In most schools, January indicates a new semester with half of the school year completed. This is a perfect time to recharge, reorganize, and get excited for the months to come. Read on for 5 Classroom Tips to Rock the New Year!
Making A Change
If there’s something you’ve been longing to change in your teaching routine or classroom, this is the time to do it. Maybe you’ve resisted starting a new routine earlier because you were concerned about throwing off the structure your students rely on, but the time might be right now. Students are in a holiday frame of mind coming back from a break, so this is a perfect time to establish a new routine that they can get used to. Consider starting a daily mindfulness activity like journaling or coloring mandalas. Introduce DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) or a new way to do spelling. Bring in new centers or independent study activities that have meaning for your particular kids. Focus on differentiating your instruction like offering differentiated reading levels or differentiate reading responses so all students can feel successful. Whatever you’ve been longing to try, this is the time to try it!
Choosing A Physical Theme
This might be used more in elementary classrooms, but it can apply to upper grades as well. Many teachers have a theme for their physical classroom, such as owls, apples, stars, whatever it may be. The decor reflects a style that you like—and it may have been reused for several years in a row. A new year (particularly after a tumultuous year has ended) can be the right moment to treat yourself. Show yourself and your students a little extra love by choosing a new theme that suits this year’s class or your own personality. Don’t think of it as splurging, look at it as a way to perform some critical self-care for yourself, your kids, and your work environment.
Choosing a “Metaphysical” Theme
These past years more than ever, we need to think of the big things that matter. With more extrinsic things, like sports, parties, casual shopping at the mall, spontaneous meals out being limited or eliminated to combat the virus, it’s time to teach our kids what really matters—the things no one can take away. Choose a metaphysical theme for your class in the new year. Will it be hope, compassion, strength, resilience, determination, or kindness? Choose whatever you most want to foster in your students and make it a part of your classroom’s theme, so much so that it becomes ingrained in them as a routine. Make it a theme by sharing quotes and thoughts of the day which focus on that quality. Assign mindful minute quick writes once a week that embrace the topic. Don’t forget to make connections through read-alouds and novels that teach a lesson about your chosen characteristic. In fact, any time is the right time for these intangible qualities to receive recognition.
Editing Your Files
Wait, does she mean organize? Yes, organizing your files is a great thing to do when you’re starting afresh for the next semester or quarter of school. However, “editing” your files for the year may be even more helpful. By now, you have had about three months with this year’s crop of students. You know what works for them and what doesn’t. It’s a good time to look at the units you have planned out and revisit the materials you’ve stored from previous years. Maybe you’ll come across a worksheet that worked great for last year’s class, but will only be effective with one or two of this year’s students. Don’t trash resources you don’t envision using this year, but make a new digital file or paper file for the materials and resources you can use for this year. Or, if you have only a few things that won’t work out, put them aside. This will not only let you tailor your instruction in advance, but it might help you to identify areas where you’re running lean. This is your chance to bulk up sections where your old go-to’s won’t work. Taking time to edit your existing lesson plans and materials may save you days of sudden scrambling to create or find something that will work on the fly.
Yes, you will need to re-group mentally and physically after a break, but let’s talk about literally re-grouping. This is the time to do math and spelling assessments to place kids in new groups for the new year. Are your students tired of being in the same novel group or table cluster? Switch ‘em up! Do you want to try a new style of grouping, which may be based on reading level, special intelligences, or social and emotional skills? This is a good time to try it because you don’t have to explain in detail to students why you want to partner them in a certain way. “It’s a new year, let’s mix it up!” is the perfect explanation.