Originally posted 3/19/12
Transitions are tough for all human beings. Each one of us transitions differently. It’s no wonder that transitions in the classroom are a struggle.
As a teacher, it helps us to actively DECIDE whether a compass or a GPS is needed in our classrooms.
Every class has students that walk in every day asking the age-old question: What are we going to do today? They are not trying to be obtuse.
They need to know. They handle transition with preparation. If you have a lot of those students, you are one of those students or your administrators want evidence that you know about those students, the GPS system is for you.
G.P.S. Get a Plan. Post a Plan. Show the Plan as needed.
Keep the plan simple. Date, Period, Plan of Activities. Label the activities anything you want, in either or both languages depending on your goals.
Keep the details of the plan in your head. You need to know how many minutes,how many structures, where to PQA more and where to gesture less. All they want to know is what is next.
Put the “voice” of the Plan up for the students. “Turn right now.”
Get their attention. Point to the next step on the plan. Give them instructions and go.
But…teach the students and remind them that the plan is subject to change with just a little notice. ‘Recalculating…..”
I am a not a natural plan person. I love to make them, but can’t follow one happily. I’m always aching to go after a teachable moment, a great response from a student or a spontaneous road trip with the language. But
I have students who occasionally need to know the plan. I also became a much more skilled TPRSer by beginning with a plan and following it as closely as I could in order to improve my skills. Sometimes an activity is new to my students and they need to see the steps in writing. So…I try to teach my students that from time to time I’ll put up a plan and we will follow it. For a reason.
But most of the time I am a “compass” teacher. I know in which direction I want to go. I have enough knowledge to stay on a safe road or get off of a dangerous one. I’ve had enough experiences with flat lessons and overheated discussions to avoid them or fix them. If I’m tired, emotionally-drained, overextended, had too little sleep or need to rely on caffeine then I’d better pull out the GPS.
If we constantly remind ourselves and our students about the interactive quality of our classroom, then we can decide with each class if we are going to follow a GPS or a compass that day. Only three things are needed: a goal,a class that knows how to interact, and a routine at the beginning of every single period that requires them to find out from us what is happening first.
At the beginning of each class it is important that we connect with the class for at least a moment to them know that we are here, we are glad that they are here, and that we will be making the decisions that direct what happens in the room.
It really doesn’t matter if you post a “do-now/bellringer”, greet them at the door with instructions, have a starting routine (FVR, a song, PQA, calendar, etc.)or simply start with an attention-getting signal. What matters is that you use that moment to hold hold up the Maestro baton and give them clear direction. By starting each class with that moment, you make each class member feel welcome and important and safe.
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