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Call me crazy

Call me crazy but I love the first week of school! It’s the smell of fresh stationery, the opening of new packets of resources, the catching up with colleagues, seeing old students and meeting new ones.

I am a person who is, shall we say, vertically challenged! And one thing I love about the new year 7 students is simply that I am still taller than most of them. Except that this year there is one young man, who in Year 7, is approximately 6 foot 4 inches.  Another thing I enjoy about starting a new year is that I love the fresh little keen faces of the new year 7 students. I just love that they are so bright eyed, enthusiastic and the poor little things seem to be always lost!

So far this week I have met all except one of my classes that I will be teaching this year. I know that some classes are going to be great to work with, and others are going to test my skills and will push me to be a better teacher.

The last few years I have played games with my classes before getting them into any work. I find that when we play games in class the students get to know each other, they get to have fun, and I have a real opportunity to observe how each student will, or won’t, work with others. So far this week I have already discovered which students will be seated very close to me, who will not be sitting next to who, and who are my natural leaders.

Although I am a Music Teacher, I find that through playing drama games, I can get a class to work together fairly quickly. Below I am going to give some instructions for some of my favourite games that I have used this week, and the music that I play while doing them.

One of the first games I like to play has a few names, but I call it “Where the Wind Blows”.

For this game each student sits on a chair in a circle. I like to be a part of this game so I start by standing in the middle of the circle. The aim is to not be the person in the middle without a seat. The game is simply this, the person in the middle says “Where the wind blows, the wind blows someone with…..” and whatever the person says, anyone with that must move to a different seat that is not right next to them. The person left without a seat is in the middle and they then say “ Where the wind blows, the wind blows someone with…” and the game continues. Warning, the students sometimes get a little enthusiastic and may dive to a chair and hurt themselves. I had to call an ambulance last year while playing this game when two girls went for the same chair and one ended up hurt. She was OK, just a little sore for a couple of days, it had aggravated an old injury. I still play the game, just give warnings now!

Another group game I play is Rhythm Stick. This again has all students seated in a circle on a chair. I give a student a drum stick, but this could be any old stick. When the music starts, the students are to tap the floor three times with the stick and then pass it to the next person. When the music stops the person who has the stick is out. The game continues until you get a winner. To make it easier to play, I ask the students to keep “closing the circle” so they can pass safely and not throw the stick. Sometimes I add variations through multiple sticks or by calling out “reverse” . My favourite music to play with this one includes—Hit Me with Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar, Whip It by Devo and Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick by someone I can’t remember ( it was a one hit wonder from the eighties).

Another game I like to play is 1-20. Now I have to say, I play this game often at the end of a lesson to get the students to focus and listen to each other. It usually takes quite a while for a class to work together well enough to get to 20, some classes simply don’t make it; however, I was so impressed with one of my year 8 classes this week as they got it in the very first lesson!!!! So the game is simple, I like to start and I will say the number 1, then the idea is that each member of the class is to say a number. If two or more students say a number at the same time, you start again. I like to use this as a way to teach the students that they need to listen to each other and work together as a team. Sometimes I will give them a minute to decide how they might achieve their goal, and this usually gets them to 20. My only rules are that you are not to simply go around the room and each student MUST say a number otherwise there will be a couple that will say every number.

There are a few others I use, but I will save them for another post.

In the first lesson another thing I like to introduce my students to is the Reward Scale. I created this using Publisher, but any program that you are familiar with will work. It is deliberately colourful for use on my IWB. This is a simple technique that works with the whole class. Firstly the class gets to decide what colour they will be. Then I explain to them that if they work together as a class they will move up the scale. When the class gets to the top of the scale the class gets a reward lesson. This usually takes about 12 lessons to get there, and once there, the students decide what they will do for the lesson. Classes in the past have wanted to play games all lesson, some have wanted free time on the laptops, other classes have wanted to watch a movie—the choice is theirs. I never make the class go backwards, only ever forward.

reward scale

Next week my classes will be sitting at desks in groups and it will be time to work as a small group. I will discuss this, and some of my classroom management strategies that I use in my next post.

One last thing. My staff were all very happy with their package of resources that I had prepared for  them, this made all the hard work worth it. There was however, a small issue with one of the packages. One of my staff is a little obsessed with the colour Purple. The bags that I put the resources in were green, and that is her most hated colour. Anyway, we were just about to go through the contents of the bag, when she threw the bag across the room. I reacted and said that she would simply have to get over the fact that it was a green bag, and she said no, there is something extra in the bag. I was getting a little annoyed at this stage, and got up to pick up the contents of the bag while she was as far away from the bag as possible. She finally said that it was a spider in the bag, and then we all reacted! I had a look, rather carefully under each item on the floor so as not to pick up the spider myself. It wasn’t on the resources, so I carefully looked in the bag, and there it was, a great big hairy huntsman spider. I then got very girly and sexist and asked the only male staff member to be a man and get rid of the spider outside, of which he obliged. It was just a little moment to start the year, and here’s hoping that it’s not an omen of some sort.

Well, until next time,

Julia from Jooya

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