Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The New Teacher's Toolbox: Tips for Teachers Just Starting Out

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

The New Teacher's Toolbox: Tips for Teachers Just Starting Out

Article excerpt

Breaking the Midwinter Monotony

This is a tough time of year for teachers and students alike. The holidays have come and gone, as have the days off and vacations that break up the first half of the school year. The calendar looks daunting: Many full weeks of school remain; the warmth of spring and excitement of summer seem so far away.

Despite the time-consuming work of planning lessons, class starts to seem stale. Keeping students engaged grows more difficult. Here are some ideas for breaking the midwinter monotony.

Change your scenery. A great way to generate excitement is to rearrange your classroom environment. Try changing seats or lab groups, or rearrange desks in a circle or small clusters for a group work activity. Also, change your bulletin boards and walls. Consider offering a few bonus points for student-generated artwork to hang on the walls. Invite some students to stay after school one afternoon to work on the bulletin board. You provide the hot cocoa (outside the lab area, of course). A new look to the room is a great way to refresh your class.

Weave demos and quick labs into your lessons. While sometimes inevitable, a full period of "chalk and talk" can be brutal on teacher and students during the midyear doldrums. You probably already integrate video clips and other types of multimedia into your lessons, but how about starting--or breaking up--a long class period with a quick lab or demo? I find demos to be a godsend in my chemistry classes on math-heavy days in February and March; quick and easy demos for a variety of chemistry topics are readily available online. For example, check out the University of Wisconsin's Department of Chemistry demo website (see "On the web").

Invoke the theater. Acting techniques can liven up an otherwise mundane class. Quick role-plays for topics like protein synthesis or chemical bonding help explain complex concepts while getting kids out of their seats. Props can also help with explanations, like lava lamps for teaching density or hand boilers for explaining the gas laws. This year I introduced a mystery bucket in my marine biology classes. I'll occasionally start class with this white bucket decorated with question marks sitting in front of the room. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.