Any special needs teacher who’s worked in a school will spruik to you the power of visual resources.
New parents quickly recognise that children respond well to routine.
And kids in any environment ask fewer questions and exhibit less anxiety when they can predict what’s coming up next.
But do classroom teachers do enough to capitalise on these truths?
I think that the most effective educators do.
They make schooling predictable. And predictability breeds success.
In my classroom, I start every day by talking through a visual timetable. This timetable sets out what subjects will be taught and when. Students in my class know to always look at this timetable at the beginning of every session, and to prepare their learning equipment accordingly.
Throughout the day, we follow routines such as: the way that we implement and mark dictations, how we get our maths kits ready when we do rapid recalls, and the manner in which students provide feedback to one another at the end of their weekly speaking presentations (just to name a few).
At the end of every school day I quiz my class on what they’ll need to bring to school the following day. They know what is required of them because the weekly schedule is so regularly discussed.
If I need to make a change to the normal routine, I give my class as much warning as I can. I allow them to ask questions so that they can query the things that affect them. Because they have been empowered to be confident and independent, they also grow to be flexible.
When I am taken off class to work on a project, and a supply teacher takes my class, I leave a plan, but I don’t fret. I don’t need to spell out every last detail of how my classroom is run because I know that the kids will do that for me. In fact, they could pretty much run the day without me! Well, just about! https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/a-good-candle-aims-to-make-itself-redundant/
Whenever I find students under my care getting a little ratty, a bit restless, a tad wild… I ask myself- am I giving them enough structure? When I want to see peace and quiet, but instead I see chaos…I ask- is what I’m witnessing actually discomfort, masked by misbehaviour?
Without normalcy and consistency, students can’t gain the sense of security they need in order to feel safe. And without a feeling of safety, students lack resilience.
There’s a growing body of research that refers to trauma- ultimately the lack of feeling safe- and provides guidance for “trauma-informed” teaching and learning.
This research suggests that every classroom contains at least one student who has been impacted by adverse childhood experiences.
Compound this with a year of “unprecedented times” involving a global pandemic, and suddenly the need for predictability grows infinitely more profound.
A good teacher, wanting to mitigate some of the negative pressures on today’s students, might start off by taking a look at their classroom routines.
They might also keep in mind that school may in fact be the only place where a particular child feels safe enough to belong.
And predictability’s not just good for children either.
Using a teacher’s diary to sketch out an outline of what you’ll cover on Monday helps you to get a better night’s sleep on Sunday night. Keeping lists of what you need to do before and after school leads to less procrastination and more productivity.
With an overcrowded curriculum and a limit to the hours there are in a day, everyone needs to be able to prioritise and be efficient in order to succeed.
An ordered classroom doesn’t just create calm students in readiness for deep learning; it keeps the teacher organised and on track too.
I consider that a win-win.
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