Let me start by saying, there is nothing wrong with having a specific teaching style, go-to techniques, and a good classroom routine. It is an aspect of establishing procedures and protocols for students that is very important. That being said, when your students can begin to guess your every move, and every lesson you teach follows the same structure, it’s time to switch things up. Whether you are a first year, ten year, or thirty year teacher, there are always plenty of ideas and activities out there just waiting to reinvigorate your classroom. So how do you keep out of the lesson rut?
1. Pledge to use a new educational technology once a month
Using a new Ed-Tech tool is not only a great way to keep things fresh in your classroom, but it forces us, as educators, to think just a touch more critically about what we are teaching. The integration of technology makes us focus in on our learning objectives and how we can enhance student learning via technology. The other positive results from the use of Ed-Tech tools is student engagement, digital literacy practice, and lessons that feels more natural to our young digital natives. Looking for some new tools? Check out www.edutecher.net.
2. Replace an existing lesson or unit with a Project Based Learning activity
Project Based Learning can spice up any boring unit or lesson. Project work is focused by a question that students understand, find interesting, and frames their task and exploration. PBL moves students from passive, to active participants in their learning, and typically provides more real-world application of skills. Autonomy is valued in PBL, where students have more choice in how they work, the product they create, and how to use their time. Want to get started? Check out www.bie.org.
3. Pick 2 new people every month to follow on Twitter...and then actually follow them
I’ve written about the benefits of Twitter before, so if you aren’t on it, it might be time to do so. That being said, following new people on Twitter and paying attention to their Tweets accomplishes two things. First, if you choose smartly, the person you are following will provide you with many new ideas and resources you can use in your classroom. The secondary outcome is that by being connected, you are immersed in all the interesting activities and ideas going on elsewhere, which in turn keeps away that teaching complacency that can very easily set in. Some great educators to consider following, Erin Klein(@KleinErin) and Todd Nesloney(@TechNinjaTodd). They’ll keep your Twitter feed from going hungry.
4. Replace an existing lesson or unit with a Game Based Learning activity
Bringing in Game Based Learning provides some obvious excitement to any room. Whether you are looking to create GBL for one lesson or fully “gamify” your classroom, this is a great option. GBL can be as simple or as high-tech as one would like. There are some great historical fiction video games out there that can provide solid opportunities for learning when structured correctly, there are Brainpop style games, and there are low-tech, traditional options that work just as well. Check out www.edutopia.org/blogs/beat/game-based-learning to get yourself rolling.
5. Keep a Growth-Mindset
The second we think we have tried it all or done it all, there is a problem. Every day there are new ideas and activities swirling around in the world of education, but you have to ask yourself, "Am I open to them?" If you do not have a growth-mindset as an educator, you may not be. This becomes a problem because as professionals, if we are closed to these ideas, we stop growing, innovating, and in turn, inspiring. Keep yourself learning and your students will follow close behind you.
6. Pick a colleague's brain
This last one seems like an obvious option, but with busy teacher schedules, ever –changing curriculum, and the demands of planning, it doesn’t always happen. A simple conversation with a colleague you might not normally talk to can go a long way. Be proactive, “What’s your favorite lesson? How do you go about teaching it?" Sometimes a great lesson idea is just down the hallway.
BONUS: 3 Big Reasons Teachers Must Reinvent Themselves