As I plan a “Teaching on the Block” PD session for new teachers later this month, I decided to offer some advice to educators who may be wondering, “How the heck am I going to keep high school students engaged for 90 minutes?”
However, I feel like many of these tips apply to all teachers, even those who do not teach on the block. I’m sure I’m missing plenty, so if you have other suggestions or pieces of advice for new teachers, please share them in the comments!
Mr. Amato’s Tips for Teaching on the Block
- Always ask yourself: Would I enjoy being a student in this class?
- It is always better to over-plan than to under-plan; you don’t win when you “wing it.”
- If you don’t have a plan for how students will move, they will make one for you. Be proactive!
- The best classroom management is an engaging, well-planned lesson.
- When considering an activity, ask yourself: what’s the purpose of it? If it’s not helping students understand the lesson’s objective, you can probably scratch it.
- Structure and routine is good, but every day shouldn’t feel the same.
- Transitions are a must, so be sure they are smooth, logical, and clear to students. Otherwise, you will lose valuable instructional time.
- Student movement doesn’t need to be complicated – sometimes it’s just letting students walk and grab an assignment or turn one in.
- While student engagement is essential, there is still time for direct instruction, independent practice, and yes, even silence.
- Always have a plan for when a student says, “I’m finished.”
- Start and end class strong. Make sure your entrance & exit procedures are on point.
- Don’t think that “90 minutes is a long time so we don’t have to get started right away.”
- Make time in every lesson to check in with every student. Whether it’s by greeting students at the door, walking around as students complete their bellringer, or catching students on the way out, there are ways to ensure that no student ever feels invisible.
- Take time to reflect after every lesson, and ask yourself: What could I have done differently? Encourage your students to do the same.
- Stock up on index cards, sticky notes, markers, colored pencils, highlighters, scissors, tape, and glue.
- Use a timer. You can use your cell phone, or any of the timers from here: http://www.online-stopwatch.com/countdown-timer/ (my students love the bomb timer).
- Be intentional about reaching every type of learner (visual, kinesthetic, interpersonal, etc.), but don’t try to hit all seven in every lesson.
- Group work should serve a purpose beyond “it looks good on an observation.”
- Make your directions/instructions visible, so you don’t need to respond every time a student asks, “What are we supposed to do again?”
- Even if you’re not an English teacher, have books accessible in your classroom, and talk to students about what you (and they) are reading.
What did I miss? What other advice would you offer a new teacher? Let me know!