5 Small Habits that Will Transform Your Classroom

Flipped classrooms.  Project-based learning.  BYOD. Homework & standardized testing overhauls.  These are some of the big-picture aspects that help define the 21st century education landscape. But when we approach it with only these kinds of large-scale changes in mind, the shift will be daunting and slow. Here are five minor 21st century habits to try out for major potential for change!

#1: Look beyond the “right answer.”


We get it. We’re all in a hurry! Standards, quizzes, and reports are always looming, and it’s so tempting to “move on” the moment students seem familiar with test material. But think of it this way: they will pick up on what you model each day, far more than on the content you focus on.  The choice is yours to demonstrate genuine and thoughtful reflection, or to display rote execution of the daily grind.  As @PaulBogush aptly states on his Twitter profile, “Kids will be who you are, not who you want them to be.”

Impact on you:
  • You’ll learn to ask deeper questions
  • You’ll take more joy in the journey of learning
  • You’ll cultivate your personal growth mindset
Impact on students:
  • They’ll learn healthy feedback and discussion is not about determining who is wrong or right, but how all involved can grow
  • They’ll learn to value their own contributions as an evolving process, rather than one product.
  • Their critical thinking skills will stretch as they are trained to dig, question, and reflect

#2: Get comfortable with silence

When’s the last time you were in a conference or meeting and the speaker followed up a question with something like, “Wow, no one has any ideas?”  And when’s the last time that produced any positive effect?  We need to stop fearing silence and embrace it for its helpful function: to give us time to really reflect and get our thoughts together. You may find it helpful to visually display your questions as you ask them, too.

Impact on you:
  • You’ll un-train yourself from jumping to the conclusion that students just aren’t participating
  • You’ll stop asking rhetorical questions
  • You’ll broaden your strategies for eliciting ideas (ie, improved brainstorming techniques, etc).
Impact on students:
  • They’ll become bigger risk-takers when it comes to sharing ideas
  • They’ll become more comfortable with the inquiry process and environment

#3: Be a curator.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -Mary Anne Radmacher

If you’ve fallen into the trap of photocopying and assigning every worksheet that comes with each lesson in the manual, start chanting this to yourself: mindful, mindful, mindful!  Think of yourself as a curator of resources for your students, able to make selections because of your rich repertoire of observations, conversations, and assessments.  And if you don’t feel familiar enough with their needs to make such mindful choices, it’s never too late to make adjustments that will remedy that!

Impact on you:
  • You’ll remember that you are of a much higher authority in determining your students’ needs than any manual!
  • You’ll pay more attention to your students’ pacing and struggles

Impact on students:

  • They’ll better trust your leadership
  • They’ll become more aware of their own pacing, & communicate it as you elicit responses.

#4: Become a parent-communication guru

Individual emails and phone calls certainly still have their place in parent communication, but you should know that more efficient options are available for daily use!  For instance, set up a class Facebook page to post photos, announcements, videos, and more (which you can easily set up with your own Facebook account, & then manage for privacy)!  Or set up a texting service with platforms like Remind.com (which never requires an exchange of actual phone numbers), and use it to send last-minute homework updates and permission slip reminders! You can even create a Twitter account, along with your own class hashtag, for parents to follow (see examples of how to use it effectively).  Not only are these options fast and simple, but they can also provide a richer picture of real learning happening each day!

Impact on you:
  • You’ll save on time
  • You’ll model appropriate and strategic use of social media
  • You’ll build rapport with parents
Impact on students:
  • They’ll more easily share and take pride in what they’re learning
  • They’ll have more support from their more knowledgeable parents

#5: Consistently holding wrap-ups at the end of lessons

We don’t understand the scientific phenomena of why minutes are shorter at the end of class than in the middle, but we do understand that it’s easy to skip whole-group wrap-ups after a lesson! However, this is a crucial opportunity to glean some of your most important feedback from students, as well as to encourage metacognitive skills.  Get in the habit of reserving at least five minutes at the end of every lesson, and even if it feels awkward at first, it will make an enormous difference! Read our wrap-up article for strategies!

Impact on you:
  • You’ll become more aware of students’ needs
  • You’ll become more aware of what does and does not work, and how you can improve as an educator
Impact on students:
  • They’ll become more aware of their learning process
  • They’ll take more ownership over the direction of their learning as they vocalize their needs and questions

Are there any habits here that are sticky-note-on-the-computer-worthy? Or others you have noticed? Please share in the comments!


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