Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tip #9: It's okay to have down days

TAPS: Together, alone, partners, small groups.  This acronyms is a useful one to keep in mind when planning lessons.  Students benefit from all settings, and I try to strike a balance between them when teaching.  Today, though, I want to advocate for the independent work, in particular.  I have found more and more that my students have short attention spans, and are unaccustomed to working independently.  While pairs and small groups definitely should not be tossed to the wayside, I believe that students benefit from learning to work on their own.  Here are a few activities I use in the classroom that requires them to settle down and focus on one thing:

1) DEAR time.  Don't underestimate drop everything and read.  Some studies recently have discouraged the use of DEAR time, but I am convinced that it is because not everyone is creating a tranquil environment with highly engaging reading material.  If you haven't given it a shot, go ahead.  You might be surprised how even the most restless kids can settle down and get into a good book if given the right space to do so.

2) Writers workshop is another idea to use.  I personally like Ralph Fletcher's materials.  Students are given a lot of freedom to write about what interests them.  It may take some time to get students used to entering into a creative space and being productive thinkers and writers, but you can slowly build up time.

3) Art projects also require students to focus on a project for a prolonged period of time.  For more ideas, check out our tip #8.

When I was in my first year of teaching I was working most of the time, and when I wasn't, I felt guilty.  I tried to create creative lessons each and every day and planning seemed to take forever.  So, this last bit of advice is for teachers out there who are like I used to be.  While, those creative lessons are great, it is okay to slow it down, take a deep breath and relish the stillness.  Your students may benefit from it as much as you do....every once in a while, that is!

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