I Love a Good Refresh
When things get stagnant and old, a refresh can breathe just the right amount of new life into a classroom. In December, I take some time to reflect on some areas of my classroom where I can shake things up. Where are my students ready to stretch? How can I help move them forward? What areas do I have in my schedule that still have hiccups and needs rethinking? Here are 3 areas I’m refreshing my classroom for the New Year.
I love direct instruction. Even a few minutes can make a big impact, so this is an area we focus on in my classroom. We have a simple set-up with bins that hold every student’s materials for their unique IEP goals. In December, we take the time to clean out the bins, review progress and data and make any adjustments needed. We plug in new goals and data sheets. We put away old items we no longer need, file old data and get set up for the new year. Not only does cleaning the bins out help staff, it helps students. When staff can get to what they need quickly, students stay on track and don’t lose focus.
In January, it’s time to beef up the skills we work on in calendar and morning meeting. I try to add in a few skills for each student to practice every morning. My students have varied skills that range from pre-academic to 2nd grade level. Having this wide range an make whole group sessions tricky, but by giving opportunities for each student to participate, everyone stays engaged. By mid-year, the skills have advanced and I need to shift some things for the group. I add in a morning meeting question of the day, recall of the weather the day before, how to dress in the given weather, and predicting what the weather will be next. Skip counting, spelling CVC words, and I SPY are also added. This refresh is just what students need to stay engaged and learning.
I’m not going to lie – centers have been ROUGH this year. My students were learning to learn. We had difficult behaviors, difficult transitions and trouble working in a small group of 2-3 students with 1-2 staff. We scaled way back and started with a simple skill to practice. Students didn’t even rotate centers, I had staff and materials rotate instead to reduce transitions. I’m so impressed at the growth in my classroom overall, so much so that we need a revamp of what we are doing. Now that my students are ready, we can beef up those centers and make them longer (by a minute or two each week until we are at 15 minutes per center) and increase the task difficulty. One of my favorite things to do is these simple matching or errorless Task Cards. They are the perfect way to add in some academic tasks while working in a group.
With a little bit of reflection, I’ll have a refreshed classroom ready to go in January! Happy New Year!