Tips for New Teachers: Back to School
by Judith Aguilar
As a brand new teacher, setting up your new classroom and preparing for that first day of school can be an emotional roller coaster. You’re excited to meet your students and you’re brimming with new ideas, yet you also feel a little nervous and don’t want to forget anything important. It’s easy to begin with the most obvious needs, and you’ve probably already been obsessing about how you’ll set up your room, prepare the seating arrangements, what to put up on your walls, and the organization of your teaching materials and supplies. These are all significant, but perhaps the most essential element to consider when preparing for the new school year is classroom management. A good plan should include not only rules and consequences, but also routines and procedures. Setting these daily, weekly, and monthly routines are a must to keep you as well as your students on the track to success.
Of course you already realize that you must take grade level into consideration as you create your classroom management plan. Not surprisingly, my first experience teaching middle school was vastly different from my first experience teaching 5th grade – the middle school students were measurably more mature than 5th graders. I quickly discovered, however, that even the older students still need plenty of structure. I learned this the hard way when I jumped in expecting my middle schoolers to take notes and complete an assignment on the first day, when in retrospect I wish I would have approached them like I did with my 5th graders by doing a hands-on, getting-to-know you activity.* No matter what their ages, students benefit from having classroom leaders, love rewards, and need to know that you care. The more clearly you can communicate expectations, the better! Deadline reminders on the whiteboard as well as their student planners, a designated place for handouts, and an easily accessible classroom calendar help students feel more confident in knowing what the should be doing and when they will be tested.
Finally, although the first day is central to setting the stage for the year, it is the entire first four to six weeks when you’ll teach your students the classroom rules, procedures and routines that will help keep you, and them, sane. Create the structure, be consistent, follow through, and establish a safe learning environment for your students.
*An introductory activity can be something as simple as a gallery walk of the curriculum they will be learning in the new school year. You might include diagrams, pictures of well-known scientists, illustration of a concept, or maybe even some formulas you might be using. Give them an empty list and ask them to go to each picture and write down what significance the picture has for your class. For example, you might have a picture up of Isaac Newton or of an atom. This can give you an idea of what prior knowledge students have coming in to the classroom and you can observe student behavior. This type of activity can also help you establish the expectations for group activities and their parameters, such as noise level and movement.
Judith Aguilar is a science teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District and a member of CSTA.
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…