I want my classes to be places where students feel comfortable to share ideas and to try new things. I've worked on building connections between everyone in the class. I've designated time on Mondays to classroom discussions (we focus on current events in Social Studies, but will often talk about the weekend and what the students are doing in their lives). I haven't implemented the 2 x 10 strategy yet this year, but I consciously make an effort to check in with students (especially the ones that struggle academically or socially in my classes). Another strategy that has been very successful this year has been the use of name cards and designating the seats that students sit in each class. Students made name cards on one of the first days of class which I put in a different seat everyday so that students have the opportunity to work with everyone in the class. We do a fair amount of partner work so I'm hoping that by working with everyone in the class the students will slowly feel more comfortable sharing ideas with everyone - I think it's working (some students that were really reluctant to speak in class are starting to be more open). The cards also break up the cliques that can form when allowing students to choose their seats which really helps classroom dynamics by integrating the shier students into the class and prevents the more confident groups of friends from intimidating others.
In an effort to make subject matter more relevant and provide students with an opportunity to create connections with the material I am now teaching Social Studies thematically instead of the more common Chapter by Chapter approach. It makes for more work when preparing my classes, but it allows students to understand why we talk about historical events that happened hundreds of years ago. Being able to learn about what's happening in Syria or changes in social media give students a chance to personalize the subject matter during our Revolutions Unit. I'm hoping that students will finish the course with a better understanding of some major themes as well as being more aware of what's happening in the world (and why it's happening) than if we focused on memorizing facts and figures about the English Revolution. If I do continue to teach English in the future I'd like to try to move towards teaching a theme-based English course as well.
Post courtesy of Marcus Krieger