Friday, August 26, 2011

Five Questions To Start The Year

In most places students are either starting school or getting ready to go back. But before we get to far into the year it is a good idea to step back and reflect a bit about our place in the classroom and the year ahead.

Here are five questions to consider as we start this new year:

1) What's my hook? Everyday is an opportunity to capture the attention of our students. What will each day bring? Who know's? But, there are certainly ways we can hook kids right from the very beginning of the first day. When I was in the classroom, I had a teammate that would dress up as a character from a novel the kids would be reading that year and take on that role the whole first day. I always tried to tie some current event into the first day to get kids thinking about where we will be going with our learning that year and why that mattered. The point is be excited! Kids feed off that energy. I know it's tough to get back in the grove of things. But who wants to sit in a sterile classroom, especially on the first day. Spice it up. Do something different. (Check out my Back To School Survey with lots of options for First Day activities.) And hey, learning can be fun!

2) Who are these kids? Each student that walks through the door has a story. Some stories are filled with lots of happy memories and good times. For others, it might be tough to find a bright spot. In order to teach the kids in the room, we have to know the kids in the room. Those first days are so important to get to know each and every one of those stories. Sure there are lots of fancy ways to do it. But the simplest and easiest way it to take an interest and just ask. Form a relationship with each one. They may not open up in the beginning but it will pay off down the road.

3) What am I going to teach? Ok, ok. I know what you are thinking. You know what you have to teach. You probably have a pacing guide or standards that you have to teach. My point here is less about content, and more about methods. How are you going to teach so that learning takes place. Is the focus on formative rather than summative data gathering. Why do kids want to come into class each day and learn with you. What do the kids want to do? Make the time and ask them. Give them choice. Let them shine.

4) How will I model leadership? Even kids can be leaders. Giving them the opportunity to take the lead on things in the classroom helps build their capacity to lead. But they need to see good leadership in action. So how will you model that for your students? Think about your leadership roles in the building. Where do you lead and how do you lead in those areas? And how can you bring those qualities into the classroom?

5) How will I reflect each day? Like I mentioned before, reflection is such a big part of who I am and that is only because I make myself do it each day. This blog is a public extension of my reflections. Whether we reflect publicly or privately, the goal here is to look at what is working, what isn't and how we are going to change. For my, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) is a big part of my reflection. If I am working on a project or just need help with something I have a large group of people, with a wide variety of folks to ask questions of and get feedback from. But, again, the point here is to spend time, no matter how you do it, reflect. Ponder. Question. Think.

What do you think? Are there other questions you ask yourself to start the year? What are they? Leave some comments below.
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