The new school year is well under way, and educators have been working hard! This is a because of a process called front-loading.
Front-loading, in education, is a process where teachers allocate extra energy at the beginning of the school year. We do this to have a smooth rest of the year. Some examples of front-loading in education are:
- Setting up classroom rules and expectations.
- Reviewing and practicing classroom procedures so they become second nature.
- Practicing appropriate behavior during transition times.
- Setting up and practicing school-wide expectations (e.g. behavior in hallways, assemblies, etc.).
- Teaching classroom policies for things such as: how to turn in work, what to do when a student finishes early, rules for group work, etc.
- Setting up academic expectations.
- Gathering baselines for the beginning of the year.
- Learning students interests, strengths and areas of need.
- Establishing a positive tone for the class.
Front-loading takes a lot of energy It takes a lot of time thought to have a well-run class, but setting up and diligently enforcing classroom standards at the beginning of the year sets the tone for the entire school year. It’s exhausting, but well worth it!
When I was in graduate school, during my first couple years of teaching, a professors said, “An organized teacher is a good teacher.” For some reason, this statement really stuck with me. Now, nearly fifteen years later, I can truly appreciate her meaning. To be clear, I don’t think you have to be organized to be a good–or even great teacher, but it sure does help.
Here are some reasons why I agree being an organized teacher helps you and your students:
- Time management: It is a big time drag looking for materials and resources. If you are not organized and have your assignments and supplies readily available, you will be wasting time. In teaching, time is precious.
- Curriculum Planning: Teachers are expected to pace the year to meet certain grade level standards. While we don’t “teach to the test,” we do need to ensure our students have received the teaching and exposure to grade level standards in a timely manner (this includes before spring state testing). You need to know where you are, where you are going, and where you need to be by the end of the year; this requires pacing and organization.
- Classroom Management and Sanity: Teachers are expected to manage close to 30 + students. We are entrusted with creating rich, nourishing environments in which our students flourish. We do this while providing excellent academic instruction. This is no easy task. Having an organized class frees up your energy to accomplish this. We all know the proverbial child who acts up while his/her mom is on the phone. This is the same principle in teaching; if you are scrambling to find something or are unprepared–students are off-task and you are more likely to encounter behavior issues.
- Calm, Comfort, and Routine: A neat, purposeful and organized class gives students a sense of calm and comfort. Your students will feel safe. Anxiety is a real and growing problem for more and more of our students. For many students, knowing the course of the day is comforting–be it the daily schedule posted on the white board, in a daily planner, etc. This is especially true for students on the autism spectrum, where the need for structure is often increased.
- Frees up Creativity: If you are organized, this frees up time to focus on creativity and meeting your students needs in a multi-sensory environment. Students know classroom expectations, and can be given greater freedom to think outside of the box and learn in a differentiated classroom.
I added the last point, because I want to emphasize that organized does not equal boring; it equals prepared and thoughtful. I hope this helps!
Here is a great way to display your students’ work, and it works for the entire year!
When I first began teaching, my master teacher shared this idea with me. It takes a little time to prep, but once you have it in place, you are good to go!
You will need bulletin board paper (my school always provided this paper, but I personally would go out and buy the fadeless kind as it stays nice and clean the whole year, and you can even use it for multiple years.) You will also need construction paper, prong fasteners, a hole puncher, and stapler. Here are the step by step directions:
Choose a nice color you can live with all year long, and staple to the wall for your background color. You can add a nice border.
Grab some construction paper, choose your color(s), and then slice the paper in half. I also laminate them.
Next hole punch the laminated paper so you can attach the prong fasteners. (Hopefully, your school has these. Otherwise, you can buy them at an office supply store.)
You staple the laminate to the bulletin board paper. When you have an assignment you want to add, simply hole punch the paper, open the fastener, attach and close. The picture below probably makes my directions make much more sense!
Here is the finished product! I put up one for each student. And that means getting out the tape measure, ruler, etc., to make it all nice and straight.
About once a week I add a new paper on top. I leave all the papers underneath and they add up through the year. What makes it fun is, you can see the progress your students make. It also a great way for your parents to see their child’s work at Open House. (I typically use this board to display writing, but you can use it for any subject matter.)
This one takes some time to create, but once it’s done it looks great and you are set for the year. Parents, if you want to do this at home, you can always attach it to a small bulletin board. Have your child choose one piece each week to display. What a great way to encourage your child!
Hope this helps!
I have a great teaching tip for you to try.
About five years back, I remember thinking to myself, “I feel like I am neglecting my students who always follow the rules, and am giving way too much time to a particularly difficult student.” This made me feel bad, and I decided to add a new, simple element to my classroom management so as to reward the well behaved/on task students.
I went out and bought blank stamp cards (you don’t have to buy yours because I made some!) and taped them to the corner of the students’ desks. I explained that I wanted to reward all the good behavior in the class, and as a reward, once a student filled up his or her stamp card, he or she got to choose a friend and play a board game in our class library. It worked beautifully!
Here are some of the benefits of using the cards:
- Super simple–I used an actual stamp pad with a little smiley face or star–sometimes I just used my pen and drew a star in the box.
- It motivated other students to get stamps and increased positive/on task behavior. For example, if I just handed out a worksheet, and there was a student that got right to work, I would say, “I love how Susie got right to work. Great job,” and give her a stamp. The other kids would pick up their pencils and get right to work too, and then I would give them a stamp.
- I felt I was acknowledging all the positive things going on in my class–a great shift in focus.
- Once students learned the system, they would see me grab the stamp pad and get working–I didn’t have to say a word (this saved my voice).
It is important when first implementing any reward system, that you make it very easy for the students to succeed, and that they get the reward almost right away. Then it takes on value. Once the other students see the first couple getting to play a board game, the stamp cards take on a whole new significance. Also, choose whatever reward is the most motivating. It could be free time on the computer, free time in the library, etc. I gave out stamps for all sorts of behavior: kids who lined up quietly, kids who were straight in line, acts of kindness, etc.
I only had one rule: Students were not allowed to ask for a stamp for behavior. I did not want to hear, “Can I have a stamp?”
I hope this helps, and please tell me how it works out in your class or at home!
Click here to download: Rewarding Excellent Behavior
Sometimes the little things in a class can make it fun.
I have a low tolerance for noise, (and my voice gets tired after teaching all day). But I have found one attention getter that involves sound/noise. And I only use it for one purpose:
I ring the bell to alert the paper passer to come up and pass out papers.
One (quiet) ring: “Ding.”
The kids love it, and it saves my voice from saying “paper passer, I need the paper passer.” It is distinct enough that it quickly alerts the paper passer of his or her job (I rotate classroom jobs weekly). The kids are also alerted that a worksheet is being passed out.
Note: I have never had a child express or alert me that the noise is aversive, but make sure to assess that the noise does not bother any students with hyper-sensitivities to sound.
Okay, so I have just about every Bingo you can buy: addition/subtraction, sight word, weather, preposition, time, famous landmark Bingo, etc.
Why do I love Bingo? Because it is a fun way for kids to learn, and because the way we play it is fun.
How to make Bingo fun:
The main way to make Bingo fun is to let a student be the Bingo caller. Before I had a Smart Board, I used the old fashioned overhead projector; both work fine. The student gets to write the word or math problem down and then call it out. For math, the Bingo caller also gets to call on a student for the answer, and students love to call on other students like they are the teacher.
I keep track of who has been a Bingo caller to make sure everyone gets a turn. The winner of Bingo gets to be the next Bingo caller if they haven’t had a turn.
It is a great afternoon activity to reinforce those skills you’ve been teaching, and making your own Bingo cards is pretty easy too if you want to focus on a specific skill.