Taking our Time

Ann Larson Ericson

by Ann Larson Ericson

For Middle Level

Sometimes it feels like I move terribly slowly through my curriculum at the beginning of the year! By the end of the first two weeks, my students have turned in very little tangible work, and we haven't even cracked the textbook open. Science teachers at other schools are already deep into their curriculum and thinking about a test for Unit 1, and we're just getting started!

On the other hand, they're already dealing with behavior problems.

By the end of the third day, I know the name of every student in every one of my five classes, and they know each other's names. We've played games together, laughed together, and had important discussions. We know the routines for arriving in the room, doing daily warm-ups and daily reflections, and turning in work. Students can quickly stop and listen to me when I give the signal for attention. We've made guidelines for ourselves for appropriate behavior as we go from the classroom up the stairs and down the hall to the science lab, and we've practiced and reflected on that transition. 

Girl putting away folders

We know what working in groups looks like, sounds like, and feels like, and we've practiced setting up the room for work in pairs, squares, and in one big group. We can return the room to its original arrangement in less than a minute, ready for a new activity.

It seems like a lot of time put into things the state standards don't measure, but it's worth every minute.

Suddenly, as we hit the third week of school, I realize we're flying though material! The students are engaged, learning, and confident in their knowledge of what is expected of them. They know the routines and the expectations, so I don't spend valuable learning time redirecting, getting their attention, and explaining procedures. Together we've created a community of learners ready to tackle a challenging curriculum and get to the business of learning high school science.

Does it take time to get students to buy into all that I ask of them and to be truly ready to learn? Absolutely! But I know that I-and they-will get back every minute and more, in avoided misunderstandings, self-control chosen over cutting up, and scientific inquiry rather than repeated discipline rituals.

We go slow to go fast, and it works every year!

Middle school science

What routines have been most valuable to model in your classroom?

Ann Larson Ericson has been using the Developmental Designs approach in her classroom for more than eight years. She teaches high school chemistry and physical science at Community of Peace Academy, a public charter school on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Posted October 2013

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