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Write a Letter to a Friend

Hello again,

Today I came into class with a nice lesson plan, but I was short about 10 minutes. I never like to have the class sit around with nothing to do, because that leads to them talking, then getting loud, and it’s harder to get them back on task, so I had to come up with a 10 minute activity. I could have shown a 10 minute video clip, but I wanted something more interesting. That’s when I came up with a pretty good idea – go figure. After my incredibly exciting lecture (Yes it is.) I had the students pull out a sheet of paper and told them to choose a student who is not in the class and write them a quick letter about what they learned today in History class. I told them that it needed a intro sentence like, “Dear friend, I have to tell you about what I learned today in Mr. Rangel’s class.” Then they had to include at least five important facts in the body of their letter and finish it off with a closing sentence. To get credit for the assignment, the students had to have the friend to whom they wrote the letter write a sentence about  what they read and then sign it at the bottom. Once it is signed, the student has to return it to me within the week.  This way, the student is forced to re-read the notes they took during the incredibly exciting lecture and it allows them share what they learned with their friends. It also filled my 10 minute time slot.

Here’s Today’s Tip for New Teachers: Don’t yell. I learned early in my career that yelling doesn’t work. It only serves to show your students that you can be flustered. When you raise your voice in anger, the students win.  I have had many problem students in my class. I have some now, but I never raise my voice in frustration. If the class is too loud, I cross my arms and wait. Once the class settles down, I continue. There will be times when the students will take longer than I expect to settle down. It’s in those times when I’ll start calling individual names. I’ll say, “Johnny,” and wait till I get his attention, “We’re waiting for you.” Most of the time the students will notice me waiting, and they’ll start with the “shhhhhh.” There will be, however,  those rare times when I will raise my voice, but they are what I call “Strategic Detonations.” I, and not the students, determine when I will yell, and when I yell, it is to make a very important point. It happens maybe twice the whole year – sometimes never. If a teacher raises his/her voice on a regular basis, eventually the students become numb to it, and it will no longer have an effect. There will be times when the students will cause you to be flustered. Do everything you can to keep from raising your voice. Wait till the students leave,  – then scream.



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