New Year's Resolutions for Teachers
While you're resolving to make some personal changes, consider making some teaching resolutions as well.
By Cathy Neushul
At the beginning of a new year, teachers, like everyone else, make resolutions. Most of the time, these resolutions involve private concerns like losing weight, taking a new class, exercising more, etc. However, the New Year provides a great time for teachers to take a look at their teaching styles, methods, and classroom practices in order to shake things up a little.
Although most teachers don’t have the time, or interest, in revamping their teaching strategies (if it works, don’t fix it), there are some easy ways to up your game in the classroom and ensure that your students get the most out of the year. Here is a list of suggested resolutions to improve your teaching, as well as to make the race toward standardized testing fruitful and enjoyable for you and your class.
Sit Back and Take a Look Around
With the number of subjects that teachers are expected to cover, it’s no wonder that they rarely have a chance to sit back and evaluate individual learners. Once teachers give an assignment, they are likely to begin getting ready for the next lesson, or grade papers. Instead of moving on to those tasks, take a few minutes to sit back and watch your students while they work on a project. This is a good way to get to know and understand them as individuals. Watching them work in a group will help you figure out their learning styles and identify their needs.
For example, each morning you can have a list of projects for small groups to work on to fulfill language arts goals. Require each child to finish a certain number of projects by the end of the week. If you are reading Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, for example, you could ask students to write a chapter for the sequel describing what happened next. Or, you could have individuals or small groups make a diorama depicting their favorite scene from the book. The opportunities are endless. Even the projects each pupil chooses to complete will clue you in to his/her personality and learning style. Then, as you watch how they set about completing the tasks, and as you assess the final project, you can add to your knowledge about their learning style and personality.
Incorporate Test-Related Questions into Routine Assignments
Often the key to success on standardized tests is identifying the type of question being asked. While many teachers use test-preparation books to accustom their students to the types of questions they will be asked, a good way to reduce the stress is by incorporating test prep into weekly assessments. For example, when giving a spelling test, have students look at a list of four words and identify which one is spelled incorrectly, instead of asking them to spell the word. This is a type of question they will encounter on their standardized tests.
Another way to do this is to have your class read a story in their literature book and then answer a series of questions worded in the same manner as those they will encounter on their standardized tests. A test preparation book can provide you with the format. By incorporating test prep into your daily routine, you won’t have to sacrifice time spent on curriculum, and you can make the year and the testing go more smoothly for everyone.
Take Time for Critical Thinking
With all the skills teachers are required to teach in a short amount of time, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of time for critical thinking activities. Each month you can focus on a project that requires students to think creatively, use their problem solving skills, and develop their writing abilities. For example, you might ask them to work in groups to design a rocket. Supply a list of websites for research purposes, give them a budget for their plans, and have them list the types of materials they would need. Before turning them loose, provide them with a list of your expectations. With a project such as this, you can incorporate critical thinking along with math, language arts, science, and history.
As a teacher, think about viewing the new year as an opportunity to incorporate different classroom strategies, or to perfect your tried-and-true strategies. With just a little time and thought, you can resolve to make the new year a success.