Thirty-three years of teaching experience has given Carol Keeney a bit of insight into classroom management. In BRAND NEW TEACHER: HOW TO GUIDE AND TEACH THE EARLY GRADES USING SCRIPTS, Keeney outlines an approach using scripts, as an actor would. Directed toward new teachers just entering the school system, Keeney provides a plan for capturing the class's attention from day one and maintaining it throughout the year. It is essentially a handbook for first-year teachers who tend to be left to their own devices and with no guidance are expected to instantly take control of a class of young children. The advice Keeney provides has been accumulated through her own trial and error process, in hopes that new teachers can manage to avoid some of the pitfalls that inevitably come before discovering a niche in the education world.
Part One is composed of two chapters that introduce the teacher to the value of scripts and emphasize how children seek approval in the expressions and mannerisms of the adults around them. Part Two is an organizational tool, four chapters providing lists of materials that may be needed, strategies for classroom layout and tips for creating effective bulletin boards. In this section, the teacher is building an engaging "set" for their "audience." Part Three contains some basic projects and games that can be adapted for different themes and subjects. What I found most helpful was that Keeney lists the instructions for the projects, then relates the benefits of each activity and the specific skills the children will learn. Each section begins with a list of comprehension questions to reinforce the information taught in the activity. The teacher can use these to get an idea of how well the lesson was received by the children and what is actually being retained.
Part Four brings us to the scripts. After creating an objective, setting the stage, and choosing some activities, the teacher must decide how they will execute the assignments in the most effective way. Keeney provides scripts for some essential lessons for early grades. The teacher can use the scripts exactly as they are provided to become familiar with the method, then use them as an outline for creating their own need-specific scripts. Keeney provides a full week's worth of scripts as a primer for teachers to begin building their own. Just as a script for a play or movie provides the actors with specific lines and motions, Keeney's classroom scripts provide the teacher with the same careful instruction. Keeney follows up with a chapter on challenges that might disrupt the script and ways to handle them.
Because the majority of Keeney's experience has been in early elementary grades, specifically first grade, all of the lessons and activities are created specifically for that age group and skill level. This makes it more difficult for teachers of higher grades to adapt the exercises to the abilities of their own students, but grasping the concept of scripts is a tool that can be used by instructors of all ages. It is no secret that children learn best when they are interested in the subject matter. Scripts allow the teacher to grab the students attention and build interest in the curriculum for optimum retention.
As a home schooling mother, I can personally attest to the value of scripts. When my own enthusiasm begins to falter, so does my children's. Even with a class of two students whose full attention should not be difficult to gain, boredom and distraction can set in. Scripts can rejuvenate the appetite for learning and serve as a blueprint for both teacher and student.