When I am coaching football, my classroom is 100 yards long, and I am managing 100+ student-athletes. When I am teaching Sophomore English, my classroom is about 15 yards long, with 25+ students. The skills needed to instruct on the playing field and in the classroom are really the same, even though the size of the classroom and number of students may be very different.
Last week, I wrote a post called “Three ways to make your practice more efficient.” As I thought about it, those three components really extend to the classroom as well: have a plan, go on the clock, and create competition.
Have a planThis really goes without saying. However, there are multiple types of plans I believe you should have in the classroom: daily, weekly, unit, and yearly.
I still keep an old-fashioned plan book where I write down what we did each day in class. At the end of the day, I use any extra space to reflect on how the lesson went, and what I would change for next year. This is very valuable to me as I reflect back on the year, and when I prepare to teach the same unit or lesson next year.
When planning ahead, I have learned not to write anything in ink. Instead, I use small Post-It notes to write lesson plans on. I have found that it is easier to move those Post-It notes around in case there is a snow day, fire drill, or some other distraction that throws off your entire schedule. On the day of the lesson, I write down the objective, lesson, and my reflection in the book.
Much like using a clock during practice to keep yourself on pace, I have found that using an egg timer is extremely valuable during class. It keeps me from getting too long-winded, but also gives students time to fully write or discuss a topic. I use it several ways:
- Timing the first 10-minutes of Silent Sustained Reading at the start of the hour.
- Giving students 5-10 minutes to “Quick Write” where I ask them to write and keep their pen or pencil moving the entire time.
- Providing students with one minute to discuss a topic with their shoulder-partner.
- Holding myself to a certain amount of time when delivering a mini-lesson so that I do not speak too long.
- Keeping track during a time-write assessment.
I would be lost now without my egg timer. It is a simple thing to use, but it really helps to keep my lesson on pace each day.
Create competition (with yourself)A few years ago, I went in a radical new direction with the “3PGrading System.” I have modified this system some, but one of the key components is factoring in how much a student improves throughout the year. This creates competition within the student: motivation to improve.
As I wrote about with my outside reading project, I ask mystudents to read 20 books in one school year. For some students, they have never read more than one or two books, if any. To think about reading 20 books seems like a huge stretch, so I ask them to compete within themselves to do it. If I have a student who only read one or two books last year, but reads 10 books in my class, I call that a huge win.
My students also keep writing portfolios. At the end of the year, I ask them to reflect back on their writing from the start of the year until May. I challenge them to identify areas where they have improved, whether it is organization, ideas and content, embedding quotations… something. This drives our end-of-the-year conferences where we look at their reading and writing and how much improvement they have made.
These are three simple things I do in my classroom that parallel what we as coaches do on the football field. What are some other strategies that you bring from the classroom to the athletic field?