You’re a teacher, which means you’ve already started transitioning from summer vacation to the new school year. You’ve dedicated time to prepare the physical layout of your classroom. You’re reviewing your lesson plans. You want everything to be just right. You want your new students to walk into your classroom and feel energized to learn, motivated to think and explore. But throughout all of your preparations, there’s one thing you may have forgotten.
Your students aren’t ready to say goodbye to summer.
They may enter your classroom with a glow of excitement, but it’s most likely more about their new backpacks and back-to-school clothes than the idea of a new year of learning. Their minds are still at the beach, at summer camp, having fun.
What can we teachers do to ensure that our students’ transition back to school is smooth and successful? What can we do to help them perceive learning as something not only worhwhile, but also interesting and even, dare I say, fun?
I believe the answer to these questions can be found in understanding the attraction of summer vacation itself. Summertime is fun, it’s active, it’s social, and it’s dynamic, constantly changing with different adventures and activities happening all the time.
So why can’t our classrooms be like that? They can and here’s a few quick tips how:
1. Make learning social. Allow them to learn with their peers in small learning groups, working on tasks and challenges together. This breaks up the routine of frontal instruction and gives them a chance to be an active participant in their learning.
2. Change things up. Don’t do the same thing every day. Don’t teach every lesson using only one mode of instruction. We already know that different kids learn in different ways, so bring those different ways into your classroom!
3. Use technology. It’s a no-brainer that kids love computers and iPads (let’s be honest, we all do). Dedicate a portion of your teaching time each week to using online learning programs and games. Teach them that technology is not only for social media and games. Show them computers and even tablets can be used to enhance their education. Introduce them to websites and apps that have been created by educational professionals.
For some, this may sound like a lot of changes at one time, but with the help of educational technology, it’s actually easy. There are websites and apps out there that naturally bring the above three tips into your classroom. One of these comes from Matific.com. With hundreds of math games called “episodes” for grades K-6, students feel that they are taking a break from the normal classroom learning routine, while teachers feel confident that important math skills are being taught and reinforced. Students can also pair up to tackle a math challenge together encouraging cooperation and new peer connections in the classroom. Lastly, students see that learning could be fun, using the same medium that they would choose to use in their own free time but towards educational goals.
This year, as our students walk into our classrooms for the first time, let’s take a moment to understand where they are coming from and what they’re leaving behind. And then work on bringing those two worlds closer together for an educational experience you feel proud to facilitate and they feel fortunate to be part of.