Starting the Year Off Right
Start a lesson plan notebook or journal. Some days your lessons will surpass your expectations; other days, you'll wonder what went wrong. Create a notebook with copies of your lesson plans and two sets of worksheets. Keep notes on what works and what doesn't, writing directly on the lesson plan or one copy of the worksheet. When you go back to revise or recreate lessons for the next school year, you will have a good record of what worked—and what you can build on.
Don't sell your class short. Avoid telling your class "this is easy," "this will be fun," "this shouldn't be too hard," or "this is going to be tough." If students succeed at a task you've labeled "easy," the accomplishment seems less significant. If they do not, they may feel worse than they otherwise would. What is easy for one student is difficult for the next, so keep all your students on their toes, and celebrate their accomplishments.
Decorate appropriately. Take a good look at your classroom décor. What messages does it send to students? Does it reflect what you are trying to accomplish? Are your classroom rules prominently displayed? Do your students know where to look for examples of good work? Your classroom décor can say a lot about your personality as a teacher and what you are there to accomplish; don't ignore it!
Be consistent. Students tend to remember your rules better when they stay the same and are enforced equally and consistently.
Create problem solvers. Start each class with a set of questions and riddles that promote logical thinking. Allow students to work in small groups, and emphasize that they should discuss solution strategies and how they got their answers. This activity shows students that your classroom is a place where communication and collaboration is encouraged.
Who's doing the math? Be mindful of who is actually doing the mathematics in the classroom. The students should be doing their share of the thinking, explaining, and reasoning. Give students a chance to struggle and wrestle with some math every day! Suggesting a solution strategy too quickly doesn't give students a chance to solve problems.
Talk with colleagues. Try to meet weekly with a group of fellow teachers to discuss teaching strategies, share classroom-management techniques, and brainstorm ways to offer more opportunities for students. Consider preparing a monthly math department newsletter for parents.
Don't jump to conclusions. Regardless of past experiences, try to give each student a clean slate to work from. If you are particularly worried about a certain student, try giving him or her responsibilities from the start. Have the student hand out papers, erase the board, or collect papers from classmates.
Use questions. Make your classroom a safe place to ask and answer questions. Try using students' questions to drive your lesson, with students working to answer each others' questions.