My dream classroom; Do you ever think about yours? I am not talking about classroom decor, which is easy to achieve- just visit Ikea! I am talking about the actual teaching and learning- and how lovely it would be to be able to teach each child individually, to their exact and precise requirements.
Here is what I would do:
1. Luckily I don’t have to use readers with my current class, but I have had to use them before. They are so pointless. One reader for children with a wide range of reading abilities. Thankfully most schools have the guided reading schemes in place now. Ability based, reading for interest is the only way. Unfortunately, times are changing. Children do not read as much, in my humble opinion, as they did when I was a child. Therefore, we need to make the reading interesting enough for them to sit down and READ. If you have senior classes, maybe print out and edit (to make the words age appropriate) stories, such as the history of Clash of Clans, or instructions on how to create a video game. (Sorry for the video games references, I am just thinking of my own class!) Of course, we must widen their interests too and introduce them to new, unfamiliar concepts, but a bit of both is no harm.
2. Goodbye Irish text books! The minute I take mine out, my class tune out. Every one of them. Transfer the same content onto a power-point or photo story, throw in a few familiar video game or TV characters, and suddenly they’re interested again! I usually use the names of the children in my class and make it into a funny story, and then they listen intently to see if they’ll be next!
3. Slán to the maths books. I have been sent so many maths books to review. I haven’t reviewed them as I simply don’t think they’re worthy. Maths simply shouldn’t be taught from a text book, in any class. Maths is a real life subject, and should be approached in a practical and real life way. Even the curriculum which was created in 1999 states this, yet we’re still using maths books. It is just so much easier for children when it is relevant to their lives and interests. I was playing cards with a boy in my class today during Golden Time and I think he increased his computational skills more in those ten minutes than he did in the whole maths lesson we did earlier in the day.
4. Now this would take a lot of planning, but I think it would be worth it. Every child should be working in school to his/her level. EVERY child. So, each child would have a portfolio for each subject, with their tasks differentiated accordingly. That way, each child achieves their target, and will be marked according to their ability, and no-body else’s. By way of example- long division- Child O might grasp the concept fully by Wednesday, but child Y might be revising short division until Wednesday. Through scaffolding at home or through homework clubs, all children will achieve their own individual targets. Often, we as teachers are guilty of worrying about the children falling behind, or about the children who are exceptionally able. Very often, the children in the middle are trusted to continue on as they are. How easy it is to forget that with enough work, they can be brought up to the very best of their ability too! Individualised assessment could make such a difference.
5. Homework- well, I could write an essay about homework. Ideally, all homework would be project based. Is your class learning about World War Two? Ask them to begin their project on children during the war, for example, on Monday and hand it up on Friday, a fully completed first draft. I think the child will read more, learn more, and think more through this, rather than by completing a page of their English workbook.
6. Double PE time. We all know this, but seriously, obesity is on the rise in Ireland, children are living more sedentary lifestyles, and still this hasn’t been changed? Get with the times department of education! One hour isn’t enough.
Summer school! I think schools and teachers should receive adequate funding to set up summer school for two weeks for children who may be at risk of falling behind. Two weeks of solid tutoring could make a big difference, which will start them off on a much better footing for the following academic year.