My obsession with Finland and everything Finnish is no secret. When I heard about Tim Walker’s book, Teach Like Finland , I knew I had to have it. I devoured the pages in a single sitting over the summer and couldn’t stop thinking about all the ways I could implement what I read into my classroom. You can read my thoughts of Teach Like Finland here.
Now that the school year is more than halfway through, I can honestly say that the tips I read in Walker’s book were spot on. It didn’t take a major overhaul to incorporate much of what I read into my daily teaching practice, and in fact many of the things I read I realized I was already doing! But there were several tips that really stuck with me as I entered a new school year. Small things I could do to make my days, months and school year go smoothly as I tried to teach like Finland.
Here is a quick peek into how I have shifted my teaching to teach more like Finland:
- Brain breaks! I’m not talking about students sitting at desks and allowing some quiet talking. I’m talking about a full on 10 minute run around session on the playground on days when we do not have a specialist in the morning. Do I wish I could do this every 45 minutes like they do in Finland, yep! But I’ll take what I can get. Incorporating time for students to process their learning, time to let out some energy, and dare I say it let the seven and eight year olds play, has been a game changer in my classroom. Students come in from brain breaks refreshed and ready to learn.
- Keeping the Mini in Mini Lessons. I am guilty of talking too much to try and get a point across. A thirty minute stretch of sitting at a desk or at the carpet listening to me yap is not helpful for students trying to learn or for myself when behaviors inevitable pop up because the lesson is too long. The adoption of readers’ workshop in our district has helped me hone in on clear, concise teaching points to be taught in the workshop model including a mini lesson. Mini lessons are great because they are short, sweet and to the point. I have adopted a workshop model for other areas of teaching with more success in student engagement and meaningful learning.
3. Flexible Seating. Students need to be able to move throughout the day. To accomplish this, I have worked over the years to grow my flexible seating options for my students. You can read more about my trials and tribulations with flexible seating here. Some of my favorite additions to our seating options this year, wiggle stools the and floor seating!4. Lunch in the teacher’s room. I have never been a huge proponent of eating lunch in my classroom and after reading Teach Like Finland it’s nice to know I am not alone. Just like my kids need to recharge the batteries by running around, I need to recharge my batteries and have some adult interaction halfway through the day.
5. Eating with students. I know this completely disputes my last point, but as a reward students can earn a special lunch bunch with me and two friends by using points they earn for positive behavior. This has been such a great way to get to know students better in a relaxed atmosphere and help build community and personal relationships. Students favorite part of the lunch, the lunch bunch selfie we take to put up on Twitter later! 6. Leaving work at school. I have made a conscious effort to not bring school work home this year. If I need to put in a little more time at school to finish up grading papers or prepare for the next day I’ll do it, but the school bag has stayed light this year. It makes coming home so much nicer, separating school and home.
The changes I have made to my classroom have made such a big difference. One day I would love to see Finnish schools in action. It would be amazing to see first hand the differences and pick up a few more ideas to bring home. Until then I will keep trying to teach like Finland as best I can.