This is a reflection on my first day of the schoolyear 2013-2014. I used modern tools and strategies to reach a new group of 4th graders. I was successful in reaching every one. My challenge will be to keep up with my new patterns and maintain the old ones that work. One example of an old approach is homework.
I like to keep homework to a minimum. I feel like unless kids get help at home, worksheets can be a big waste of time. In fact, they can even prove harmful so I haven’t traditionally given many as homework. This year I will return to worksheets but in a minimal way. Parents have requested them enough to where I feel I should acquiesce to them. This year I am very focused on parents and their requests. I think the smartest teachers have come to see the value of parent requests. This is true even when it may go against what we know the “experts” say. I really feel that I do work for the parents and in most cases need to give them what they ask for. As a parent myself of three school aged kids, I would expect the same from their teachers. I am assigning an AR book for 30 mins a night and one worksheet on Language Arts and Math. I am committed to explaining the homework in detail before they are expected to do it. After that, I emphasize they do not have to do it 100% correctly. I want to discourage just “filling in” anything so it appears done.
One other piece of innovation I am trying is the use of tables instead of desks. This is cleaner. When kids have nowhere to put clutter and trash, they have to use their backpacks. This keeps it off the floor. More than that though, the tables are more conducive to collaborative work. They can lean over within their group and take more ownership of their team when they are at a table. I am trying to avoid the “lone wolf” mentality.
Both these pieces of innovation helped make today great. I am always scouring blogs and youtube to find new ideas for my classroom. If you think these two things are radical, stay tuned the whole year.