Friday, August 12, 2016

Fun Starts to a New School Year!

School is open!  This is the “honeymoon period” of the school year since all kids are happy to be in school again.  So this newsletter will be dedicated to building on that enthusiasm in creative ways (including a dash of FREE new technology) so that no student is left out.

First, what non-technological approaches can used that will make all students feel confident that the school year will be a good one (including those with special needs along with English language learners at all 3 stages of language acquisition)?  Here are a few just for starters (no set order implied):
  1. Every classroom has rules.To provide students will a feeling of ownership, allow them to create some of the rules along with suggested consequences for breaking them.Using a randomizer (app on phone, popsicle sticks, playing cards with names on them, etc.), establish small groups of no more than 4.Try to ensure that friends are NOT sitting together since you want to build a family like atmosphere in the classroom where students help each other.Provide a couple of sample rules to start the process.For example, if a student uses his/her cellphone in class without permission, the teacher will take the phone and then give it back to him/her after class.This would be for the first infraction.Students could then offer ideas for 2nd and 3rd infractions.This would open the floor for a variety of approaches where all viewpoints would be respected (teacher could have groups post their responses on chart paper through words or pictures).The class could then vote on what they feel would be the best consequences.This approach sets them up to then proceed in their groups to address lateness, not doing homework, shouting out in class, disrespecting a classmate’s efforts to complete a task, etc.
  2. The classroom will have many students who don’t know each other.So a teacher needs to build a learning environment that is safe and supportive—family-like.How can this be established?Have students take turns interviewing each other.Again, using a randomizer, pair up students who don’t know each other.Provide the class with a set of questions to be used to interview each other.If some of the students have limited English, they could ask for support from those who share the same language.Once things are clarified, they would return to their partner to complete the assignment.After about 20 minutes, each pair would come to the front of the classroom and then introduce his/her partner to the class.Using this approach, students would need to fully pay attention to what their partners say and not focus on their comments alone.
  3. Create a class poster in which the diversity of the class is highlighted.A class poster coming directly from the students provides the students with a feeling of ownership.The finished products could be used for BACK-TO-SCHOOL night and would be a definite crowd pleaser as students explain the meaning of the posters and highlight their contributions to them.

Second, technology that could be used to ease student adjustment to a new school year is always fun.  Here are a few (again, no order is implied here):
  1. One fun approach is to have students write a letter to their future selves.Teachers may wish to provide a general outline of what students could include (ELLs and those with special needs might need that extra assistance).Such an assignment would of course be ungraded (and that lowers stress greatly).I would suggest giving the class the same end date so that the results could be reviewed as a fun assignment.Students will be shocked at their growth (smiles and laughter will fill the room---guaranteed).
  2. One strategy to build student confidence is to provide them with a MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE online test.Students are always pleasantly surprised at learning what their intellectual gifts are.Once the test is completed, the class can survey their classmates for their strengths and then create a chart (or graph) on the results.Another benefit here is that for students who may have struggled in school, they now have the opportunity to see what they excel at.Further, the results benefit the teacher in planning class projects to make sure that such activities tap each strength in the class.
  3. Have students create a comic strip on their lives, their plans for the new school year, their family or friends, on their own imagined super heroes, etc.Once completed, teachers can have them print them out, dress them up with a dash of color, and then post them around the room (to use as a GALLERY WALK).Students would rate each one with 2 STARS and 1 WISH (no negative responses just ones that seek clarification).

Again, time spent making the students feel confident in facing the new school year is time well spent.  The more teachers know about their individual students the more effective their learning will be (and that leads to less stress on the teacher’s part).

Have a great school year!  Our September newsletter will be out after Labor Day .

Denise (denise@ellteacherpros.com)
Marnie (marnie@ellteacherpros.com)
Cheryl (cheryl@ellteacherpros.com)

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