Maintaining Momentum

This is the hardest time of the school year! The time between Thanksgiving and the winter break/holidays are so stressful. If you’re like most, you’re behind in your curriculum pacing and you need to start preparing your students for semester exams. This coupled with all of the interruptions this time of year brings, like plays, performances and celebrations, albeit as nice as they are, you’re struggling to keep the focus on learning. I’ve been there!

This is just a small list of ideas to help keep the pace on track and help you make it to the end of the semester. Please feel free to add any ideas and suggestions that may have worked for you in the past.

  • This is that time of year where working in groups may not feel like it’s a good idea, but you might want to incorporate some into you lessons/activities. Students are social beings. They have a ton of built up energy and they need to release it. Forcing students to work independently, because their behavior has not warranted otherwise, may be a recipe for disaster and may increase the number of classroom interruptions. Allowing students to work in 2’s, or 3’s if necessary, may help students release some social energy while working on an assignment/project. Be sure the activity students are working on is relevant and meaningful; otherwise, students may become a major disruption.
  • Think hands-on! Allow students to participate in kinesthetic activities that involve color and different textures. Allow them to be creative in displaying their understanding of the topic being learned. This is not to say let students “color” their assignment, but if students can have some creative license in doing their work, they will appreciate the freedom. Most of all, display student work! Showing off their successes will motivate them more than you know.
  • Allow your stronger students act as facilitators in small group activities while you work with students who may need some remediation prior to the semester exam. This should be an activity that takes minimal instruction and revolves around review material. The students in the class should be able to work independently on an activity while you work with individual students, but you have assigned students to use as instructors when students in class have questions. Be careful how you advertise this. I have picked students based on grade and attitude, but announced to the class that these are the “go-to” people for their section. Of course, clear classroom rules and procedures MUST be in place prior to this type of activity.
  • Open up time for tutoring sessions, either in the morning, during a “free period”, or in the afternoon.  While providing incentives for attending tutoring sessions is inappropriate, because getting to tutoring may not be feasible for all students, students will feel rewarded getting help in a smaller setting. This may not feel like it would impact the classroom instruction and help with pacing, but it does in a huge way. If you can get those 2-5 students caught up during tutoring, they will be able to follow you during the remaining instructional periods. They will appreciate understanding what they did not know before, and be motivated to keep up with you in class. Draw them in during class to answer questions or to summarize a concept if you feel their ready. This is the time to reel them back into the class!

I hope this sparks some ideas of things you can do in your classroom. Please share!

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  • Brian Crawford  On November 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Great tips!

    I really like the third one; it seems to make sense to have the stronger students work together at learning or enhancing their skills in a certain area while working independently with those students who need extra help rather than focusing the entire class on catching people up, to the detriment of the advanced students. Which, so I’ve heard, happens all too often.

  • shannonrichards  On November 22, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    Many times, as a student or an adult, we all have to evaluate our own understanding before we are able to translate this information to teach someone else. Through this we identify what we know, and what we still need to know. It’s often the case that we don’t know what it is that we don’t know until we have to help someone else process information. This is a very valuable teacher-tool; however, I hate to see it be overused.
    Thanks Brian for your wondeful comment.

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