2016 New Year's Resolutions for my Classroom

Two Boys and a Dad Teacher

With the new year, I've come up with 3 resolutions which I know I can keep and accomplish before the end of this school year.

  • integrate technology strategically
  • plan monthly, but tweak weekly
  • clear out the clutter

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Integrating Technology

What do I mean when I say integrate technology strategically?  We all know what happens in education.  There's always a "hot trend" that everyone jumps aboard hoping that it will cure all the ills and bring peace to the Middle East (well, maybe not that last part).  The latest "hot trend" seems to be a 1:1 classroom that gives each student a Chrome Book, laptop, tablet or some other device to use in the classroom.  Why is this happening now?  It's not like this technology hasn't been around for awhile (anyone remember the Apple IIes?).  The reason many districts are trying to implement a 1:1 program is a very simple reason:  standardized testing.  Yep, whether your district is using the SBAC or the PARCC, students will be taking their yearly standardized test on a computer or tablet.  Of course districts are very worried that students will suffer if they don't use technology daily for everything!  Not the case.  Yes, students do need to know how to use the technology and be prepared for the test.  You can check out my blog post on that subject HERE.

Two Boys and a Dad Teacher


But in the classroom, is it really necessary to use technology for EVERYTHING?  No!  It should be used strategically.  Think about it.  Is the task best accomplished and more developmentally appropriate with a paper, pencil and book vs using a computer or tablet?  Here's an example:  should young students (6 - 10 years olds) be using a computer or tablet to write rough drafts?  Some would argue yes, but I argue no!  

First of all, children at this age still are developing their fine motor skills and writing with a pencil helps with that.  Also, a majority of children at this age can not type quickly or accurately and spend most of their time hunting and pecking for keys instead of focusing on whether their writing makes sense.  So I would say, write your rough draft on paper.  Revise it on paper.  THEN, type into a word processor to edit for spelling and punctuation and grammar.  Technology is very helpful when it comes to editing! Once it's edited, the student can then use a drawing program or tools to add illustrations to enhance the writing OR use Google search for images to insert (and in the process learn how to use the drawing tools and about copyright images that are labeled for reuse).  There's also a drive to go paperless.  But here's the rub.  How do you see your student's thinking if all they turn in is a Google form?  How do you check their math work if all they do is type in an answer.  So, yes, I will be integrating more technology into my classroom, but strategically. Yes, I do use Google Forms in the classroom.  BUT, I use it to give the students practice with answering SBAC type questions so they get used to the format.  You can read about how I use Google Forms HERE.

Planning Monthly

I am fortunate that I plan with my team (2 other third grade teachers).  We collaborate well together and lesson plans are done online through the www.planbookedu.com website.  We used to plan weekly one week at a time hoping that everything fits in before those all too important district assessments.  Now that has changed!  Now we plan an entire month in advance and tweak it weekly.  What are the advantages?  First, you can see if everything you need to teach will fit into that month.  

Two Boys and a Dad Teacher

It gives you peace of mind that you won't have to be rushing at the end to get it all end before the big assessment.  By looking at a month at a time, you can also plan midpoint assessments to make sure your students are on track before the more formal assessment.  Second, it's a timesaver!  Now we only meet weekly for a shorter time to tweak the lesson plans for reteaching, acceleration or to slow down a bit.  Third, you start out units with a clear goal in mind and final destination.  Everything you plan is working toward that goal.  There is no superfluous or unnecessary teaching.  It really tightens up your teaching!

Clear the Clutter

Two Boys and a Dad Teacher

I'm now in my 30th year of teaching.  Just think about having lived in a house for 30 years. Yep, that garage is piled high.  The attic is full.  The closest are bursting.  That's my classroom.  It's time for me to seriously clean out the clutter.  If it's been in my closet for years, am I ever going to use it?  Probably not.  So out it goes!  Soon, my school will undergo modernization and I will be forced to clear out everything so cleaning out everything before the school year is perfect timing!  Say hello to a clutter free classroom in 2017!

What are your 2016 Classroom Resolutions?
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