ready-to-Go Lesson Plans – 7 Ways They Can Backfire

As classroom teachers we sometimes get bored with the same old lessons. But trying new ready-to-go lesson plans can backfire. Here’s why.

Lesson Plans BackfireA million years ago when I first started teaching, I spent way too much time and money at the Teacher Supply Store hunting for teaching ideas and ready-to-go lesson plans.

Today it’s Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, Education World, and other on-line databases instead of the Teacher Supply Store, but the idea is the name – fresh new activities to do with your class.

We tend to think we need to keep coming up with brand-new ways of presenting information to our students so they won’t get bored. And that’s true, as long as we don’t overdo it.

But changing things up all the time in our classes may not always be the best strategy because it can waste valuable instructional time and undermine our classroom management.

Here are seven ways ready-to-go lesson plans can backfire:

Backfire #1 – You Won’t Be as “With-It”

A key to great classroom management is “withitness” – the ability read the room and take the right action to prevent problems before they occur. When we are concentrating on following an unfamiliar lesson plan or leading an activity for the first time, some of our attention will be used up and we won’t be as “with-it.”

Backfire #2 – Boredom

This lesson plan backfire is counter-intuitive. After all, aren’t we trying to keep it interesting by doing things differently? But when we are using a new teaching method, we will need to give more instructions, directions, and explanations to our students, which many students find boring. Bored students sometimes misbehave just to keep things interesting.

Backfire #3 – Lost Confidence

Many students enjoy feeling capable. It gives them confidence to know the “right” way to approach a learning task. When we change it up too much, some students can feel uncertain or lost. And unfortunately, sometimes this feeling causes them to act up in an attempt to feel better.

Backfire #4 – Avoidance Misbehavior

Some of our students use misbehavior to get out of an activity if they perceive it as “too hard.” And learning a new procedure at the same time they are trying to learn new content can be too much.

Backfire #5 – Rocky Transitions

Misbehavior MagnetSmooth transitions are crucial for good classroom management. Transitions that are confusing or that take too long are student misbehavior magnets. This is why effective teachers spend weeks developing systems around transitions, and teaching them to their students. When you introduce a new type of lesson plan, even a ready-to-go lesson plan, there will be new transitions to learn, and they will not be as smooth.

Backfire #6 – Teacher Stress

Even if you are excited about a new type of activity, leading it for the first time can be stressful. Stress can make it difficult to respond well to your students.

Backfire #7 – Choppy Momentum

One of the best ways to avoid behavior issues in the classroom is to keep things moving. Even if the ready-to-go lesson comes with great directions, you may need to pause and refer to them from time to time. This can stop momentum and cause student misbehavior.

What To Do Instead

When you find a cool new activity or idea on Pinterest, see if you can fit it into the learning routines your students already know. Or if you decide to try a brand-new learning method, use that method for more than one lesson. Not only will you make it less likely for the lesson to backfire, you will be able to shift more of the responsibility for learning onto your students, go deeper academically, and save yourself tons of time.

How about you? Do you agree that changing routines can lead to behavior problems? I’m always interested to hear what you think.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

PS – Would you like more practical classroom management strategies that work? Check out the Monday Morning Sanity Boost archives. If you like what you see, you may want to gain access to even more strategies that I only share with Awesome Teacher Nation members. You can join here. It’s free!

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Poor Results From Your Classroom Management Plan?

Results. We all want them, and if you’re like me, you want them NOW!

Are You Sabotaging Your Classroom Management Plan?“I put Alicia on a behavior plan, but she still acts out constantly. Why haven’t I seen any results?”

“I work hard to build rapport with my students, but they still challenge me from the moment they walk through the door.”

“Teaching behavior expectations doesn’t work. We go over procedures again and again with no results. The students STILL do whatever they want.”

It’s frustrating when you try interventions that are research based and/or work for other teachers, but don’t seem to generate the same results for you.

Too often, we either blame the students, the intervention, or ourselves. No results? I must be a bad teacher.

One year I borrowed a classroom currency program from another teacher. She swore it was like magic for her. I borrowed her masters and printed up the class money and checkbook registers. I thoroughly studied the program. I set it up exactly like she did, only to find that my students’ behavior was still out of control. Not only that, but I had to deal with a few additional problems, like counterfeiting, extortion, and theft. Not exactly the results I was looking for.

Reasons For Poor Results

There are many reasons a system can work for one teacher or class and not work for another. For example, you may be trying to implement without understanding the underlying principles. (This was the problem with my classroom currency. I was trying to use it to manipulate or “bribe” my students, while the other teacher was using it as a celebration of their achievements. Looks the same on the surface, but the kids can feel the difference.) Or maybe the students aren’t developmentally ready for that particular intervention. Or possibly it’s not culturally appropriate. The list goes on and on.

But one thing I find again and again is that educators don’t give the system time to work. We put Alicia on a behavior plan, and if we aren’t seeing results in a couple of days, we’re off to something different. We think greeting students at the door or creating a “lunch with your teacher” program will instantly generate rapport. We think we’ve reminded them about the pencil sharpener enough times that by now they should get it.

And then we either blame the students, the intervention, or ourselves. No results? I must be a bad teacher.

Here’s the truth. Changing habits is hard, and it takes time. Whenever you implement a something new, you are not only trying to change your students’ habits, you are also trying to change your own. Sometimes you even need to increase your effort to maintain your program after the initial novelty wears off, both for you and your students. And that takes effort. A lot of effort. When you focus only on results, it’s easy to become discouraged and give up too soon.

Focus on Effort, Not Results

So at least initially, try focusing on effort instead of results, for both you and your students. Is Alicia turning in her behavior card, even if she hasn’t instantly transformed into an angel? Celebrate! She’s developing the habit that will eventually help her learn more effective behaviors. Give yourself credit for changing your habits and greeting your students at the door. Rapport doesn’t develop instantly, and it sure won’t happen if you have the attitude that you are only doing it for the results you’ll get. Are you still teaching those behavior expectations? Good for you! The habit of continuing to teach until it’s learned will pay off with academics, too.

Celebrate and focus on your actions and efforts, and the results will flow naturally.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

PS – Would you like more practical classroom management strategies that work? Check out the Monday Morning Sanity Boost archives. If you like what you see, you may want to gain access to even more strategies that I only share with Awesome Teacher Nation members. You can join here. It’s free!

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How to Have a Better Class Next Year

I know it seems a little early to be thinking about next year already, especially if you are wondering if you are even going to make it through THIS year. But Spring is actually the perfect time to revisit classroom routines and procedures.

Make Next Year BetterFor instance, let’s say you don’t like the way your students act after lunch. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed by homework and are spending way too much time grading papers and chasing down missing assignments.

You have a few ideas you’d like to try, but is it too late in the year to make changes? Absolutely not! In fact, the novelty of a new routine can sometimes be a catalyst for improving student behavior.

A natural time to revisit classroom routines and procedures is right after  Spring Break. Add your new procedure into the mix, and see how it goes. You can even let your students know you’re testing out something for next year and ask for their suggestions.

Once you and your students have debugged your new routine, you can roll it out next year, confident that it works. And who knows? Your new system might even help make things a little better this year, too.

Whatever you do, don’t wait till next year to make needed changes. You don’t have to continue doing something that’s not working, just because you’ve always done it that way.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

WATCH: 2-Step Plan to Regain Control on YouTube

Watch Better Start on YouTube

PS – If you need help figuring out your new routine, I recommend two exercises from my book, The Take-Charge Teacher:

  • The What’s Bothering You exercise, where you make a list of things that are driving you crazy in your classroom, and
  • The Ideal Class exercise where you imagine everything going perfectly, and write it down, step by step.

TemplatesYou can get free templates for these two activities here, along with all the other resource materials from the book.

You may also want to ask your colleagues for suggestions, or search for ideas on educational websites or Pinterest. Or you could always ask your colleagues in our Awesome Teacher Nation private Facebook group. Ask to join here.

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Transitions – Save Time With This Simple Mind Shift

We’ve all had transitions go sideways in the classroom. You ask the students to do something simple like put away supplies, and suddenly chaos erupts. The noise level goes way up, the pencil sharpener grinds, and students roam everywhere. And you find yourself spending 10 minutes or more struggling to resettle the class so you can get on with the next thing.

Transitions can spiral out of control even when you explicitly teach the students your expectations and cue correctly. But if this happens often, it can cost you hours of instructional time. Think about it – 10 minutes for each transition of the day times 5 days a week – YIKES!

A Simple Mind Shift to Reclaim Your Transitions

If you’d like to reclaim your transitions, I suggest a simple mind shift. It has to do with your belief about what a transition actually is.

What if would happen if you changed your belief about transitions, and decided they were just as important as direct instruction?

Save Time on Transitions With This Simple Mind ShiftI’ve noticed that students and teachers both tend to think of transitions as break time. Students feel free to get a drink of water, come up and ask questions, and so on. A parent or other adult who would never interrupt a lesson thinks a transition is a good time to start a conversation with the teacher or a student. We ourselves often use transition time as a chance to take a sip of coffee, get our supplies ready for the next lesson, and so on. We are modeling “take a break” by our actions, if not our words.

What if would happen if you changed your belief about transitions, and decided they were just as important as direct instruction? That both you and the students have an important job to do, and that you would no more tolerate an interruption to a transition than you would an interruption in direct instruction?

Definition of Transition

The Dictionary.com definition of transition is “a process or period of changing from one state or condition to another.” Some synonyms are metamorphosis, alteration, and changeover. None of that sounds like break time to me! Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s a great idea for students and teachers to stay hydrated and to move around once in awhile. But I don’t think every transition needs to turn into a break.

One of the best ways to signal that a transition isn’t a break is to require the transition to be done without talking and/or within a short amount of time. Be active during transitions. Watch what’s happening. Correct students as needed, and reinforce those who are staying focused. If someone tries to talk to you, politely ask them to speak with you during independent work time, or during an actual break.

How to Fix Inefficient TransitionsFree Resource – How to Fix Inefficient Transitions

If your transitions are in need of some spiffing up, I recommend the Target-Challenge-Reward method of fixing inefficient transitions. Awesome Teacher Nation members can download it from the All EducatorsAll Educators section of our Resource Library. Not a member? Get free access here.

 

Katrina Ayres – PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

 

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An Unusual Approach to Stopping Student Misbehavior

Showing genuine appreciation for our students’ gifts, talents, and enthusiasms can melt away their defiant and disruptive behavior. I was taught this lesson not long ago by a high school student.

As a teacher, I’ve received numerous presents and tokens of appreciation, including countless drawings, a few daisy chains, and even a homemade snow globe or two. But one of my most unusual gifts was also one of the most heartfelt. It was a roll of gaffer’s tape, given to me by a student I had never even taught.

This student was kind of geeky. Actually, he was VERY geeky. His principal appreciated his geek skills, and asked him to come to school on his day off and be the “tech guy” for a professional development day where I was speaking.

He did a good job, too. Everything was set up perfectly and worked great. He wasn’t much on the social skills, though, and barely answered when I spoke to him. Until I asked him about the strange brown tape he used to secure the computer cables.

AppreciationHe immediately brightened up and told me all about gaffer’s tape and how great it is. How it doesn’t leave a residue on the floor yet holds the cord down. He told me to get the 3-inch kind, and gave me several suggestions on how to get the best price. He showed me the proper technique for pulling up the tape at the end of the day (you stand on the cable to hold it down, and THEN pull up the tape so that it won’t wrap around the cable and make a big mess.) I thanked him, and told him I appreciated his suggestions, because as a speaker I always worry that someone is going to trip on a cable.

He disappeared into a closet and reappeared with a brand-new roll of tape, which he insisted on giving me. He offered to help me pack up, and carried some of my equipment to the car.

This student’s attitude had changed totally. He went from being a bit surly to being friendly, open, cooperative, and generous. All it took was a little appreciation.

The Transformation

I have seen this transformation happen again and again. When students feel valued by a teacher, the defiance seems to melt away and the cooperation sets in. The key is being genuine and sincere in our appreciation. When you are fake, it will backfire.

So take a look at your disruptive students. What can you genuinely appreciate about them? Is there something they are into or good at that you can take an interest in? Sometimes this approach can take time, especially if there has been a lack of trust in the past. But sometimes it can be instantaneous, like it was with my geeky high school friend.

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Posting The Rules Isn’t Enough

This is a true story from my first year of teaching. When I first started teaching, I knew how important it was to post the rules. But there’s more to it than that. (From All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching, And How You Can Avoid Doing It, Too –  “The Golden Feathered Pen”)

Why Posting The Rules Isn't EnoughI lift a beautiful golden-feathered pen from the millionth box I unpack, take it out of its elegant case, and sign my name a couple of times. Ahh bliss! The pen reminds me to create my Class Rules poster. Out come the gold stick-on letters and white poster board. An hour later I proudly hang up the “Be Kind, Be Safe, Be Respectful” poster in the front of the room.

On the first day of school, I gather my students next to the poster and we have a little talk. I give examples of safety, kindness, and respect. After the discussion each student solemnly signs the poster with the special pen. I naively think this little ceremony will imprint the importance of the rules in the minds of the students.

The next day Kaden pulls Jennie’s hair. “Kaden, is that Kind?” I ask, pointing to the poster. Kaden looks confused. His head swivels to see what I’m pointing to. He looks back at me and shrugs.

“Kaden, come with me. Look here on the poster. Where is your name?”

“Right there, Teacher.”

“Did you mean it when you signed the rules?”  He nods.

“What do you think you should do now?”

He looks at me for a beat or two. “Math?”

I take a deep breath. “Kaden, what do you think you should do about Jennie?” Eyes dart to Jennie. Shrug.

“Kaden, you pulled Jennie’s hair. Was that Kind?”

“No.” Kaden is an impulsive eight-year-old. Kindness is probably not on his mind when he sees Jennie’s springy hair. He probably just wonders how it would feel to pull it. But he’s smart enough to fig­ure out what I want now.

“What do you think you should do now?”

Sorry, Jennie“Sorry, Jennie,” he says, and with this display of genuine remorse and repentance, skips back to his seat. Lesson learned, right?

If I had a do-over, the student meeting about rules would be a little different. I would be less concerned about the beauty of the poster and the seriousness of the signing ceremony, and more concerned about whether the students know exactly what I expect of them. (After all, how many third-graders sign legal documents? They write their names on things all the time at school. They don’t really know why. They just shrug and do it so they can go to recess.)

I might invite student input on the rules or I might not. In any case, I would make sure to state the expectations in terms of actions (Keep Your Hands to Yourself, instead of Be Kind), and teach each one in many different contexts throughout the year instead of relying on a poster and a special pen to do my work for me.

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New Teacher Student Engagement Tips

New teacher student engagement tips are everywhere. Sadly, most of them are (in my humble opinion) wrong. It’s always about some new gimmick or gadget. All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of TeachingAnd although I love gimmicks and gadgets as much as the next teacher, they do not guarantee student engagement. In this excerpt from All The Ways I Screwed Up My First Year of Teaching, you will learn the secret to create student engagement. And luckily, it’s really not that complicated.

“If that teacher would just make math more interesting, the students in her class wouldn’t act up all the time.”

How many times have you heard this? I hear it from parents, from students, from principals, and even from other teachers. All humans have experienced an instructor so boring our brains melted away and leaked out our ears. Who can blame students for acting up in a situation like that? A spit wad hitting the teacher’s ear at least adds a little drama.

As a new teacher looking to create student engagement, I decide boredom is not going to happen in my class. My eager students will look up in surprise when it’s time for recess. “What, already?” they will say. “Couldn’t we stay in to finish our work?”

New Teacher Student Engagement Tip #1 – Entertainment Isn’t Always Engaging

To make sure my class is never boring, I design lots of lessons using M&Ms, dice, dominoes, and popup books. I read with a dra-MAT-ic voice, and utilize games.

Around the World is a favorite. Maybe you’ve played it. The teacher holds up a math flash card, and two students compete to see who can be the first to call out the answer. The winner gets to move on to the next student, and the ultimate winner is the one who can make it all the way around the room. My students love Around the World, and so do I (not much lesson planning.) It’s entertaining and suspenseful. Why, then, do they still act up?

It’s because entertainment does not create student engagement.

It’s not a bad idea to entertain, but engagement is so much better.

New Teacher Student Engagement TipsStudents are engaged when they are actively involved in an activity. They are entertained when something has their attention. Engagement is active, and entertainment is passive. It’s not a bad idea to entertain, but engagement is so much better.

How many students are engaged in the Around the World game? The one that’s challenging, and the one being challenged – two, out of thirty kids.  Maybe one or two others are engaged, too, such as the one who knows all the math facts, and is feeding them to his friends in exchange for the dessert from their lunches. The audience may be entertained by the suspense of the competition, but it’s like watching TV. No participation is required.

New Teacher Student Engagement Tip #2 – Fancy Materials Don’t Create Student Engagement

Fancy materials are fine, but they don’t create student engagement either. In fact, sometimes they pretty much guarantee distraction. Students can use dominoes in ways that don’t involve performing math operations with the dots. Believe me.

Yes, make your lessons interesting, but don’t expect it to guarantee angelic behavior.

Students misbehave for many reasons. Only one of them is boredom. Others can be lack of sleep, hunger, the need for attention, curiosity about what will happen if a “rule” is broken, revenge, impulsiveness, ignorance of expectations, and many others. Yes, make your lessons interesting, but don’t expect it to guarantee angelic behavior.

New Teacher Student Engagement TipsNew Teacher Student Engagement Tip #3 – Novelty Doesn’t Create Student Engagement

Don’t expect students to behave better during fancy or unusual lessons. In fact, students are likely to act up to find behavior limits for the new activity. Many of your students like their routines and hate change (just like many adults.)

Don’t feel guilty for planning a “plain” lesson every once in awhile.

It’s fine to use innovative activities, but just make sure you lay a good foundation, and teach expectations carefully. Also, don’t feel guilty for planning a “plain” lesson every once in awhile. In fact, if you have a mixture of “plain” and “exciting” lessons, the exciting ones will be even more stimulating.

Student involvement creates student engagement. The people who are working are the people who are learning. If you work hard to read in a dramatic voice, you learn more than your audience. In Around the World, the teacher and the two competing students are learning (unless one student isn’t even trying, because he knows he doesn’t have a chance against your star math student. In that case, two people are learning, you and the star math student. And since both of you already know your math facts, what’s the point?)

You Can’t Be That Entertaining, Anyway

Realize you won’t be more entertaining than 3DTV, video games, the latest iPad app, the soccer World Cup, or American Idol. Your job is not to out-entertain, but to help the students learn and feel great about themselves for learning. Strive to get as many students as possible involved in the lesson, not provide the most over-the-top drama.

Strive to get as many students as possible involved in the lesson, not provide the most over-the-top drama.

Not every student will love every lesson, but every lesson has the potential to awaken a lifelong passion in at least one student. Let your passion and enthusiasm for learning shine through whenever you can, and you will not need the gimmicks to create student engagement.

Student engagement is an essential classroom management strategy for new teachers, but it’s not the only one. Each week I send a new classroom management hint to thousands of teachers just like you. Would you like to join us? Follow this link to get started.

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