Back to School 2010-2011: Brainstorm

So many thoughts are jumbled together in my head as the start of the 2010-2011 school year approaches. I am reading Alfie Kohn’s book Punished by Rewards which is a great way of building on what I started to explore in Dan Pink’s Drive last March. I’m also coming off of a 10-day vacation to Jamaica which was ridiculously relaxing and I’m starting to trade inspirations and ideas with colleagues for the year ahead in person and via Twitter. Just a few of the thoughts I’m tossing around in my head right now include:

  • Flipping my classroom (i.e. making homework the ‘self-teaching’ of a lesson and class time the focused putting-into-practice of that concept.)
  • Connecting with an English classroom of Spanish-speaking Colombian students via Skype and/or Blogs.
  • Getting rid of extrinsic rewards in my classroom (including candy, extra credit points, and certificates that single out students….and trying to reduce the amount of praise I offer and replace it with acknowledgement of students’  work and positive feedback instead).
  • Lesson Planning with my iPad using the SimpleNote app
  • Getting to know my new student teacher and building a positive, cooperative relationship with her.
  • Getting to know my new students and their interests and needs, and of course also building a positive cooperative relationship with them!
  • Replacing my retake procedure with a procedure to accelerate student learning and give them a boost for the next time a skill is assessed.
  • Examining my assessment practices more thoroughly – including a push for more formative assessment with meaningful feedback, a critique of using grades, and examining more carefully the purpose, frequency, and value of homework in my classroom (which will relate to the first bullet point)
  • Changing my classroom setup to pods of 4-5 students to (hopefully) encourage collaboration and cooperation and discourage me from lecturing up front.
  • A sub-point here: reducing the # of minutes I talk so that it is at least 50-50 compared with the # of minutes students are talking, if not less.

I know from experience that summer is a great time to have all of these thoughts and that come fall most of them slip to the sidelines as I scramble to keep up with all of the demands on my time, including lesson planning, grading, and contacting parents, among other administrative duties. But one thing that encourages me this year is that while I have a lot of ideas tumbling around in my mind, they are at least all somewhat inter-related. For example, flipping my classroom from time to time would make my homework more meaningful and give it a real purpose; it would also result in using class time to jump into useful activities that help students grasp the ins and outs of the concept they learned for homework the night before – this will be facilitated by seating them in pods so that they work cooperatively with more ease. And because they will be working in groups more and seated in pods, I will hopefully keep in mind the # of minutes I talk vs. the # of minutes they talk while I plan. Lesson planning on my iPad will allow me to access my plans from home or school on multiple devices and to share them with my student teacher to help her begin to explore her own approach to lesson planning.  The assessment piece will likely need to wait a bit or be explored more thoroughly as the year goes on, as I won’t be ready to overhaul anything by this Thursday – when I have to set up my electronic grade book – but, that’s OK. I think I’ll have plenty to be thinking about. Any thoughts or suggestions, please share!!


About beckysearls

Married (DINK); High School Spanish Teacher; Lover of new technology (especially apple products!), Learner (of the life-long variety), Voracious Reader, Aspiring Writer, Tweeter, and now (or rather, a returning) Blogger!
This entry was posted in planning, reflection, school, world language teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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