Tip #1: Establish a morning routine - for YOU
Establish a morning routine - not just in your classroom, but as part of your 'personal' morning. Some of us are morning people, and we like to get up extra early, do our workouts, read, walk the dog, make a big breakfast, read to the kids, etc, before we head off to work early, to prep at little at school and then share our day with the students in the classroom.
But others of us are NOT morning people, hit the snooze button five times before slowly rolling out of bed, getting ready as fast as physically possible, getting our kids ready, grabbing our morning coffee (and maybe a bagel or something), and getting into the classroom right on time....about 5 minutes before the kids arrive.
Which one of these scenarios sounds like you?
Is it hard for you to get into the swing of the classroom when you’ve been hurrying around since the moment you woke up? If so, I’m not necessarily encouraging you to try to turn yourself into a morning person. Working out in the morning and fitting in some of those other activities can definitely take 30-60 minutes (or more!) of extra time in the morning. And if your work day was anything like mine (for the last 12 years), your students may be arriving shortly after 7:00. I was lucky; my drive to work was only 15 minutes, so I didn’t have a long commute. But I did have 3 children at home, 3 dogs to take care of, and a husband who was NOT a morning person.
I'm definitely a morning person, but sometimes I didn't want to get up any earlier than I had to. I understand that feeling; definitely been there. However, I've always found that even if getting up earlier made me a little tired (or cranky to start with), my mind was so much more ready to face the day in the classroom if I’d had a little bit of ‘me’ time first thing in the morning.
So, while I'm not suggesting you become a morning person, I am suggesting you get yourself some 'me' time with a personal morning routine, so you can be as ready as possible for your students and your day:-)
Tip #2: Have a morning routine for your students
Do you have homeroom students that stay with you for your first class? Or homeroom students that go to another teacher for 1st period? Either way, a routine will help students get into the right mindset to begin the day. My morning routine was always posted for students:
1. Unpack and go to locker; get the materials needed for periods 1-4.
2. Sign in on the clipboard (I have a clipboard on the front board, with a list of students' names and the dates, for students to initial to indicate that they are present.)
3. Sharpen pencils.
4. Put notes/papers for Mrs. N. into pink tray.
5. Begin M.G. (my term for "morning work"). Working on M.G. was great when my homeroom students were in my 1st period class. When they weren't, # 5 would be 'Zone' read or I'd have brain teasers, logic puzzles, coloring pages, etc. that students could pull out and work on for those 10 - 15 minutes before morning announcements started.
Having this routine helped students be prepared for the day.
Tip #3: Have those sub plans ready
Have sub plans/a sub binder ready at all times! I don't know about you, but I had plenty of times early on that I'd unexpectedly need to be out (sick child...or sick me!), and I'd be scrambling to write up plans and gather materials so my students could stay on track! At some point, I got smart and made sure I had generic plans written, with activities copied that could be used to review a variety of math concepts at any point during the year. These plans, along with my classroom routines, were always in a sub binder that a team teacher could pull off the shelf for the sub if I was out.
Tip #4: Prep your environment for the next day's success
Before you leave for the day, prepare your classroom for the next day. Straighten your desk, put the day's teaching materials away, and take out the materials you'll need for the next day. Get any technology ready and write anything on the board that will be needed the following day. I don't know about you, but I'd often want to pack up and get moving at the end of the day, not taking the time to do this. However, when I prepped my environment, I was always happy (and relieved!) when I'd walk in the next day and find everything ready to go!
Tip #5: Be willing to wait
I'm a soft-spoken person and always have been. When it comes to classroom control/getting students' attention when they've gotten a bit off track, I found that one of the best ways for me to get them to settle and give me their attention was to simply be quiet and wait. Sometimes I'd sit down and just watch them until one student and then another and another noticed my silent, expecting look, and they told each other to be quiet. And then we'd move on. Be willing to wait for their attention.
Another important time to be willing to wait is when you ask students if they have any questions. Ask them and then wait. And wait some more. And maybe a little more. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for them to work up the courage to ask the question.
Tip #6: Greet your students at the door
Take a moment to quickly connect with them as they come in. This quick check-in may give you a heads-up about how students are doing/feeling.
Tip #7: Give students time to talk
It's so important to give students the chance to discuss, interact, and share ideas, so they aren't just passively listening. I think this is especially important in math class, where those math conversations lead to deeper understanding, bigger questions, and new ideas.
What tips do you have to share? I'd love to hear!
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