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New classroom strategies

Paul Flanagan discusses some new strategies he's tried out in the classroom.

Primary Teacher, Royston Primary School, Glasgow

Moving into teaching was a choice that I made in 2005. I had previously worked within the American Juvenile Justice System and for a Scottish criminal justice charity.

I wanted the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of more young people and to assist them in their educational journey, so I applied to the University of Aberdeen to do a one year post graduate course in teaching.

The year in Aberdeen went by quickly and I was subsequently placed in a school in the east end of Glasgow. I was given a Primary 2 class consisting of 29 children, a number of whom had English as a second language.

First day

Even with the teaching experiences and information gained from lectures in my PGDE year, I never quite felt ready for my first day of term.

Fortunately the first day wasn't as bad as I had imagined (I didn't even cling to the school gates as the bell rang at 9 o'clock) and I was able to smile happily as the children left for home!

The first thing I realised, during those first few weeks of teaching, was the amount I still had to learn.

On school teaching experiences I'd taken for granted the routines already established within classes: the behaviour strategies in place (Bill Rogers' books help no end!), how the children accessed activities and how effectively the classes were organised.

With so much to learn, it can be difficult not to become overwhelmed (easier said than done during those first few weeks) and I was grateful for the fantastic support given by my mentor and another principal teacher, within the school, who provided a wealth of ideas and strategies.

A lesson I learned quickly was not to be afraid to source out help. In such a reflective profession it's seen, by many, as an advantage.

Taking risks

Taking risks in the classroom is also well worth it. The best lesson I had last term was when I was being observed by my mentor (still as worrying as those tutor visits at university). I was teaching "time". I decided to go with a lesson following a multiple intelligences format that I had discovered online by a man named Armstrong.

This lesson didn't even feature a clock for the early part but consisted instead of a "journey" to the "land of time" to meet the "o'clock family"! The lesson included a song, a dance, actions and a big chalk clock drawn on the floor where the children could use their bodies to show the time.

The children loved it, my mentor loved it, and I loved it! The children were able to tell the time in "hours" within twenty minutes of the lesson beginning. It was amazing!

Sharing lunchtimes

As a new teacher, I felt from the outset that it was important to eat with the children at lunchtimes. This not only allowed me to model good eating habits but also let me get to know the children in a different, more relaxed, setting where I could listen to them and share a joke.

Attention-grabbing

I've discovered that a teacher's voice is so important and needs protecting. I, personally, do not believe that any child should be shouted at but even speaking to the whole class or gaining attention can be tough with normal classroom noise going on.

I've used many strategies to gain the children's attention, such as the simple hand up or shake of a tambourine. My favourite, and most effective, has turned into the most fun; clapping out rhythms for the children to join in.

This method gains their attention, allows them to be actively involved and protects that important voice.

Looking forward

Now Christmas has passed, my feelings on returning to school are not too different from those of my first day. I'm still excited, still not sure if I have everything it takes to be an effective teacher, but I'm so eager to see how the children are doing, how their break has been and to take their learning further.