We teach our students to learn from their mistakes. We encourage our students to become problem solvers. We want our learners to realize when their behavior does not produce the desired outcome and in the future change that behavior. So let’s follow our own advice. We are a few weeks into the school year. By now we have figure out what’s working and what’s not working. Just because our students struggle with change and transitions doesn’t mean you are stuck with a schedule or classroom layout that isn’t working. It’s not too late to make changes! Here are some tips for making changes to your classroom:
1. Identify the Problems
If there are times of your day that are especially stressful, loud, chaotic, or have an increase in disruptive behaviors – take some time to investigate the root of problem. Are there students who do not have enough work to be doing? Are the schedule changes too complicated? Are there too many transitions? Are the location of stations not ideal? Last year a teacher I was working with and I decided to switch her morning routine from 15 minute stations to 30 minute stations. Eliminating almost half of the transitions made the room run so much more smoothly. Each station included the same amount of work as two stations but students stayed at each center. It made the world of a difference. Consider where stations are located. The computer or play station shouldn’t be next to independent work. You are asking for wanderers to suddenly “land up” in the play area.
2. Add additional cues and prompts.
Before you revamp any schedules or classroom structure, try adding adding additional cues, prompts, and directions within the room. Sometimes adding some more clarification to your original setup can be successful. Think about the problems you identified earlier and how you can accommodate for the challenges your students are having.
3. Alert students of major changes.
If your problems go beyond extra visuals and more prompts, don’t worry. If you are ready for an overhaul of changes – schedules, structure, the whole sha-bang, go for it. Your kids will be fine. You will be fine. You may have a rough week or so but then the rest of your year will be significantly better. Now that you’ve decided to make major changes, you need to alert your students to those changes just like we would any other change. This is a common mistake to make huge shifts to the classroom and not let your students know. We get so consumed with what changes need to be made that you forget about approaching the change like any other disruption to the schedule. Put it on the schedule, talk about it, and make a social story about it!
Change is scary but I encourage you to go for it! Don’t try to force something that isn’t working all year when you the opportunity to fix it for real! You won’t regret it in the long run!