Ed Tech Innovation–#1: Introduce a new routine

With the new school year about to start or, in some parts of the world, already underway, I thought a new mini-series containing some ideas to play with might not come amiss. Here’s the first one, about classroom routines.

Erm, no, not that sort of routine! Photo by SteveR- http://www.flickr.com/photos/git/

How do you start your lessons? Do they always start in the same way? There’s certainly a lot to be said for having a well-established routine, but it’s not a bad idea to shake things up a bit now and again. Here are a few ideas you might like to try, but first, a few principles.

Principles of lesson routines

  • They should enhance student learning and achievement in some way. I once visited a school where one of the lesson routines was that at the start of the lesson, as people were filing in, students could check their personal emails. Personally, I think that’s inappropriate, and contributes little if anything to student achievement.
  • They should be useful, and relevant.
  • They should be flexible, ie not become ossified – especially in terms of time allocation. Nothing kills a lesson more surely than adhering rigidly to  artificial “lesson parts”, for example.
  • They should be interesting.

8 ideas for lesson routines

  • Start the lesson with a five minute quick-fire oral test. It’s a really good way of getting the adrenalin flowing. In the students I mean!
  • Check understanding. There really is no point in hurtling headlong in a desperate rush to “deliver” the curriculum on time. Indeed, the very expression “deliver the curriculum” epitomises what’s wrong with that approach. Teachers aren’t postmen; they’re not supposed to “deliver” anything. If you take the analogy further, the postman may deliver something to me, but I don’t have to open it: “delivery” is a very one-sided process. You will only know if you’ve taught something (as opposed to merely “delivered” it) by checking whether students have understood it. Sorry if that is too obvious for words, but often because of (misguided) pressure that part of the equation gets left out. You could build this in to the 5 minute test idea, or something similar, as long as you make sure that every student answers.
  • Hand part of the lesson to the students. For instance, have students work in pairs to research an ICT-related issue outside lesson time, and then give a five minute presentation on it in a lesson. For younger pupils, you might ask them to find examples of technology in everyday life, and then talk about them.
  • Spend a few minutes introducing the students to a new website, eg a safe place where they can obtain clip art to use in their work.
  • Spend a few minutes going over what was covered in the previous lesson (time pressures mean that this is not always done). You might want to ask a student or two to take the lead – especially if you have a system of classroom scribes in place, whereby a student blogs what was covered in the lesson, on a rota basis.
  • If students have their own blog, then each lesson one of them could read out their latest post and invite discussion or comment.
  • If you set homework, set it at the beginning of the lesson rather than the end. Not only will that give you time to make sure everyone understands what they have to do, it will also help the students to understand what they need to do in the lesson in order to be able to do the homework.
  • Allocate the first 10 or 15 minutes of the lesson to a discussion involving current affairs. Wait! I know what you’re going to say: there’s no time! Well, I subscribe to several news compilers, such as Flipboard, Zite and Scoopit, and I read newspapers too, and there is a relevant news item in at least one of those sources every day. If you want to make sure that students can see the relevance of what you’re teaching them, and what they’re having to learn, you can’t do much better than incorporating current news into your lessons.

This is by no means a definitive list, just a few suggestions to think about. Hope you find them useful. You can always ask your students to come up with a few ideas too!

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