Thursday, December 29, 2016

17 for '17

For the past two years (2015 & 2016), I have created teacher "bucket lists" that offer challenges for you to try out in the New Year! Sticking with tradition, may I present to you the 17 for '17:

1) Give a "High-Five": We spend time each day uplifting and celebrating our students, but we sometimes forget to give that same attention to our colleagues. I created "High-Fives" this past year as a way for school staffs to recognize each other in simple, yet meaningful ways. These tokens of recognition are meant for teachers and administrators to show appreciation and thanks for the little things that sometimes get overlooked. Here's an example:

2) Use a GIANT game: Bigger is better! And GIANT games are all the rage! From Giant Jenga to Giant Kerplunk to Giant Checkers, all of our favorite childhood games have been revived in blow-up fashion. Look to get your hands on a giant version of a game and use it to create a classroom activity. Here is a Giant Kerplunk lesson I made over the summer:

3) Keep it positive: For one week, challenge yourself to not say anything negative about a student, a colleague, a parent, the administration, or the school! It's harder than it sounds since days don't always go as planned and we can get caught up in the negative space around us. Be cognizant of your surroundings and what comes out of your mouth! I bet it changes the attitudes of the people around you too!

4) Attend an unfamiliar event: You may have a diverse population of students in your classroom. Look to attend an event with a student that is out of your comfort zone. You can look to attend church, temple, or a mosque with a student's family. You can also aim to attend a sporting event or stage performance that you would not otherwise go to.

5) Bring in the media: Contact your local newspaper, television news station, or radio station to feature something cool that you're doing in your classroom or school. News outlets are looking for positive school stories to feature, so help them by cooking up something great to show!

6) Get rid of the desk: There's a good chance you stand most of the day anyway, so free up some space in your classroom by getting rid of that bulky teacher desk. If you're worried about where to stack your papers and supplies, look to transition into file organizers and cubbies that fit better against the wall. The extra space can go to great use!

7) Get rid of the lectern: While you're at it, in addition to getting rid of the desk, go ahead and get rid of that lectern that you stand behind (yes, I'm talking to you middle and high school teachers!). No student wants to look at one focal point for an hour, so get rid of that lectern and use the entire classroom as your stage!

8) Flexible seating: Another emerging trend I have noticed recently is more classrooms moving towards flexible seating. I got to feature my friend Ms. Resendes' 5th grade classroom recently on Periscope (you can see the video on my Periscope page @adamdovico). This year, she has transformed her classroom into a complete flexible seating arrangement. In the video, she explains how she obtained the furniture, set up the rules, and maintains the culture in the classroom.

9) Morning choice: This idea is one that I'll be exploring more in 2017. I was never a fan of morning work when the students arrive in the morning. It's used as a time waster for those who get to school early, but never gets done by students who come in as the bell rings (or after it). It becomes more of a frustration than a learning opportunity. New research is affirming older research that showed that children need time to explore and imagine. By changing morning work into morning choice, you can have students spend arrival time working with things like Play-do, magnetic shapes, puzzles, and anything else that will reach all types of learners. The good news is that if a student doesn't get to the classroom before the bell, they haven't missed anything that they need to make up. It may even encourage some students who move extra slow in the morning to hustle up and get to class!

10) Use a Green-screen: This is a shout out to my favorite app, Green Screen by DoInk. It's a few dollars to purchase, but has amazing features that will allow your students to create amazing pictures and videos for fun and educational purposes. I use them for a variety of things with my education majors at Wake Forest, including a bulletin board they make with their personalized background:

11) Prohibit PowerPoint: With so many web tools and use-friendly programs out there these days to create presentations, challenge yourself, and your students to not use PowerPoint for their next project!

12) Present at a conference: There is no one more credible to talk about teaching than a teacher. Gather up your best material, create a presentation, and submit a proposal to present at a conference! Start off local to get practice, then build up to submit to a state or national conference!

13) Do a "challenge" with your class: 2016 had no shortage of "challenges," which included #DoItLikeMeChallenge, #JuJuOnThatBeatChallenge, #MannequinChallenge and a host of others. There is no doubt that 2017 will bring a whole stack of new challenges!

14) Catch up with an old friend: This isn't teaching related necessarily, but something that I am personally going to work hard on this year. Life is busy and sometimes mundane things get in the way of the important relationships in our life. Take a moment this year and reconnect with someone you haven't caught up with in a while. You'll share stories of special times together and catch up on what life is like now.

15) Go digital: See how many pieces of paper you can save this year by go digital. All those worksheets you printed, all those copies you made ... consider finding ways to make them digital. With more schools moving towards 1:1 technology or at least providing more technology in the classroom, the time is now to reconsider how we are teaching and transform our methods to the digital age. Not to mention you'll be saving trees!

16) Welcome the kids back with a bang: If you are reading this before the students come back from winter break, consider welcoming them back with an entry completely unexpected. Bring in a red carpet, transform the room, set up an escape room, or change something big in your classroom. It will bring a breath of fresh air into the room and get you excited for the second half of the year.

17) Teach something SPECIAL: 2016 was a "special" (pun intended) year for me. I got my article on Making a S.P.E.C.I.A.L. first impression published by Phi Delta Kappa's Kappan magazine. The past two years in this blog post I have talked about using manners and respect in different fashions. You can use SPECIAL as a way to teach this skill set.

I hope you enjoyed the 17 in '17! For more things you "can" do in the class, check out my book Inside the Trenches.