While most of the U.S. economy has relatively recovered from the staffing shortages brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the childcare industry is still extraordinarily understaffed. According to an article by NPR, most other industries have returned to within 2-3% of pre pandemic staffing levels, while the childcare industry is still seeing staffing levels between 11 and 12% lower than pre pandemic numbers. What does this mean for childcare teachers? Heavier work loads and less support staff.
In a time like this, working smarter, not harder has never been more important. That is why it is the perfect time to try round robin teaching. If you have never tried this teaching method before, you are missing out! And if you have, the current work climate warrants putting it to more regular use.
The structure is simple: divide the children in your care into the same number of small groups as teachers you have. Set up the same number of stations around your classroom as you have groups (so for two teachers/groups, have two stations). Each station should be hosted by a teacher and feature a different learning activity. Have the students spend about 15-30 minutes at one station and then have them rotate to the next.
The round robin system lightens the load of teachers because each teacher is planning one simple activity that they then teach multiple times. Not only does this create less work for the teachers, but it also allows them to put more time into creating one quality activity instead of filling hours on end.
Depending on the time you need to fill, the complexity of the activities, and the age of the children, you can alter the time structure to fit whatever your needs might be. Whether it's an hour or four, round robins work to allow you to fill that time with effective activities.
Because children will only spend a short time at each station, it is easy for them to stay engaged in the activity that they are learning. These stations are a great time to cement a single concept by repeating ideas in multiple activities or for introducing multiple new concepts. For example, you might consider having four stations that all focus on a new letter of the alphabet; one station could focus on practicing writing the letter, one could demonstrate the sound the letter makes, one could show words that use the letter, and one could be a take home project that encourages students to talk to their guardians about what they learned.
Although this system may seem fool-proof, there are some other simple tips that can help you create an effective round robin:
- Put one teacher in charge of either coming up with or coordinating the activities so that each one is unique
- Be sure to communicate with all the teachers about what materials will be used at each activity so there is enough for each station
- Plan extra time for rotating between the various stations; you might be surprised by how much time it takes to get everyone to a new seat
- Consider having teachers rotate instead of students
- If you do a round robin multiple days in a row, consider shaking up the location to keep things fresh; take the students outside if you can
- If you focus on one principle in all of the stations, consider debriefing with the students as a large group to check for understanding and allow the students to solidify what they learned
With these tips and our free “Round Robin Lesson Plan” download in hand, you will be able to create an effective and fun learning environment for your students! Download the sample round robin lesson plan here for a great way to start practicing these skills with your students.
And for even more on how to create variety and efficiency in your center or classroom, enroll in the “Approaches to Learning” course through Bertelsen Education!
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