Teacher burnout is a real thing. Exhaustion from the myriad demands placed on our shoulders year in and year out can make anyone question why on earth they started in this profession in the first place.
As a teacher in the US, the winter break gives me a chance to reevaluate my “why” in teaching. Why do it? Why work so hard? Why work to the point of burnout every single year? When there’s actually time to slow down and remember the answer to that question, the answer is so simple - why? Because I love watching kids learn. That’s it. It’s that simple. And when does burnout start to feel so painful? It’s when the job has become something other than dedicating time to helping students learn and experience new things.
In 2019, I’m excited to announce the launch of a new social media meeting place for teachers - The Adventurous Teaching Academy. It’s a Facebook group and safe space where teachers can ask questions, share experiences, and most of all, challenge each other to try new teaching adventures in their classrooms. Here is where we kill the burnout and stay invigorated - by focusing on new and exciting ways to watch students learn!
To kick off the new year and send you back to your classrooms with a sense of excitement and anticipation, I’ve collected some adventurous teaching ideas for you to consider. Here’s how I suggest you get started…
#1: Overhaul Your Curriculum Maps
There’s nothing more refreshing than taking the time to seriously overhaul and rethink your curriculum map with your team. This can seem like a daunting task, but once the map is strong and it works, you’ll feel refreshed and focused on the FUN in teaching rather than the chore of day-to-day planning. Start here with my free curriculum map template. Sit down with your team and sketch out what is working so far. To read more about making your essential questions stronger, read this blog post to get started!
#2: Try an Escape Room
They can take a bit of work to set up and are a bit hard to design on your own, but once you’ve tried an escape room, you’ll be dying to make or buy a TpT one for every novel you teach! My friend Abby from Write On With Miss G loves them too. She says, “Escape rooms are an adventurous teaching must-try. They encourage collaboration among students, get students up and moving, and bring content to life. An escape room is comprised of clues that lead students to tasks or challenges. Once completed, each task generates a code that allows students to advance to the next challenge. Escape rooms can be paper and pencil, entirely digital, or blended.” Be sure to check out Abby’s escape room for Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” or mine for “A Raisin in the Sun.”
#3: Transform Your Classroom
Last year, The Wild Card took teacher book clubs by storm and one of my favorite takeaways from reading it was the excitement that is possible through classroom transformations. Ashley from Building Book Love sums up the classroom transformation experience beautifully. She says, “Here’s another way to be adventurous in English class: take your students on a journey without even leaving your classroom! Though some might view classroom transformations as a little elementary, secondary students benefit from the novelty and engagement just the same as younger students. The best part is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort or money to make your next lesson look more adventurous; take a look at these simple and economical transformations: Lord of the Flies One Dollar, One Hour Transformation, Great Gatsby Party Decorations, Hygge in the Classroom. ”
#4: Experiment with Podcasts
Nothing says adventurous more than trying a completely new medium in your ELA class. According to Ashley from Building Book Love, “podcasts are the fastest growing form of media, and if you can introduce students to this new digital platform, you can potentially transform their potential of continuing life-long learning. To get started on your podcasts-in-the-classroom adventure, check out this post filled with tons of ELA podcast pairings. “
#5: Rethink Grammar Instruction
When I chatted with Melissa from Reading and Writing Haven, she reminded me that making grammar adventurous is important. Why? Adventurous lessons engage students, and...let’s face it. Grammar lessons can use all the zest they can get. Next time you review grammar concepts, try playing truth or dare. Or, use captivating narrative leads from young adult literature as mentor sentences. Additionally, Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom noted that no matter what, grammar instruction cannot begin and end with worksheets! She recommends connecting grammar to the rest of your ELA content and get students discussing grammar with their peers. You might find luck with mentor sentences or verb stations.
#6: Take Students on a Virtual Field Trip
If you really want to bring the setting of your next novel to life, try using a combination of Google Maps and Google Instant Street View to create a virtual field trip. Abby from Write On with Miss G showed me that maps will allow you to plot points for setting or a character’s journey, while Street View will show students 360 views! Tie this to the standards by having your students create literary postcards to analyze setting, point of view, characterization, and more. If you’re planning on teaching Shakespeare anytime soon, you might take a look at this Virtual Field Trip to London that preps students in his background and life story. Students will get their very own passports, book hotel rooms, flights, and travel all around London learning about The Bard and about travel itself!
#7: Consider New Assessment Strategies
First and foremost, hop on this Pinterest board for an ever-growing list of assessment strategies for high school and middle school ELA. I keep it as fresh as I can with new ideas every week! Then, once you’re all set on Pinterest, why not think about instituting conferencing with students as a new assessment adventure? According to my friend Amanda from Amanda Write Now, this is an adventure worth taking. Conferences are short conversations with your students as they work. It is an easy way to differentiate your instruction too. Learn more about conferencing in this article. Another way you can implement conferences is with writing partners. Students can support each other in powerful ways too. Once you get these conference conversations going in your classroom the adventure can begin!
#8: Refresh Your Approach to Reading Instruction
Assigning reading? Annotation is not the only way to help students process course content. Melissa recommends you try asking them to close read with color. Each time students read, they pull out a new layer of meaning, and each layer of meaning is represented on a Post-It with different colors. Read more about this adventurous teaching idea here. You may also be interested in trying (two great blog posts here and here!), which are a fresh way to capture snippets of how students connect with a text. Lauralee is a strong believer in trying a reading aloud with your high school students. They will enjoy it! You will have the opportunity to model your thought processes as you read and share images the reading sparked for you. Not only will you be sharing fiction and nonfiction, but you will also be building classroom community.
#9: Commit to Movement
Keeping students actively engaged is something that will change the environment and learning experience in your classroom dramatically. For me, that journey all started by incorporating stations at the start of pretty much every novel. Then, I got good at them and started using them in other unique ways during a unit. Either way, here’s a great blog post to help you get started with stations. Beyond stations, I love this blog post that features ten ways to bring movement to your ELA classroom - it’s a great read!
#10: Join the Teacher Social Media Movement
My best ideas and the encouragement I need to try new things comes almost entirely from my social media teacher circle. My colleagues are amazing, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes we just need to be real people with those that we work with. With the teacher-insta community, we can be nerdy teachers 24/7! My favorite platform is definitely Instagram. I’m also so excited to have recruited many Instagram friends to join our new and growing Adventurous Teaching Academy group on Facebook. No matter where you go, find an online community of teachers and plug in. Find your like-minded teacher soulmates and let them encourage you! So here’s where you start: with these incredible women who contributed brilliant ideas to this blog post!
Thank you to Abby, Ashley, Amanda, Melissa, and Lauralee for your contributions to this post. Make sure you check out each of these fabulous teachers on Instagram! There, you’ll find more of their content and links to their websites and blogs.
Tell us, which adventurous teaching idea are you excited to try this year? Share in the comments!