Four Practices Every Teacher Should Implement into their Classroom

Shannon Foley


There are so many theories out there when it comes to increasing student interest. When I began my journey as a teacher-to-be in 2015, I never knew just how many opinions existed. I had this romantic notion that students flowed into the classroom each morning with sparkling eyes and a thirst for learning− apples included.

Tell me, when was the last time this happened in your classroom?


Teaching theories exist because there is no right or wrong way to engage students. However, some practices have been proven to be more effective than others. In this article, I will guide you through four practices I swear by to increase your students’ participation and interest, no matter which grade you teach.


1. Start each day with a morning meeting
Morning meetings are common in early elementary classrooms but rarely exist in middle and high school classrooms. This is often due to time restraints. But a good morning meeting doesn’t have to be time-extensive. If you are a middle or high school teacher, take five minutes to connect with your students before announcements. Make a circle and hold hands. Greet each of your students like they are your equals, as if you have all the time in the world. During your morning meeting, you can read your students a quote and ask for feedback, pass around an object as students greet one another (i.e., “Good morning/Aloha/Bonjour, Shannon!”), or guide students to pair up with a partner and have a conversation (What is Morning). For some of your students, this is the first time of the day they are acknowledged by another person. Make this time meaningful for them.


2. Include SEL practices in every lesson
We have become a society that values academic intelligence over emotional intelligence. Think about it: the ultimate insult in a work or school environment is, “What, are you stupid?” Academic intelligence is only a fraction of our competence. In Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Goleman suggests that social and emotional learning (SEL) teaches us the skills you cannot find in a textbook. He says, “It’s a different way of being smart” (Elias). There are five SEL competencies that can be addressed in the classroom, including self-awareness, self- management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Instead of teaching a separate lesson that goes something like “What is Empathy?,” integrate empathetic qualities into the general curriculum. For example, assessing threats to an ecosystem from the perspective of the animals living there is one way to add empathy to a science lesson.


3. Let students help to create rubrics

Rarely do students get a say in how they are graded. Traditionally, the criterion of authentic assessments is kept under lock and key, viewed only by the teacher. The problem with this type of assessment is that students do not know how they are graded, so they do not understand why they are given a certain grade. Next time you create an authentic assessment (think papers, portfolios, presentations, etc.), switch things up by asking students what they think should be included on the rubric. Discuss the differences between good and poor quality work and how to avoid creating poor quality work. Identify your criteria and ask for student feedback. Then, create a “draft rubric” based on student responses during the discussion (Andrade). Bring the draft into class and ask for comments from the students. Revise if needed. By allowing students to have a say in how they are graded, they are more likely to deliver work of the highest quality. The criteria now matters to them.


4. End each day with a read-aloud
If you have ever been read Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon as a child, you understand the beauty of ending a long day with a story. By the end of a school day, students are likely to be tired and in need of a treat. Also consider that some students have never been read to as children. Feed them poetic language by reading to them for the last five to ten minutes of the day. Make this fun by letting students sprawl across the floor or curl up on any cozy furniture you have in your classroom. Consider investing in fairy lights to add warmth to the environment. Choose a book that has depth and will interest students on a personal level. A great option for elementary and middle school students is Wonder by R. J. Palacio. According to Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, “literature...brings us closest to the human heart” (Trelease 45).


As educators, I think we can all agree that it is impossible to bring too much of your heart into your teaching. I hope this post helps you implement effective practices into your classroom, and that your students enjoy them as much as I do.


Written by Shannon Foley


Sources

Andrade, Heidi Goodrich. “Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and Learning.” Educational Leadership, Feb 2000, http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational- leadership/feb00/vol57/num05/Using-Rubrics-to-Promote-Thinking-and-Learning.aspx. Accessed 05 Nov 2018.

Elias, Maurice J., Joseph E. Zins, Roger P. Weissberg, Karin S. Frey, Mark T. Greenberg, Norris M. Haynes, Rachael Kessler, Mary E. Schwab-Stone, and Timothy P. Shriver. “Promoting Social and Emotional Learning.” ASCD, http://ascd.org/publications/books/197157e4/chapters/The-Need- for-Social-and-Emotional-Learning.aspx. Accessed 05 Nov 2018.

Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2013. “What is Morning Meeting?” Responsive Classroom, 07 Jun 2016, https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/what-is-morning-meeting/. Accessed 05 Nov 2018.

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