FEATURES FOR TEACHERS
Features For New Teachers
Volume 3, Issue 14
Once the day is underway, your job becomes that of a facilitator. You'll want to move about checking on your students at each group or station. You'll also need to be available to help and support your guests with their needs. For example, our calligraphy station ran out of practice writing sheets, so one of the teachers had to go make copies. Be flexible, and always remember you're setting up a grand experience for the students. This becomes an example of servant leadership, where you and your fellow teachers are enabling the groups to succeed so the students succeed.
During the morning, we met our helpers and re-enactors and got them in place. Students were instructed ahead of time here they would go first, and what their rotation was. Once the day is underway, the teachers are free to move about, monitor the students and groups, and participate alongside the kids.
A little before lunch, one of our teachers began working with the school cooks to coordinate lunch. Our feast is always held in our gym alongside the activities. We try to plan a whole group activity (singing, dancing, games, etc.) in the 10-15 minutes before lunch so our stations can clean up and we can set up our feast tables. Depending on our overal set up, our feast is set up either in a long line or a traditional horseshoe shape. Set this up (in the background) while the students are engaged in another activity. This will keep them in the same train of thought and in the same location (it's not really authentic to immerse the kids in the middle ages only to bring them back to a modern day lunchroom).
You'll want a plan for your lunch line. We always make a point of feeding our volunteers first, followed by the girls (carefully observe the ideals of chivalry), and lastly the boys. We teachers eat once everyone has gone through the line.
After students are finished eating, we have another short sponge activity (dancing, singing, games, etc.) while we clean up the lunch tables and return the foodstuffs and equipment to the kitchen. This way again the students stay immersed in the activity while re-arrangement and cleaning occurs in the background.
Our afternoon resumes with more medieval festivities. Finish up your stations if necessary. This past year we had a community acting group put on a presentation of Robin Hood, and we invited our 5th and 6th graders to watch. This also gave the youngsters just a small teaser of what fun they'll have when they reach seventh grade.
All in all, a large scale event can appear to be too much work, and for an individual teacher, this may be accurate. However, for you brave souls who want to give your students an experience they'll remember forever, a lot of careful planning and a good team will enable you to pull off a first-class day. When we talk to former students, they rarely can tell us what they learned in any one of our class, but they remember in great detail the activities they participated in during the Medieval Fair. And those memories will be with them the rest of their lives.
Links you can use for more information:
The book of Goode Cookery: http://www.godecookery.com/
Myths and legends: http://www.mythiccrossroads.com/myth.htm
Building a castle: http://www.artsedge.kennedy-center.org/content/3701/
Medieval jobs: http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castle32.htm
Simple medieval foods and recipes (found in the Book of Goode Cookery):
Blankmonger (also blanck-mong or blowmanger) - This is a creamy rice dish that can take on a number of flavors depending on the recipe you use (there are several).
Fruays -Apple/fruit fritters
Mackeroons - noodles and cheese. This is truly a precursor to modern day macaroni and cheese, and students love to make it and eat it.
Medieval gingerbread - made with highly seasoned bread crumbs and honey
Baked pears and fruits - its been the same for hundreds (or even thousands) of years
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Most teachers would agree that they prefer smaller classes to larger ones. This is no surprise since smaller classes are easier to manage, allow the teachers to cover more learning material, and provide daily feedback to students more easily. In smaller classes, it is easier for the teacher to pinpoint students who require remedial help and they have more time to adapt teaching strategies to a student’s individual needs.
According to an article in Education World, Charles M. Achilles, a professor of educational administration at Eastern Michigan University states, “Conclusive evidence has shown the benefits of class sizes of 1:15, especially in the primary grades.” Since the early 1980s, a large-scale project in Indiana, a major experiment in Tennessee, numerous smaller studies and evaluations of projects that use low adult-to-student ratios have found that youngsters in small classes (1:15 or so) as compared to youngsters in larger classes obtain higher test scores; participate more in school; demonstrate improved behavior; and retain many benefits of early class-size reductions in their later years of schooling (Hopkins, 1998).
To address this problem there have been many class size reduction programs initiated in many schools throughout the nation. Today, however, with educational budget cuts in many states, there would not be enough money to fund class size reduction programs adequately. When student - teacher ratios are high, teachers are unable to meet the needs of all students and budget cuts make class size reduction programs impossible.
There are solutions that are simple and require no money or commitment from anyone other than the teacher themselves. When used, they can make managing a large class more simple.
Solution 1: Classroom management plan. When presented with a large group of students, the most important thing is to manage the classroom. There must be a way to gain the students attention immediately, without having to yell or shout. Rules, and consequences for breaking each rule, must be decided, posted, and strictly adhered to. Students can be involved in helping develop the rules and consequences. They can be decided together as a class on the first day of school. Consequences for each rule should be posted and followed each and every time the rule is broken. It is imperative that all students be held accountable for following the rules at all times. The teacher must be seen as fair. If even one student is allowed to “get away” with something, then the whole discipline plan falls apart and the teacher loses management of the class. When planning out rules and consequences, the teacher should include the administration in his/her ideas so they can help enforce the ! rules. Often, a school will have rules that apply to every student and teachers support each other by encouraging students to act within these guidelines. Hopefully, it will never come down to having to enforce rules. Dr. Harry Wong states “the number one problem in the classroom is not discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines. . . A vast majority of the behavior problems in the classroom are caused by the failure of students to follow procedures and routines” (Wong, 1998). A teacher’s classroom management plan, therefore, must consist of how things are to be done in the classroom, starting from the moment they walk in the door. A procedure might be: walk in, put your backpack in your cubby, sit at your desk, and write a page in your journal. Eventually these procedures become habits and things will run smoothly. The first few weeks of school may require the teacher to “remind” students several times what the procedures are, but it will pay off in the long run ! (Wong, 1998).
Solution 2: Encourage students to work independently. Students who work independently of the teacher are more successful. “The fact that the teacher does most of the work at school explains why there is little learning in school” (Wong, 1998). This is especially true when trying to teach a large number of students. A teacher will become exhausted trying to keep the kids in line and focused on a lecture. If, instead, the teacher gives students activities to work on; they learn more. They not only learn from each other, they learn by doing. This frees the teacher up to walk around and assist. “The research says that the person who does the work is the only one doing the learning” (Wong 1998). Students can act as “teacher assistants” by being given various jobs within the classroom. This will also help the students be more independent and responsible. Students may have jobs such as feeding the class pet, taking the attendance cards to the office, monitoring the clean up o! f toys, collecting homework, cleaning the chalkboard, etc. These jobs will give the students a sense of pride in their classroom, while taking some small but necessary tasks away from the teacher.
Solution 3: Keep Parents Included: Give them copies of lesson plans, or form a calendar of main lesson topics, which they can follow (i.e. September topics: Johnny Appleseed, signs of fall, subtracting 3 digit numbers). Make sure parents are aware of special dates like conferences or open house. Invite them and make them feel welcome. One of our teammates keeps her lesson plans posted on the wall of her classroom, because parents are always asking what the topics of discussion are. Parents like to supplement the topics at home, and also send theme related show-and-tell items with their children. Parents and teachers working together is the best scenario for any child. A teacher should do all he/she can to keep parents in the loop with what is going on in the classroom. “Parents are their children’s first and most influential teachers” (Wong 1998).
Another way to help parents stay involved is through weekly newsletter sent home on Fridays. This is a simple solution that a teacher can implement into their classroom. One easy way to manage the newsletter is to let the students design and write it. This is one way to give the gifted and talented students something that is educational and fun to work on. This will keep them from becoming bored and disinterested in the class. It will also give the teacher additional time to work with the students who may need extra help in various academic areas.
An additional method of communication with parents is to set up a website where parents can log on and keep up daily with what is going on in school. Sometimes the newsletter will just sit on the counter all weekend and not be read. Parents, who work long hours, often have some free time at work where they check personal email or surf the web. If a teacher sets up a classroom website and keeps it updated, parents can keep abreast of school happenings. Also, this helps in divorced families, because both parents have a way of keeping up with what is going on in school. If a parent only sees their child every other weekend, they will appreciate a way to keep up with their daily lives. Maintaining a website is not difficult or time consuming. It may make a huge difference in the lives of your students. This is another area where students who are doing well academically can have a fun and have an educational project to work on. Allowing students to help maintain the website will provide the same benefits as students creating the newsletter, and additionally, will integrate technology into the curriculum.
The benefits of creating a newsletter and website will provide a method of communication for the parents, so they can keep track of what is going on in school. Most parents put their kids on the bus in the morning and don’t see them again until dinnertime. When they ask their child “what did you do in school today?” the answer they get is usually brief, something like “not much” or “the usual.” Even worse is, “nothing.” As teachers, we want parents to be interested in their child’s school. We cannot expect this from them if they don’t even know what is going on. This excerpt was taken from research done by the National Education Association on why it is important for parents to know what is going on in their child’s school:
“Here are just some of the reasons it is important for parents to be actively involved in their child's education:
1.When parents are involved in their children’s education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school—and the schools they go to are better (Henderson and Berla).
2.The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from pre-school through high school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income, education level or cultural background (Henderson and Berla).
3.When children and parents talk regularly about school, children perform better academically (Aston & McLanahan, 1991; Ho & Willms, 1996; Finn, 1993).
4.Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child’s time, helping with homework and discussing school matters (Finn, 1998).
5.The earlier that parent involvement begins in a child’s educational process, the more powerful the effects (Kathleen Cotton and Karen Reed Wikelund. "Parent Involvement in Education," Research You Can Use. NW Regional Educational Laboratory).
6.Positive results of parental involvement in their children's schooling include improved achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling (Institute for Responsive Education. The Home-School Connection: Selected Partnership Programs in Large Cities. Boston: Author.)” (National Education Association 2003).
The first step is brainstorming. We require a specific
number of 'triggers' for each topic. Students generally choose between
making a web or a list to visually show their brainstorming. For
example, our 7th graders must include eight triggers, while seniors must
have at least fifteen. You and your school will decide what is
appropriate. Then all triggers are ORGANIZED by order of
importance, chronological order, etc. Students are asked to number the
triggers 1-8. Of course, students are always encouraged to write down
more triggers (sometimes we even offer extra credit for more triggers!).
We also encourage students to freewrite as brainstorming. Students look
over their prewriting and start using their organized triggers to form
the ideas presented in the paragraph.
Abraham Lincoln may in fact be our greatest American president, and certainly the president who faced the greatest challenges. He started as a backwoods country lawyer and became one of our most revered and honored leaders. He completely refused to allow the country to remain divided, and utilized his leadership and his people skills to preserve the Union, modernize the American military, and revolutionize the government. "In a way, Abraham Lincoln represented the summation of those leadership qualities that had helped to form a nation." (Lincoln on Leadership, p.2)
This book is broken up into four sections, vital to those in leadership roles: People, Character, Endeavor, and Communication. Each section is broken up into chapters which detail a specific leadership skill or ability. Such timeless strategies such as Get Out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops, Persuade Rather Than Coerce, Set Goals and Be Results-Oriented, and Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm It, among others, are explained using stories and anecdotes from Lincoln's life and experiences.
One chapter I found extremely valuable was Chapter 9, Lead by Being Led. Much like a good coach, Lincoln gave away all the credit for success to his subordinates with lavish praise, and he himself took the responsibility for any setbacks and events that went wrong. Lincoln even took the blame for battles that were lost during the Civil War. He frequently listened to his advisors and generals in the field, and used their expertise in making his decisions and policy. He was never threatened by his advisors and subordinates, even when they were more an expert on particular matters. In fact, Lincoln gave them the opportunity and freedom to take their own initiative.
Each chapter ends with a list of 'Lincoln Principles' that were discussed in the stories or quotes of that chapter. These are simply stated in an easy to understand format, and yet this simplicity enables each reader to apply the principle to their own life and leadership situation. There were many times I read through each list and thought of how I currently use or could benefit from applying each principle to my own life and relationships with other teachers and administrators.
Have you read Lincoln on Leadership? Do you have comments you’d like to share with our readers about this book? Email your responses to email@example.com. Please type in BOOK CLUB READER RESPONSE in the subject line. Responses will be posted on our website with the StarTeaching Book of the Month Club. All responses will be proofread, and may be edited for content and space before publication.
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Designing and Running a Medieval Fair
Technology & Teaching: Exactly What Are Our Kids Learning?
Discipline Procedures in School
Teaching the Writing Process
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