October is rounding the bend and at this point in the year we have a pretty good idea if things are working or not. I am by no means saying everything should be perfect. But you will have an idea if things are moving in the right direction or not. Sometimes at this point, we know that we aren’t moving in the direction. Things just aren’t working. The chaos isn’t moving into organized chaos and things just generally seem to be a hot mess. In this situation – what do you do next? Leave it and hope for the best? Yea, right – let me know how that works out. Here are some things to try if you are in this situation:
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.
Repeat the best parts of your day.
My first or second year teaching, I had someone suggest this to me and it was great advice. Take whatever part of your day is going well and do it again. If morning circle usually works pretty well, do it again after lunch. If your whole morning is somewhat okay and the afternoon is crazy, repeat the morning schedule after lunch. Once you get into the routine, you can start to integrate different content and activities.
Change your schedule.
If transitions or staffing is a major problem, consider changing your schedule. For some reason, we are all very resistant to doing this. Making a schedule is a lot of work and then you prepped student schedules and it seems like a big huge pain to redo that whole thing. But you want to know what will be a bigger big huge pain? Living with a schedule that doesn’t quite work all year long.
Add more cues.
A few years ago, I shared this color coded system that I honestly developed more for the teacher and staff then the students. The staff was all new to the classroom and having a really hard time getting the schedule down. We color coded the heck out of the room and the transitions went so much smoother. Everyone (including the adults) knew where they needed to be at each time! Check out that post for a free download as well!