An article by Richard James Rogers (Bestselling author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).
I like it when colleagues share golden nuggets of hard-earned information: things that took a long time to figure out. Things that really work and are easy to implement.
If you could list only three things that would maximize a teacher’s impact in the classroom, then what would those three things be?
The aim of today’s blog post is for me to share my three top tips with the whole world – in the hope that those reading this will implement my suggestions.
So, without further-a-do and without a lengthy CPD lesson plan that would be impossible to implement in real-life, let’s take a deep-dive into some easy-to-implement strategies that offer maximum return-on-investment.
Top Tip Number 1: Get up early!
Getting up and out of bed well-before school starts is a habit that has paid me massive dividends in my career as a high-school teacher. Getting up early allows me to:
- Read over my lesson plans for the day ahead.
- Take my time in the morning and not rush, which puts me in a good mood.
- Have breakfast and some coffee – helping me to be biochemically and physiologically ready for the day ahead (a subject matter which is not discussed enough in the teaching profession, in my personal opinion).
- Get clear about any meetings or events I have to attend.
- Do a little bit of exercise – giving me a good energy boost and a feeling of accomplishment before my day even starts!
- Read over any topics I am unfamiliar with – giving me the confidence I need to deliver all of the content I need to.
- Leave home on-time, and get to school on time.
Getting up early is a really basic skill but few adults ever really master it. I must admit that for me personally it took years to get into a good ‘waking-up routine’. Once I had built-up momentum, however (through tremendous and painful self-discipline), the benefits came quickly. I was in a better mood at the start of each day and my lesson delivery improved dramatically.
Top Tip Number 2: Plan lessons well in-advance
Time invested in lesson-planning always pays dividends. By waking up early on a Sunday morning to plan my week-ahead, I find that I can get really clear about:
- The topics I’ll be covering.
- The activities I need to do.
- Any resources that I need to upload to my school’s virtual learning environment (Google Classroom, in my case).
- The logistics of each lesson (where students will sit, where they will move during activities, etc.).
- Any homework I need to set and collect in.
- When I’m going to mark work.
- Any meetings or events I need to attend in the coming week.
- Any reading-ahead that I need to do.
- Any printing that I need to do.
I don’t believe in planning lesson-by-lesson too far into the future: plans may change as time goes by (e.g. I may get through more material than planned on any particular lesson). However, I believe that a week’s worth of planning, in advance, is highly appropriate and beneficial.
Top Tip Number 3: Use ‘Live-Marking’
‘Live-Marking’ is basically a way of providing feedback to students in real-time (saving you a ton of after-school and weekend marking). There are two main live-marking strategies:
Strategy 1: Diffusive Live-Marking
This is really simple:
- Set a task for your students to complete (it could be a Google Slides presentation, a worksheet to complete, some questions from their textbook to do, etc.)
- When a few minutes have passed, ‘diffuse’ through the classroom by walking around with a marking pen in hand (I use a red pen).
- Mark student work in real-time, as they are doing it. Of course – reinforce your written comments with verbal feedback (and you can even write ‘verbal feedback given’ or ‘VF’ on the work).
Hey presto – you just saved yourself an hour or so of after-school marking time!
Strategy 2: Absorptive Live-Marking
In this scenario, one can imagine the teacher being like a ‘sponge’ that ‘absorbs’ the students: instead of walking around the classroom to mark work in ‘real-time’, you sit at your desk (or at a designated ‘consultation point’ in the room) and call the students to your desk one-at-a-time.
Same result – you just saved yourself a ton of after-school marking time.
Which is better – absorptive or diffusive live-marking?
In my personal opinion, both forms of marking have their place.
Diffusive live-marking can actually double-up as an excellent behavior management technique – when you walk around the classroom and check work in real-time, pockets of low-level disruption tend to fade away because of the teacher’s proximity. The disadvantage of diffusive live-marking is that it can be difficult to stand behind, or to the side, of a student and mark work on a crowded desk.
I tend to use absorptive live-marking more than diffusive as I am lucky enough to work in a school where the overwhelming majority of the students are very well-behaved. This means that I can call them to my desk one-at-a-time and the class will still stay on-task. A big advantage of the absorptive method is that I can give more detailed and personal feedback to each student and I have my whole desk-space to neatly mark the work on.
Here’s a video I made about live-marking (very highly recommended):