Tips & Tricks

Take a refreshing break

-Robert Choun

As I walked into the first-grade classroom on Sunday morning I saw every learner actively involved in a creative, lesson-related activity. Transitions from one activity to the next were easy and natural. The room layout contributed to the teaching methods being used. Storage of equipment and supplies was well organized. How I wished it was my own first-grade room at the other end of the hall. Where did the teachers get those great ideas?

Teachers who attend training conferences and conventions soon learn that some of the best ideas they bring home come from other teachers. Their knowledge has been earned in the trenches and their recommendations are based on what they know works. You can learn by observing gifted teachers in action. Visit another classroom and you’ll find yourself encouraged and revitalized.

Have a Strategy

Arrange to be absent from class one Sunday. Call ahead to the director of the children’s ministry of a church a little larger than your own. Ask permission to observe a class of learners the same grade as you teach. Speak to the teacher of the class about the reason for your visit. Arrive early so your entrance will not be a disruption.

Focus you attention on areas in which you need direction. Some suggested areas might be: storytelling, Bible-learning activities, discipline, teacher teamwork, transitions, lesson organization and creative teaching methods. Observe both the teachers and the learners. Take notes. Write down things you want to implement and questions you want to ask.

When the last child has left and teachers are cleaning the classroom, stay to assist. Ask questions during this time. Remain open-minded, even if they didn’t do things your way.

You might invite a teacher you observed to visit your classroom to help you incorporate some of her methods. Ask what changes she would make. Keep in mind that no two groups of children have exactly the same set of needs. An activity that works with one group may bomb with another. You are the expert on your group of learners but you owe it to them to explore the options.

Remember to send thank-you notes to the teachers you observed. They may be available to join you for lunch and further discussion.

It Works!

If you’re not convinced that this plan works let me share with you the top ten “tricks of the trade” I have learned from other teachers.

  1. Keep students’ nametags on a display board near the door. You can tell at a glance who’s absent and tags are more likely to be returned at the end of class.
  2. If you use student workbooks tear out the pages and keep them organized by lesson. This method saves time on Sunday and makes leftover sheets easy to mail to absentees.
  3. Containers for take-home papers, personal belongings and art projects can be made from recycled shoeboxes, milk jugs or baskets. To help substitute teachers, label each container with the photo of its owner.
  4. String a clothesline across a wall and use clothespins to display student artwork or other visuals.
  5. Plan a lesson-related activity for early arrivals.
  6. To break up cliques, divide the class into teams or activity groups by using arbitrary criteria such as clothing color, or numbering one to three around the class.
  7. Serve drinks that won’t leave dark stains on clothes or classroom carpet.
  8. Put paper plates under paint jars to catch spills.
  9. Take your learners on a tour of their future classroom the week before promotion.
  10. Label storage areas with words or pictures and make them accessible so students can help distribute items and clean up.

A fresh perspective can do wonders for your attitude. You’ll return to your own classroom eager to evaluate and improve your environment, methods and resources. And you’ll have new teammates to call on for fresh ideas and advice.

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