Tips, Trips, and how to Fix: Part 1

I’ve been compiling this list and marveling at how simple yet elusive some of these skills were for me as I started my journey as an educator. You know how Shrek says, “Ogres have layer”? Well, teachers have layers too. Layers and layers and more layers of skills which don’t just fortify you but also come together and give a shiny, polished appearance. What’s my point? Growing those layers takes time and it’s not always easy. Here are some layers I grew. Some all on my own and some from watching others.


TIP: Spending two weeks just on procedures seemed absolutely insane to me my first few years. Yes, that’s right. Slow learner here. The payout is well worth it. DO spend 2 weeks on procedures. I like to sneak in some L2 in the form of call and responses, brain breaks, TPR and very basic information like introductions, greetings and the date BUT all of this is part of the opening routines for the class. Take this time to teach several Brain Breaks too. Once you have them in place you can cycle through them for the whole year.

TRIP 1: Your class is practicing the new Brain Break you just taught them and you now have 25-30+ adolescents moving around with no way to get them quiet or back to their seats.

FIX 1Before practicing ANY procedures that involve movement, FIRST, establish and practice your call-and-response in conjunction with your procedure for transitions.   Examples of Call and Response (see what I mean about sneaking in TL?!): Clase → Si señora!    ¿Se puede? → ¡Sí se puede!

How to slide into a transition: You can use signals such as sounds (gong, chime, bell, other instruments, clapping) or a specific call-and-response. Then practice, practice, practice! Give the signal and make sure your students know to move quickly and quietly back to their spots.

TRIP 2: Not being extremely specific about how classroom materials are to be used and treated. For example, your lesson involves some type of drawing.

FIX 2: Don’t just pass out a bunch of markers. Go over some kindergarten level information. We don’t draw on people or furniture. We only draw on paper. We don’t throw the caps or the markers. When we’re done with the marker the cap is securely replaced and the marker is returned. Make the item their dismissal token: You may go as you return the marker/scissors/pencil, etc to the bucket I’m holding. 

TIP: Do have some type of warm-up/bell ringer activity. Some principals expect a posted activity for students to complete as soon as they enter the classroom.

TRIP: Your bell ringers are boring.

FIX: Don’t limit yourself to a boring bell ringer. Use hooks to pique your students’ interest, display a picture and have your students generate the questions. You can let your students participate in FVR or some other purposeful activity. Jump into your lesson just make sure your kiddos are following an established procedure and routine. Read about how Maris Hawkins broke up with her Bell Ringer and how Laura starts her classes. Food for thought: Do let this article inform the ebb and flow of your lesson.

TIP: Keep your RULES simple.

TRIP: You’ve confused rules with expectations and procedures. You have not defined consequences for rule breaking.

FIX: Pick your battles as the old adage goes. If you want your rules to work they need to be simple, straightforward, and worth enforcing. Consider adopting La Maestra Loca’s rules.  Go ahead and post your consequences with your rules.

I can remember when one of my rules was: Do not under any circumstances ask me the time, “When does class end?” or “When do we get out of here?” (Hey, no judging. I promise you I thought this would make my life easier). Guess what I was still asked a MILLION times a day? Even though that is still a huge pet-peeve of mine I don’t let it get to me. Instead, I have the bell schedule posted (in 4 different places around the room). Plus I keep my students moving and my lessons are more engaging these days. I more often hear, “What?! Class is over already?!” or “Wow, class flew by today.”

TIP: Establish a “sacred spot” where you can keep your stuff. I like to use my computer desk.

TRIP: Kids are touching your personal belongings, borrowing stuff off of your desk and not returning. What?! Growing up I knew certain things were off-limits. My mom’s purse, my dad’s wallet, my parent’s bedroom, the stove, my teacher’s desk. PLUS those little hands touch way too many shared surfaces. Just think, they open doors, lockers, bathroom stalls, inspect their shoes, use the old spit polish to wipe away scuffs and other appalling things.

FIX: Do not assume your students know that certain things are off limits. Maybe it’s just me, maybe its kids these days but my students HAVE to be told: “These items are off limits. You may not touch these things. You must look with your eyes and not your hands.”

TIP: Cooperative grouping activities are fun! When your students work together be sure to give clear and simple instructions. Use visuals and keep the directions posted for the duration of the activity.

TRIP: You divulged the most important part of the activity you have planned and now your students aren’t listening. First, never, ever, ever lead with: Today you will be working with a partner. The kids will be more focused on trying to pair up with their best friend than listening to your directions.

FIX: Do have your students fill out a Partner Map to use for the school year/semester/quarter. When the time is right have them find their partner.

TIP: Take a break from direct instruction. You can use stations, cooperative learning strategies or Socratic Seminars. The prep time is worth having a day when you can watch your kiddos interact and help each other.

TRIP: You gave excellent directions, the activity you are using is awesome BUT instead of facilitating and supervising you have a line of kids asking you for help.

FIX: Establish a Three Before Me procedure (shared by @mmecarbonneau via #langchat and Musicuentos). Students must follow this sequence (tailor to suit your needs).

  1. Show that you tried.
  2. Consult your resources.
  3. Ask three others.

See you at the next Puente. 

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