Surviving Teaching… truly

Hello! This is the first post I have made in a few months because life has picked up speed and I have been truly just ‘surviving teaching’. Welcome back to reading!

I often get asked why I decided to call my blog Surviving Teaching, because it may elude a negative tone and generally education embodies positivity and optimism. The truth is, I decided on Surviving Teaching because as teachers, sometimes we thrive and rock it, and sometimes we are just figuring out how to be the best we can for those kiddos and are just trying to survive. I wanted to present an authentic perspective of what went into teaching, all the great and stellar moments, but also the ones where you question your sanity and at times want to claw your eye balls out.

The last few months, for me, have taken surviving teaching to another level. 

In September I began my Masters of Education journey with the University of Portland, I thought it was going to be easy to balance the needs of a full time teaching job, ESL instructional coach, planning a wedding, teaching Ukrainian dance and being a student.

HA! I was wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, I have LOVED moving through the journey of going back to school and exploring areas of leadership. BUT, as a new teacher who already has a ton on the go… it has been rough. Some days are hard, like really hard. And the online world of education and social media tends to portray the great and fantastic things about being a teacher. Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of a student loosing it on you and expressing you aren’t doing a good job, nothing can prepare you for the heart break you feel when they are suffering, nothing can prepare you for the amount of patience and grit you are required to have to truly give 100% every day…. its hard.

Some days, I truly wonder if I want to be a teacher, and I definitely know other people are with me on this one.

I have been doing a lot of self reflecting over the past few months about my purpose in life, why I am here, what if I am no where near what I am destined to do. But, one wise friend of mine told me “it is ok to be blissfully dissatisfied with your life”.

The idea of being blissfully dissatisfied changed my perspective on what I am accomplishing now in my life and where I am destined to go. The blissful part comes from being truly happy where I am in my life; amazing students, great classroom, stellar support system, opportunities to grow and learn. However, the dissatisfied part comes from knowing there is something bigger and better waiting for me in my future self.

I have summed it all into one thought. Surviving Teaching… is all about being blissfully dissatisfied. About being present and happy in the moment no matter what is being thrown at us and knowing we are doing everything we can to push on and arrive how we can for our students. But the other side of it also includes enough dissatisfaction to challenge the present, grow, learn more and want more.

For everyone else struggling through balancing what ever you have going, I am with you. Surviving teaching is going to be our greatest accomplishment, and it is ok to be blissfully dissatisfied.

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Cheers,

Miss Rylance

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Classroom Makeover!

Welcome Back!

I am getting so fired up for the 2018-19 school year and everything that goes with it. This summer I was committed to doing some much needed relaxing, adventuring, and preparing in anticipation for this year.

At the end of last year, like many of us, I was feeling burnt out. I was so ready for a break and I knew that as much as I absolutely LOVE being a teacher, I needed some changes to get back into my ‘mojo’. Part of what I knew I needed is a classroom makeover.

I knew that if I had a blank slate and a fresh look coming into the school year, I would feel refreshed and ready to go! For different people, starting fresh might look different. It might be having a glass of wine, going on a vacation, or even changing their hair color. But for me, as crazy of an idea as it was, it meant a physical change to the place I loved most.

Before I give you the details of my new classroom… check out these before pics!

 

I knew that I wanted lots of neutrals (as my current classroom had every color of the rainbow), I knew that I wanted lots of lamps (for a warm glow), and a community based space for my students to hang out.

This year, I decided on 2 themes that I was going to base my whole year plan on. It was a hard choice, but I decided on Mindset and Literacy. Two very different elements, but two very important things that I could plan my room around. (more blog posts to come!)

In order to support elements of literacy, I created a few things in my classroom.

The first was an awesome reading corner! A place where students could see out little classroom library, hang out, and sink into a great read.

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My own little teacher space needed a makeover too. I added some cute wall paper to a filing cabinet, added some lights, and changed a few little things to have a more welcoming ‘me zone‘.

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I also found this amazing interactive bulletin board by Super Hero Teacher on teachers pay teachers! I love it because it promotes kids to read! Which is perfect for my theme! Each folder has a fact about reading, which are unique and could help students become intrigued in different topics. Then, in each folder there are reading challenges for students to complete! I think its going to be an awesome way to implement some competition and motivation in independent student reading! I can’t wait.

Also, notice how I used the wall paper to decorate the back of my filing cabinet! (I LOVE IT!)

 

The second theme, Mindset, is something different I am trying this year. Last year, I found that I struggled to keep my students on the same page. Half way through the year I created a classroom mission statement to align all our goals collectively. This year, I decided to make a growth and fixed mindset a part of the daily language an expectation for my classroom.

I created this great wall, where students can find motivation in different quotes to ensure they are promoting a growth mindset.

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I also used a series of quotes throughout my classroom to instill motivation in students through those hard times and remind them of positivity! My new circuit cutting machine was the perfect way for me to spice up all my bulletin board letters!

 

As well as this one! I think the bold letters and bitmoji thought bubbles are a fun way to remind students how a good mindset can be a game changer.

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This year I also decided on some other fun ways to change up my classroom!

Check out my DOOR!

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Organization was another big thing that I wanted to change. I pride myself on being super organized already. BUT a few things needed some updating. I created this little curtain wall for some exposed shelf’s in the back of my classroom so that I could organize all the ‘kid free’ stuff without them seeing it AND still making it look clean and simple. I love the new clean look. I just got the curtains at the dollar store and hung them with these great command hooks!

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I also changed all my labels for farmhouse themed ones to go with my clam/ neutral theme!

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I was inspired by some other amazing instagram teachers to convert my former ‘wall of awesome’, to a wall of awesome work with a few llama friends :)!

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Perhaps my favorite part of the classroom are my paper flowers! I absolutely love how they add elements of color and happiness to the bare walls. I think they create an atmosphere that is welcoming and (although a bit feminine) so pretty.

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I also made a large change to my furniture and invested in these tables! Last year, many of my desks started to break. I thought for weeks on how I was going to fix this issue. Should I keep the desks, should I move them, should I keep some… goodness the list went on. I finally caved and got these amazing tables at IKEA (teachers, they were only $41 each- so worth it). The thing about these tables, is that it is going to change the whole dynamic in my classroom. We are going from desks to community collaboration where students are working and sitting together. SO WORTH IT. (should out to my awesome sister who built all of them!)

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The biggest part of my classroom is that it is an extension of the person and teacher I am to my students. I put so much love and care and passion into my teaching and my classroom and I want students to feel welcomed and feel that passion and excitement when they walk into my door. I want us to share magical experiences as we read though books together and learn about the current events that are fluttering in our world. I can’t wait to teach them how a positive mindset can be a game changer no matter what kind of day you’re having. AND I can’t wait to create meaningful relationships and memories with every single one of my new students.

This classroom is from the outside complete, but I now have a TON of work on the inside to make this classroom theirs.

I can’t wait to see what these new walls have to bring.

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

PS. This post is dedicated to all the amazing helpers who made this classroom a reality. (You know who you are, and I love you all)

 

Student Leadership

Often, when I tell people I teach grade 8 they often give me a reaction like “oh good luck” or “yikes, how do you do it” or my favorite “well I wouldn’t want your job“… and my reaction is usually “I love mine, my kids are great“.

The reality is that students who are around the ages of 11-14 have a bad stigma attached to them in our world (for some weird reason). I have been thinking about why these brilliant and creative minds in my classroom are seen in our society somehow as threatening or juvenile, and I know that definitely our adolescent years are the times that we make mistakes, fail, try again and they are most likely going to experience those things, but why they are so feared is beyond me.

I was also thinking the last little while how as a society we could put more responsibility on our youth  to be the centers of change and come out as the heroic people I know them to be. If you look in the United States right now, youth are leading the charge to change gun violence laws… brilliant!

How can we as teachers continue to foster this type of movement and create students who are willing to take the plunge?

My solution… Student Leadership

I’m not talking necessarily about a leadership team (which is also awesome and essential), I am talking about individual responsibility and accountability on each student beyond academics to be an inner leader.

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about creating a class mission statement for your classroom, which is essentially a set of principals that you build your class off of. By implementing this, I have seen a big change in my grade 8’s taking ownership of their actions.

Although we are still trying to figure out how to instill student accountability into every student here are 2 awesome things that have helped so far.

  1. Create a school APP.

    I got this idea from an awesome conference I attended when a high school, in a rural community in our province talked about their successes with a school APP and unifying their student body. When I saw their presentation, I thought… we can totally do this.

    So what did I do…. I googled ‘how to build an APP’ and created our own school APP. It has been awesome! All social media accounts are linked, student announcements, bulletins, updates… and it is an awesome way to make students accountable AND create positive school spirit.
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    If your school doesn’t have an APP… its needed. 

  2. Student led assembly’s (ENTIRE student ran)

    We felt that our students needed a greater voice and representation within out walls. Instead of religious celebrations or sports based pep rally’s, we needed a way for EVERY student to be represented.

    We gave them the task of creating their own assembly and then stepped back and waited to see what they created.

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    And it was brilliant!

    Giving students the voice and choice to represent what they choose in an assembly is a great initiative.

 

These two things are not difficult to achieve within a school, and perhaps you have a few of your own. BUT student leadership is necessary to success.

Have a great week!

Miss Rylance

Feeling Lucky

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

My sisters and I had the chance to visit Ireland for the first time last year and since that moment my love for Irish culture, traditions, and appreciation of life has grown so much.
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My favorite part of being in Ireland was learning about their pride and experiencing the brilliance of their culture and this week I was excited to bring that culture into my classroom.

Each year, I remind my students of the greatness that St. Patrick ushered into Ireland and how we can learn from his perseverance and persistence he encompassed in working to free the Irish of oppression; however, this year I took it a step further in my class. I took a moment for gratitude.

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I find that sometimes it is important to stop for a moment and ask ‘why am I lucky’, ‘what am I grateful for’, and in the spirit of the Irish and those lucky charms that were floating in the air I tasked my students with an awesome St. Patrick’s Day Escape Room.

It was my first time facilitating an escape room for my students and I loved it and so did they. They used QR codes and their technology at each task, were engaged, working together, learning about their faith and St. Patrick and building critical thinking skills- it was awesome!

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Shout out to ‘Oh the Humanities’ for this awesome find!

I also took a minute and asked students to reflect on what they feel lucky to have! It was perfect for a quick reflection, building empathy, and a writing task to start class.

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Here is a link to my teachers pay teachers account for your FREE download of this awesome resource. 

Of course, after the students reflected on their luck, they were rewarded with the leprechaun cookie. This piece of gratitude from me was to remind them that I am lucky because I have them. My students are truly my lucky charms and they remind me of that daily.

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PS. Check out my awesome St. Patty’s outfit!

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Have a Lucky St. Patty’s Day!

Miss Rylance

Random Acts of Kindness

This week, I was blown away with the amount of kindness, positivity and love my students embodied.

I often talk to my students about the importance of being kind to others in hopes of trying to mold them into good people. I do my best to open their eyes to difference and how to appreciate it in others. I try and build empathy in them to understand that everyone has different struggles and they may not always look the same as yours. BUT most importantly, I try and prove to them that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, and that will look different in everyone.

This week, it was even more important to point those things out to my students.

As random acts of kindness week was among them, I challenged them to reconnect with empathy towards others, acceptance, and how they showed leadership and kindness to one another. There were so many school wide initiatives that my students participated in that promoted kindness and anti- bullying.

These included:

  1. Pink Shirt Day: a nation wide initiative that stands up to bullies and get students to wear pink in solidarity with those trying to combat bullies.

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  2. A pledge kindness wall: our school’s foyer was decorated with paper that required students to pledge kindness by signing their name along with a hand print and give someone an awesome shout out.

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  3. Kindness Family Feud: the student council as our school put on a school wide family feud where questions regarding how someone could show kindness were incorporated.

    This included: how can you be kind to others, how can you show kindness to yourself, how can you show kindness in your community (just to name a few). There was a students team and a teachers team and this friendly competition really got all the students engaged and thinking about how they could show kindness.

    IMG_1537.JPGI was lucky enough to be on the teachers team, and the awesome costumes really showed our team spirit!

Some of my favorite things that happened this week were in the walls of my classroom.

At the beginning of the week I challenged my students to do 2 things that would promote kindness, love and positivity. They did not have to do either activity, they could do one, or both but I encouraged them to at least try one.

The two they could choose from was either to:

a) They had to take a sticky note and write one thing that they were going to do this week for kindness. This was a pledge to themselves that they could keep safe on the back of their phones, in their binders, in their lockers or any place that would remind them. AND I did not have to see it, so it was only a pledge to themselves. 

b) Write a card to a teacher, or person in their life that has made an impactful difference and write them a heart felt message. 

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I was so blown away with what my students came up with and how EVERYONE at least chose one of the two options to do. It made my heart sing with joy that they wanted to embody the ‘kindness’ spirit.

Throughout the week, I was even more honored that many students in my class and in other classes chose to write heartfelt messages to me. I felt so blessed and honored that they felt the desire to let me know that they appreciated me and it truly filled my bucket with joy.

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My random act of kindness was to give back to my students.

I don’t think often enough that they are thanked and told how wonderful they all are and how much I appreciate every one of them. I decided to take my own advice and write each of them a personal heart felt message of why I thought they were so wonderful. Along with the little note was a ring pop, because they truly are my little gems (corny but awesome… I think;)

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This act reminded me how important it is to create those extra little experiences for our students and how those small gestures go a long way. I think that it proved to my students how much I really care, and although I hope that how much I value them is in the level of lessons I plan and deliver to them, it is the extra little bit that truly makes is special.

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If you have not done a little something for your students lately, I challenge you to do something this week. It doesn’t have to be large, but reminding them how special they are is truly important in the process of relationship building.

I hope you received a random act of awesome this week.

Mental health is such an important element of what happens everyday, and although we embed it in everything we do, having a week dedicated to its importance is crucial.

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

 

Shattering Myths About Teachers

In my life I always come across people who have to put their two cents in when I tell them I am a teacher. I often get comments like, “those summers off will be really nice” or “working until 3:30 everyday is going to be a walk in the park” or my favorite “those who can’t teach”… In my experiences so far this year, I can’t even begin to explain how those myths about teachers and teaching are wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I love having a summer break to look forward to; however, the amount that goes in behind the scenes is the undocumented element that make teachers the worlds true super heroes.

In this post, I am going to uncover some of the myths behind teaching in an attempt to shed some light on the crazy, amazing profession I am apart of. And for those of you who are reading this who aren’t teachers, perhaps you will gain some empathy for the battle ground we face every day.

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Myth #1: working until 3:30 everyday is going to be a walk in the park…

LOL. In the 5 and a half months that I have been a teacher I don’t think I have left school at 3:30 once and I guarantee most teachers will agree.

The 7 and a half hours that I see my students is ‘on time’ of this profession. The time where I am persuading, presenting, teaching, creating, inspiring for 7 and a half our of the day. That time does not count the time I am preparing for what is going to happen in the 7 and a half hours every day, organizing extra curricular events and activities, meeting with parents, marking, emailing, creating report cards… all of that happens on my own time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I WANT to put in that time because of the benefit it has in my day and in my opinion is required.

Myth #2: those who can’t teach…

Most likely the most offensive of them all, but most likely the most wrong of them all. Here is the thing about being a teacher, being a teacher matters 100% of the time everyday. I am making impacting decisions that may change my students’ lives every minute, every day. The people I work with choose to make those impacting decisions with me every day. At times, I have to make split second decisions and live with what ever actions are going to come after that, and most of the time I don’t even have time to weigh those odds.

There are so many facets of being a teacher; teaching the lessons, marking assignments and tests, writing report cards… that’s the easy part. It’s the part about how you have 120 different humans in your classroom every day with different challenges and struggles, with different successes and triumphs that is the hard part.

Being a teacher matters 100% of the time. Being a teacher, requires an extra-ordinary kind of person.

Myth #3: If you went to school, you know what teaching is…

I often get people trying to give me tips about being a teacher. Although I love hearing feedback and am very open to how I can improve as a professional, it is difficult to hear the constant comments about “how this one teacher in high school used PowerPoint so I should too”, or “do you do any cool activities with your students because the best teacher would do this”.

The reality is, I am constantly and consistently innovating and changing, trying new things, old things and the unimaginable with my students. My university education, life experience, and learn from it moments along the way… are helping me be the best I can.

The reality is, if you went to school you don’t know how to be a teacher.

Myth #4: It’s your job, you get paid for it…

As a first year teacher, with 4 years on university the reality of making a $100,000 salary is not in my near future. The extra overtime and the bonuses for doing good work don’t exist in the profession I chose.

The reality, teachers I know have second jobs to support themselves and their families.

The reality, we may not be paid in  dollars, but we are paid in the difference we make every day, the smiles and laughs the students share in my classroom, and the appreciation for being a person that my students will remember forever; in this sense, myth is correct in that I get paid for it.

I could continue with the realities of the profession I love and admire so much. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I hope by reading these realities people begin the appreciate the work that happens behind the scenes.

 

Cheers,

Miss Rylance 

In a divided world, how do we teach inclusively?

The headlines in our world are more controversial then ever and every time I open my web browser I cringe with the opinions that are filling my Facebook wall and breaking news headlines that are so constant. Immigration bans, hate crimes based on difference, political divide, racism, religious oppression, sexism, ageism, misogyny… how do I promote a positive classroom of inclusive principles when these are the headlines filling my students’ lives?

Especially as a Social Studies teacher this has been something I have been battling for the last few months, but more recently this is a daily reality in my classroom.

As a teacher, how to I objectively teach my students the “right thing”, is there even a “right thing” and how do I help them formulate their own opinions when the radicality of our world is so polarized.

My solution is to tackle it day to day, situation by situation. The strategy accompanied with this idea is to give my students the information for multiple perspectives. Tell them everything I know, research everything I don’t, and separate opinion as much as possible until the students are capable to choose their own side. Now, I am not saying this is easy especially when student’s start to form opinions different then mine… but I know they have the right to their own judgement.

Another issue I am having is one of how can I have a classroom of equals when hate and inequality are becoming norms of influential and important leaders in our world. Each classroom has a mosaic of difference and the beauty that difference brings, whether that be gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity each person contributes differently to my classroom wholeness.

It’s hard. 

Especially for those students already dealing with the struggles of fitting in a being in middle school. My solution… make my classroom a safe haven of equality, love, and support. So far, it’s working. As I work every day to shatter the hate filling the young minds of my students… I wish one thing, that they grow into people understanding difference and appreciating it.

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Share with me your strategies… what are you doing to combat the crazy?

Cheers,

Miss Rylance

Starting Fresh: What are your resolutions?

I took a bit of a hiatus from blogging as I did from school during the Christmas season. The push before Christmas has perhaps been the most difficult time for me thus far as a new teacher. The pressure of finishing assessments and units before the break, along with Christmas and holiday events during school hours, parties, the works… it was a lot, as I am sure you know.

After that my brain took about 2 weeks to normalize as I got ready for the New Year. As a new teacher, I feel as though the amount of reflecting and growing that happens is endless but as the New Year started, I think this gives teachers a moment to really think about how this year is going and assess what needs to happen moving forward.

TIP: In making resolution for the New Year, cut yourself some slack. I am my own biggest critic… and although reflection is good… be careful to give your self more credit then you think you need. Find small and effective ways to strengthen your practice.

Check out some of my teaching ‘resolutions’ for this year! 2017… bigger and better!

  1. If you’re having fun, so are your students!
    Before the break, as the insanity of December set in, I felt like as I was becoming more anxious so were my students. Yes, there are always ‘fun things’ happening, but in the day to day business of routine with your students… its so important to make sure you’re still lovin’ it.
  2. Let it be.
    I found that up to this point, I have had a level of patients and acceptance with my students (as you of course need). However, the bottle flipping and dabbing were getting to be frustrating. I decided that coming into the New Year, I was going to understand that those things were inevitable and it was time to just ‘Let it Be’.
  3. PBL: PROJECT BASED LEARNING.
    Its going to happen… stay posted for more details. What I can tell you, its going to be epic;)

 

These simple things are hopefully going to help my classroom grow more into 2017. I recommend making goals and resolutions not only for life in the classroom but also life outside. The balance required to maintain a fresh vibe is essential. Some of my other goals included health, relationship, adventure and financial goals; all of which will help me be a better educator.

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If you want to share your new year, new you goals with me let me know!

Cheers,
Miss Rylance 

Your Guide to Establishing a Classroom Routine

One of the biggest things that I find an asset to the success of my day to day ‘teacher life’ is the routine and structure that I have established with my students in my classroom. Although there is a ton of flexibility in terms of the dynamic instruction of my lessons, some simple things have helped my class run smoothly. I also have found this to be a saving grace for classroom management and the establishment of strong student relationships.

Short, Quick, Simple. My formula to effective classroom routines. Check out my tips below!

  1. Have something for students to come into class every morning expecting. For me, this includes a Quote of the Day, and Today’s Plan for each lesson. Both of these are slightly time consuming as I switch my quotes daily and switch my plan per class; however, it is something I know they appreciate.

    At times, the inspirational quote may be the one thing that the student needs at that moment and the plan outlining the lesson is perfect for those students who have issues with transitions or need more prompting. Both of these short, quick, simple things are very meaningful in establishing what my students can expect entering my classroom.

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  2. ‘Do Now’ activities. At the beginning of each one of my classes, students come in knowing that they are expected to sit down and ‘do’ something immediately. In my English classes, this looks like 10 minutes of silent reading at the beginning of each class, in my Ukrainian class this looks like a question on the board they are expected to answer. Regardless, students come in knowing their brain is working from the start.

    This works well when I need an extra few minutes to transition between classes and also helps my students know the expectation and work expected when they come in.

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  3. Every Friday I change things up a bit. Throughout the week students know that we will be working through material striving for our summative assessment. But at the end of each week I do a ‘current events’ Friday and a Library period for them to have some ‘chill’ reading time.

    Both of these things are items students look forward to during the week, but also give me a chance to hit different outcomes that may not be included in my unit plan.

    I use an awesome video to start my current events lesson from www.cnn.com/studentnews and then get students to work in groups to look up local, national and international headlines. This gets students familiar with reading the news and collaborating with each other to come up with education explanations of world events.

I hope these 3 tips can assist you in establishing your classroom routines. Let me know any of your tips and tricks, I would love to hear!

Cheers,

Miss Rylance