Classroom Tip #15--Know Where You Are Going and Be Sure the Students Know, Too
One of my favorite teachers always wrote the lesson plan for the day in a comer of the chalkboard. As she completed each section of the plan, she walked over and checked it off to show that we were moving ahead to the next piece of the work. Students love to know that they are "getting somewhere." Master teachers always tell the students what's coming. At the beginning of the lesson, they may say" First, we are going to review briefly what we did last time. Then, we are going to do some vocabulary games. Then, we are going to do some exercises in our workbooks. Then, we are going to study the new lesson. And, finally, we will talk about where we are in the school year." This kind of introduction sets the stage for a real, "working" classroom. Moreover, the true master teachers always have a long-range goal. I like to express this in the following way: "I always know the first day of class, the very last thing that I want to say on the last day of class." We may go far afield from time to time, but if I keep my eye on that single target all year long, chances are I will be able to react it. Your goal can be a simple one, such as "I will complete the course of study in The New Siddur Program, level one." Or, it can be more interpersonal, such as "I will shape the students into a cooperative class that loves to work on Hebrew liturgy." In either case, you want to be able to know where you are headed, you want the students to know, and you want to make it happen.
Classroom Tip #16--Different Strokes
Up to now, we have talked about rewards and reinforcements in general. But here are a few specific rewards that you should keep handy for constant use:
All of these are great ways to reward students. But we have barely scratched the surface. Posting names on the bulletin board.. happy notes to parents, inviting a student to lunch, sending birthday cards, sending students to the office for "good behavior," making T-shirts in class, giving out attendance awards for monthly "perfect attendance," and so much more-the list is endless and limited only by your own imagination. Try to use many of these things in combination. Remember: Nothing succeeds like success. All of us need a reward from time to time.
Classroom Tip #17--Special Events
Your classroom is a part of the everyday life of your students. it should be special from time to time. Though it seems to have nothing to do with instruction, you can create a better classroom atmosphere through special events. Try "Crazy
Classroom Tip #18--In-Class Motivators
Don't limit your imagination when it comes to what will motivate the students in your classroom. Sometimes, reviewing the material you have covered can itself be a motivating activity. Try a song fest, an art fest, a games day with competing teams, board work, tests given by teams with scores, or any of a score of similar activities that can be done in the class. All of these are great at building class spirit.
Classroom Tip #19--Give the Students a Chance to Meet One Another
Nothing builds class unity like giving the students a lot of opportunities for small group work. Throughout The New Siddur Program, you will find many suggestions for small group exercises, but you can have a few favorites of your own. Sometimes it is good to split the class into threes, sometimes into fours, twos, or fives. Change the groupings frequently. Some groups will work better than others, but all groups will have a chance to interact with one another--and that is important, even if little or no real work gets done. Keep the time short for these small group activities. The first time, do a small group activity for just five or six minutes. Lengthen it as the year goes on until small groups work together for ten or fifteen minutes. But never go far beyond that. Small group activities that you can build include things like making books, making posters advertising vocabulary words, making charts of root words and their derivatives (there are plenty of suggestions for this in the teacher guides), making videotapes or cassette recordings, doing work in clay or plasticene, and so on. Even small "reading groups" can help students to help one another.
When things get tough in the classroom, you should not get tough. You should smile. The most important rule that master teachers follow is the rule of loving their work. When you find yourself not loving what you are doing in the classroom, the fault is not usually with the students, it's with the options that you are choosing, and the choices you are making. Change the room. Dress it up for a new unit. Add some fun to the curriculum. Let the students play a little more. Sometimes they just need to let off a little steam. You don't want to be a "spoil sport" when this is all they need. Let the classroom manage itself for a minute or two, but not until it gets totally out of hand, then turn off the lights and ask the students to quiet down for a moment. Usually that's all it takes to regain the class. Turn the lights back on and smile. Then go ahead with the lesson. If you have to yell, get very serious, give a good yell, then scowl at the students for a moment. Then--immediately, and without fail--smile. Let them know you are on their side all the time. Remember, learning requires all they have to give, just like teaching requires all you have to give. So give everything, but always give a smile.