Many of us bring school home as well.
When you think about school, our students, our job, do you smile?
Are you happy with what you've created in your classroom?
Do you look forward to going to work?
When you talk to friends and family about your classroom, is it positive?
I can honestly say that I would answer yes to all of the above. It hasn't always been like this. I'd like to share with you some effective, easy tips that I employ to ensure a happy classroom.
Take the time to personally greet each child every single day. I do this by going out to the playground 3 minutes early. I walk down the line saying good morning to each student and telling them what a great day I have planned for them. This also gives me time to monitor moods, reassure students, talk with parents, and spread joy.
If students are tardy, I greet them as soon as they come in. I try to quickly catch them up and reassure them that we are going to have a wonderful day.
Take the time to get to know each and every student. Learn about their families, siblings, pets, likes, hobbies...everything.
I begin at the start of the year. I learn about 2 kids a day (1 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon). I take notes, too. I add to the notes all year long. Some of the notes I take are not from personal conversations. I let students talk throughout the day at appropriate times and listen. It is a great way to learn about the people you spend your day with.
This not only helps me remember what they've told me but provide incentives, have personal conversations, and even help them come up with ideas when writing. Children are more invested in taking risks when they know that you truly care about them.
Students know if you really care about them and this is a simple way to invest in your students.
Trusting relationships are key when building a happy classroom. And for those few times when things may not be totally happy, knowing students on a deeper level will help you connect, remind, and reinforce behaviors more effectively.
Children naturally compare themselves to their classmates. They know where they stand even if you never publicly announce it. They know who is a super speller, amazing mathematician, voracious reader, etc.
This pecking order motivates some students but not most. For some it makes them feel as if they are not good enough or will never be good in a certain area.
Remind kids that no one's educational journey is the same. As long as they are working hard and putting in the effort, even small gains are glorious.
Know where your students are academically. Help them create small, attainable goals. Be their cheerleader. Celebrate when they reach those goals focusing on the effort they put in.
This year I have a little guy who wrote in circles, even his name. At first I got a few lines of circles. With encouragement, I began to get pages of circles. Then, with a challenge from myself, letters started appearing in the circles. Next, we made a goal to write in only letters. He rose to the occasion. He wrote beginning sounds of words. The next goal we made was beginning and ending sounds. No problem! In less than a week he did it. Currently he is writing short stories that are readable. It takes him awhile, as writing is difficult for him, but he persists.
When making the goals with the students it is easy to focus on what the students should be doing. Curb that desire and try your hardest to think about the most logical next step. Break it down so the student can attain it. Once they do, put your heads together to come up with the next goal.
Not only will this build self-esteem but it will allow children to see when they put forth effort they can do anything.
My mantra is, "Give me a hug or a high five before you leave so I can see who you are leaving with and tell you I'll miss you". It's just as important as greeting them in the morning.
I started this to make sure everyone was with the people they were supposed to be with, but I continue it because I think every child wants to know that you cannot wait to see them tomorrow as well as knowing they are safe and secure.
Who doesn't like having fun? It makes the day go by faster and helps us learn. If elementary school feels like all work and no play, we are doing students a disservice. I know all the new standards, tests, mandates, teacher evaluation are trying to take the joy out of teaching and learning.
I promise students will learn more if they are having fun.
Here are some ways we have fun:
1. Do brain breaks together (Yes, I do it, too)
2. Make fun of ourselves
3. Tell jokes
4. Do chair share during Writer's Workshop
5. Have Friday Fun weekly. We play with play dough, dot paints, Legos, smelly markers, dance, make jewelry, play school, etc.
6. Sing our way through the day
7. Make secret handshakes
9. Do class cheers
10. Have group hugs
12. Play opposite day
14. Play with the kids
15. Go Noodle
The list goes on and on ...
Sneak little moments of fun into your day and you will have a happy classroom!
Here is to a ridiculously amazing 2016!
Want to read more? Click below to find out what first grade teachers are talking about!