Starting Over at Mid-Year

Last week on Facebook we asked, “What’s your advice for someone who’s taking over for another teacher in the middle of the year?” and you shared so many great ideas! Several people mentioned that the first weeks of January are a great time to get a fresh start whether you’re beginning with a new class or not. I asked some of our senior consulting teachers the same question, and they agreed:

Sarah Fillion said: This is a great time to make changes! One way to start over with a clean slate is to strip your room back down to the essentials, and move things around if certain areas were not working.

I’d always start off the New Year with revisiting hopes and dreams—some students will have achieved their goals from the beginning of the year and be ready to create new ones, some will want to keep plugging away, and some will want to take on a new goal.

I also asked students to fill out a simple questionnaire (I usually did this before vacation . . . but it would work just as well after), with questions such as:

What is one area of our school day that is working really well and why?
What is one area of the day that is not working so well for you and why?
What is one project/unit you felt really successful on and why?
What is one unit/project you wish you could re-do, and why?

The information I got from the students helped me see what to re-evaluate, and guided my thinking about how to do so.

Kerry O’Grady said: With upper grade students, I used the new year as a chance to get into calendars and long-term planning and goal setting. This gave the reminding language I was using a deeper level of meaning. For instance:

“In order to be ready for Science Night on February 4th, we need to have lots of plants to show our families. So, we need to get all our seeds planted successfully today. To meet that goal, what should we keep in mind while working with partners today?”

I also often rearranged the classroom with input from the students. This allowed us a chance to go back to our rules. I’d ask students to consider questions such as:

“What changes can we make to help us better take care of the environment, or take care of each other?”
“What is working about our classroom set up?”
“What changes might improve it?”

A few times, I broke the class up into groups and assigned each group an area (classroom library, math material area, circle area, coat closets, group/ individual work space, etc.) to focus on. This worked well with ten-year-olds.



Tags: Middle of the Year, School Breaks