I’m really slow at catching onto things sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. I can hear a piece of advice or read it in a book a million times, but a lot of times I have to do just the opposite and learn the hard way.
Consistency is key. Students crave structures and routines. Yes, I heard this throughout college. Most books on classroom management and setting up your classroom give this advice. Yet, it’s something I’m still in the process of learning.
As I reflect on my second year of teaching, one of the best changes I made this year was to set a weekly schedule. Wait. Set isn’t the right word. That would imply that I planned this out from the beginning. I didn’t. Remember, I like to learn things the hard way. I ended up developing this weekly schedule over the course of this past year, and I can’t imagine going back now.
Mondays – Good Things
Wednesdays – Weird and Wacky Wednesdays
Fridays – Friday Funnies
Let’s start with where this all started. Good Things Mondays. I’ve blogged about this before, but here’s the gist. Every class starts out with bellwork. After going over the bellwork, we spend a couple of minutes on something fun and totally non-math related if it is Monday/Wednesday/Friday.
On Mondays, students have the opportunity to share something good that has happened in their lives lately. I love this routine for several reasons. It gets some kids talking who are normally very quiet and shy in class. Students get a chance to share a piece of their lives with the class that I normally wouldn’t get a chance to be a part of. A good thing can be something huge like getting their driver’s license or something small like getting a chance to sleep in over the weekend. Students love to talk about the movies they saw, the fish they caught, or the places they went.
I try to keep it positive. I really do. But, my students love to share bad things, too. This year, I let them share basically anything that was school appropriate. But, I think I’m going to make it where I only allow good things on Mondays. Somehow, someway, I want to give students the chance to earn the opportunity to talk about Bad Things. I’m thinking about some sort of point structure where classes earn points for attendance, no tardies, 100% completion rate on homework, etc. Then, these points can be exchanged for Bad Things, Brain Breaks, Set, Witzzle, etc. Any ideas on this would be greatly appreciated!
Depending on how many students want to speak, Good Things usually takes 3-4 minutes. I have had to learn to set a limit on how many things students may share. I also always try to make a point to share a good thing of my own. Students want to know more about me outside of the classroom, and this is an opportunity to share some of my passions with them. Monday is usually a day that students (and sometimes teachers) dread. Good Things makes it better. I can’t tell you how many times I would hear one of my students proclaim, “It’s Monday. That means it’s time for Good Things!” They would not let me forget about Good Things. If we didn’t have school on Monday, they would insist on having Good Things on the first day we came back from the break.
I started Good Things in September after experiencing it at a professional development workshop that my district provided. The first couple of times that I did it with students, it felt kinda awkward. I think students just aren’t used to being asked to participating in this type of sharing in the classroom. But, they quickly warmed to the idea. As far as I know, I’m the only teacher in my building using this strategy. One thing I have worked on and need to continue to work on is making sure that the other students are politely listening and not talking while a student is sharing his or her good thing. My students get so excited about talking about their good things that they can’t stop. Their seatmates start asking them questions, and pretty soon half the room is talking. Maybe I could build this into the point structure. If students start talking during Good Things when it is not their turn, the entire class loses a point???
Due to the overwhelming popularity of Good Things Mondays, my students started requesting that we have other fun things on other days of the week. In October, Lisa Henry posted about doing Friday Funnies with her students. Every Friday, she shares a math-themed comic strip with her students. I loved this idea, and I thought my students would, too. I started the year off with math comic strips, but it quickly morphed into funny things in general. Knock Knock Jokes. Silly Jokes. Comics. Funny pictures off pinterest. These were only sometimes math related.
On some Fridays, I would give students a chance to tell their own (school appropriate!) jokes. One student was convinced that Friday Funnies were just like Good Things Mondays. So, he would raise his hand every Friday to share something funny that had happened to him that week. I never stopped him; it was always interesting to see what he deemed funny.
My students love to bash my jokes. I think they laugh more at their attempts to make fun of my jokes than my actual jokes. As bad as my jokes are, my students would riot if we didn’t have Friday Funnies. When I asked my Algebra 1 students to write letters of advice to future students, several students mentioned my jokes:
- Laugh at Ms. Hagan’s jokes to make her feel better.
- Miss Hagan is a really good teacher and I think you will like her class. Another thing you may like is her jokes even though they aren’t really funny.
- If you want Ms. Hagan to feel good and have a good day, tell her to tell jokes. Then, laugh even though they aren’t funny.
- Also, her jokes. Some are funny and some you’re just like “Miss Hagan!” And, that’s what makes you laugh.
- Hey, she always tells jokes so make sure you laugh. 🙂
Friday Funnies creates memories. And, even if they are laughing at my expense, I’m glad to see smiles on the faces of my students. I teach in a largely poor, rural school, and many of my students have seen and experienced things that I can’t even imagine. They are so young, yet their life stories are already filled with abandonment, rape, abuse, incarceration of one or both parents, neglect, and more. It’s a different world than the one I grew up in. Friday Funnies is a small thing I can give my students, but I believe that small things add up.
Weird & Wacky Wednesdays
The last and most poorly executed addition to our weekly schedule was Weird and Wacky Wednesdays. Do you ever hear an interesting story on the radio or visit an interesting link and want to share it with your students? This was my attempt at doing just that.
Here are some of the things we explored on Weird and Wacky Wednesdays:
What Day of the Week Were You Born On?
Food Art (Are you sensing a theme?)
Childhood Pictures of Myself Exploring Various Careers (Scanned and captioned by my mother!)
My students craved the consistency that this weekly schedule provided. If it was Monday, they wanted and expected to do Good Things. On Wednesday, they expected me to have something weird/interesting to share with them. And, on Fridays, they demanded jokes. Next year, I plan on revamping my weekly schedule.
My current brainstorm: (Subject to Change)
- Monday – Good Things + Mental Math Monday
- Tuesday – Trivia Tuesday
- Wednesday – Witzzle Wednesday
- Thursday – “Tease Your Brain” Thursday (Brainteasers)
- Friday – Friday Funnies
Next year, my aim is to have procedures and structures for EVERYTHING. I think it will help immensely with my classroom management.
I ended up writing out my weekly bellwork schedule for 2014-2015 here.