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5 Things to Start Doing in Your Classroom Right Now

Heather encourages you to try new things in your classroom. She shares five teaching strategies that made a big difference in her elementary classroom. From making transitions smoother to building relationships with students, you can try her practical suggestions tomorrow.

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"I say it’s never too early to change your room around and mix instruction up. Whether it’s a new strategy you’ve been dying to try, or a cool new element you want to add to your room (my black and white striped curtains are everything!), it's always a great time to give something new a try."

Not sure how or where to get started? No worries! Here are the 5 best things I’ve implemented in my room that I’m totally loving so far.

 

Take "Brain Breaks"

I don’t know a teacher who isn’t stressed about cramming in tons of material in a short amount of class time. I personally have an hour to get in my entire core math concepts before breaking off into small groups for enrichment/remediation purposes. 

But, you know what I figured out? All that stuff that I’m teaching to my kiddos isn’t going to “stick” if they are tired, distracted, or restless. 

What’s a desperate teacher to do? Implement a brain break. 

A total lifesaver, these movement breaks give the brain a few minutes to rest and recuperate while the body is brought back to life and instantly energized.

My favorite site to visit is Go Noodle. It’s all about movements and mindfulness for kids. Expect to see memory games, yoga, structured dance, and even silly songs and movements (My class loves Dynamite).

You can sign up for a free educator’s account and it only takes five minutes or less away from your lesson. In my book, it’s totally worth it since I get instant attention after the break. 

Here are some additional resources for brain breaks: The No-Tech-Needed-2 Minute, "Brain Gym" Exercises For Better Classroom Management and 20 Three Minute Brain Breaks.
 

Use Music Transitions

I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m tired of straining my voice to get my kids’ attention. And, my rhythmic clap (when it’s time to change activities) is starting to get old. 

"If you feel like I do, you may want to give music transitions a try. You save your voice and your kids start to do what they are supposed to with the simple cue of melody."

 

 

I start their day by playing the same song-every morning. So, when they enter the room, they are greeted with, “Hakuna Matata”, from The Lion King. When they hear this song, they know to complete their morning responsibilities. 

Next, I play the Saved By the Bell theme song to signal it’s time to line up for specials. You get the idea.  

The cool thing about music transitions is that you don’t need to say a word and after some time, your kids get conditioned (Pavlov, anyone?) to do something. 

You can personalize your songs based on your class, or even involve them in the decision making process!

Here are some additional resources for music transitions: Transition Songs and Powerful Ways To Use Music In The Classroom
 

Try Lunch Bunch

"Once a week, I eat my lunch with a small group of students. Why? I want  to develop a more positive rapport with my kids. I want to get to know them beyond an academic level."

Students who are interested in eating with me in the room put their name on a piece of paper and place it in a container on my desk. Each Wednesday, I draw 5 names from the container. Students get to bring their cafeteria lunch in the room and we get to just sit, talk, and eat. 

After giving this simple practice a try, I can’t tell you how much more comfortable some students feel around me. They have started to volunteer more, they speak up when they don’t understand something, and they are more inclined to tell me if they have a problem. 

This practice encourages trust and teaches students that teachers care about who they are, not just about what they know!

Here are some additional resources for building strong relationships with students: The Importance of Building Community in the Classroom and Meeting and Greeting Students At The Beginning of Class.

Always Be Organized For New Students

Some years, I get one or two new students. Others, I get many more. I finally learned to start making folders in the beginning of the year (no less than 10) that are filled with our policies, procedures, and important papers that need to be signed by students and parents. 

A welcome packet, if you will; it has stopped me from scrambling around when I get a new, smiling face in my room.

I also make sure I have a few pencil boxes on hand filled with supplies to make a student’s transition into my room seamless since some students arrive with nothing.

Here are some additional resources for getting organized in your classroom: The Ultimate Organized Classroom  and Newcomer's Welcome Book. 
 

Sharpen Those Pencils

How awful is it when you get interrupted during your lesson because a student’s pencil breaks and they need to sharpen it? 

One very simple practice that has saved my sanity and has created fewer distractions during the day involves sharpening pencils first thing in the morning. I have four electric sharpeners set up around my room.

I have trained my students to sharpen at minimum, five pencils and keep them in their pencil case. This way, if one breaks, they can quietly pull out another one.

Zero hands are raised and there’s no sharpening during our lessons-I must say, it has been pretty amazing. 

Don’t get me wrong-it gets very loud during morning routine time, but it’s totally worth it!

Here are some additional resources for morning routines in the classroom: Diary of A Busy Teacher: Morning Routines and Routines and Schedules.

Isn’t being a teacher amazing? Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, some cool and new ideas come your way. It is my hope that you start doing some of the practices above that I have found to be fun, easy, engaging, and game changing!

What new things do you want to try from this list? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Heather Aulisio is a third grade teacher in Pennsylvania. She has been a teacher for nearly 15 years and holds multiple degrees and certifications. A freelancer for The Mailbox and other education-related clients and publications, she enjoys writing in order to help and entertain fellow teachers. She currently resides with her husband, Bryan; son, Matthew; and two pugs, Lily and Leo.
 

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