Time is to teachers as water to camels: we never have enough of it, so we must make the best use of what we have.
Every minute we spend at the beginning of the school year laying a good foundation will pay off tenfold in time saved as the year continues. At my school, we’ve found that understanding and including the social-emotional needs of our students in our teaching makes for excellent academic gains. With this in mind, we have doubled down on laying good groundwork early in the year.
For many years, we have not held any academic classes during the first three days of school.
We use those critically important days for:
- Community-building games
- Get-to-know-the-school activities
- Goal setting
- Rule creation and clarification
Because students don’t go to their electives during this time, this is especially demanding for teachers. Electives instructors tag into classes and help run some activities, which helps a lot.
Here is how one morning might look:
8:15–8:30—Student Interest Surveys (silent)
8:30–9:00—CPR (Getting to Know You)
9:30–10:00—Art Activity for Goal Artifact
10:00–10:15—Game: Count to Ten
10:15–10:45—Around-the-School Scavenger Hunt (in pairs)
10:45–11:00—Planning for a Successful Lunch
All sixth-grade classes complete the week by going to the local park on Friday afternoon for large-group cooperative games and, of course, Popsicles. The students return the next week, more comfortable and known, as they dig into their classes.
Eric Charlesworth is the middle school principal at Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, Rhode Island. Before becoming principal, he taught sixth-grade mathematics. He has practiced the Developmental Designs approach in middle school for nine years.
Posted August 2014