Each semester I try to think about five key components for success of the students: SEDRC.
With these five things always on the forefront of a teacher’s mind, the students will be set for success.
I think most teachers start the first week with a review and recap of the foundation skills of the course. In keeping with the practice, we started out with a review of plot, character, conflict, theme, and setting as well. To try to keep students interested, we started out with “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell. I identified the CC Standards and linked them to the SPIs of the lesson. To help the students see what we were doing, I showed them the standards and had them tell me which objectives looked more achievable. Every student in class felt the CC standards were “overwhelming” or “just too much” for a lesson, but when showing them the SPIs, the students had much more confidence they could do the task. It was an important lesson learned because even I can get frustrated at complex text segments and need to take a break before breaking them down into manageable segments. After all, have you tried mulling through PARCC’s Mondel Content Frameworks? I think the point of this is seeing the imperative breakdown of an objective into manageable chunks written in student-friendly terms.
How will I communicate my objectives?
On the board, I think I will track the day’s CC standard using “I can” statement posters. I created them, printed them in color, laminated them, and placed a magnet on the back so I could easily stick them to the board. Beside this 8×11, I will post my daily objective in the same formula since my days in North Carolina: “Through the study of (material) I will be able to (skill), and demonstrate understanding by (assessment piece).” Beneath this I will continue to post the agenda.
Considering the powerpoints, I will continue to put the CC standard and the SPI list for the day. This is a good practice as it provides the structure for the lesson and works as a solid “teaching transition” to review the objective when progressing through activities or learning cycles of the 100 minute block.
For closure, I will continue the teacher recap and summary of the skills combined with some form of exit ticket or closure task for the day’s lesson. I am really going to work to increase the effectiveness of this part of class because I have read research on the way the brain continues to work if given an unanswered, thought-provoking question.
Bottom line? Post them. Explain them. Connect them. Teach them. Track them. Assess them.
Setting the Expectations
Looking at the standards and the testing window scheduled for May, I feel a time crunch already. I want to spend time working on teaching my procedures and expectations, but I also want to get the students into the content as quickly as possible. I have tracked their data as far back as my system will let me go, and I have analyzed their pretesting data enough to have a pretty good idea of what we need to work on as a class and as individuals or small groups.
To establish the need for rules and expectations, I modeled reading of “Humpty Dumpty” and provided discussion questions as to the fate he suffered and what might have allowed a better outcome. I feel like this is too soon to give them a text and expect them to think critically at the level I desire, so for a “we do” or guided practice, we used a section of text from Mark Twain’s Roughing It to look at the need for authority, rules, procedures, and expectations, and consequences. Now, this seems odd, but the students at my urban school actually got into the story and wanted to read more than the short excerpt. This gave the opportunity to create a consensus map on respect. The class definition is “thinking about what you say or do before doing or saying it and questioning whether or not that would be tolerated if it happened to you.” Nice. For an explanation, our class agreed on, “The Golden Rule.” Even better. I have a feeling this is going to be a great semester.
Now, with all of this, we reviewed the three primary expectations and I gave a hand signal for each. I will be able to use that motion later to prompt behavior without saying a word. Basically, the saying it, “Respect yourself, others, and the community.” For the motions, “respect” occurs with both hands out and fingers crossed (R in sign language). Drop the cross and point thumbs to chest for “yourself”. Point to classmates with pointer finger to say “others”, and take both hands outward in a circle as in “community”. With these expectations, everything is included. As you probably read in my previous entry, prodecures come with a User’s Guide and we practice those procedures regularly.
A final note on the expectations… I used to think it was commonsense not to act a certain way or do certain things. I can remember being in public, raised so modestly myself, and being astonished by some behaviors, blurting out, “I is just commonsense not to do that!” My Grandma Dunlap, in her infinite wisdom, always taught me that commonsense was not so common nowadays. Once during a parent conference, the student zoned out. The parent picked up a pencil and threw it across the room and hit him in the head. While I thought not throwing pencils at faces was commonsense, this child had come to know this action as commonsense. And throughout my teaching career in multiple areas of incredibly low SES, I realized “classroom” behaviors really are not commonsense. As a result, I made it a point to spend a fair amount of time on teaching and practicing my expectations BEFORE I could consequence them. I also use the positive discipline structure, and I would recommend that to you as well.
I know right now exactly where my students stand on past testing, the English I Benchmark I gave, and specific SPIs (skills). I have seen their projected scores for the EOC. What will I do? Show them. Next week, I am going to meet with each student to discuss their data and come up with a plan to help master all areas. My class has been approved to work on standards-based grading, and I am certain this will be most beneficial to the students if they understand their data. So how do you get the data?
Someone in your school has access to a ton of data. You can talk to guidance about looking at cumulative records. You can talk to an administrator about past testing scores. You can track what happens in your class and get your department to track across grade levels. And in Tennessee, we have TVAAS. So what I have learned about the data is ask for it and use it.
You know how if you like the person you are most apt to help them out but if you don’t like them you get that secret pleasure of watching them suffer? Well, students are the way. Think about the best teacher you ever had. You probably love that teacher because you connected on some level, even if it was just that you thought she was a giant jerk who always picked on you and it took years to see what she was talking about. So build those relationships. Show the students you care and you are a human being too. Be honest with them. Believe in them. Make them believe in each other.
Once again, I could go on and on about the importance of relationships and the strategies I use, but those will come in time.
Communication: Part 1
This goes back to the data. You know when you talk to someone who doesn’t really say a thing? That is sort of what data is to students and parents. If you take the time to find it, you need to share it with the parents and students – explaining exactly what is it, what is means, and what you can do to help it increase. And track it down as much as you can. Considering previous data, I track PLAN and EXPLORE tests, 8th grade TCAP scores in ELA areas. I look at their trend lines on TVAAS and see where they fell behind and what I can do to try to fix it. I look at TVASS projections for the English I EOC and use them to motivate me to do more to help the students master the objectives. During class, I break every teacher-created test question down by the standard and use standards-based grading. Then, I add the student mastery level to my data spreadsheets. At the start of the year and just prior to the actual EOCs, we take “Benchmark” tests. By going down to the skill on each test, you can actually encourage kids to do better. For example, if you score a 24% the first time and a 34% the next one, why try? You’re still failing. However, if you can break down the strands and know exactly what skill to work on, that overall percentage will increase. Also, an added bonus is that students will be able to see small gains in individual SPIs as a positive thing, not just give up over the feeling of never being good enough anyway. Finally, every single thing we do, I communicate that in terms of a percentage of 100 to the students even if I just enter it as 7/15 in the gradebook. Why? Because I drill “THE PROFICIENCY PERCENT” into their heads all year long. Every test.
Communication: Part 2
Outside of the data, you still have to communicate with parents. Call them to introduce yourself and tell them how excited you are about the year (even if you’re concerned on the first day). Pick a system and call a set number of parents a week for something nice. It will go far when you need the parent on your side when a research paper wasn’t turned in or a test is failed. Speaking of failing tests, call parents of students who fail a test with a positive twist on what you can send home to study and how much you think the child needs just a little more encouragement and confidence. Are students going to get the benefit of a solid education if they just apply themselves and do what you ask? Yes. But if you were not getting paid you probably would not come to work just because you knew you were doing what was right by helping out our future leaders. Think about how good it feels when someone helps you out or when you get some kind of recognition for all the work you do. Students need that too. Consider a monthly newsletter with important information about upcoming test or skills of the new unit. Why not print this on the back of a student progress report?
A couple of tools to try:
Remind101.com – Awesome text messaging system for parents and students. Set up an account to remind students of deadlines or a bonus question of the day. Remind parents the end of the grading period is coming and all missing work must be turned in before the deadline. Your personal number is not revealed.
Edmodo.com – I can’t say enough. It is Facebook on steroids for education. I have found students are much more likely to text in homework on the bus on the way home when they act as mom or dad when they get home. Check it out.
A class web page – Many schools and districts have a server to help you, but there are also sources where you can get free or practically free sites.
Activites/Resources mentioned in this entry:
1. ELA 9-10 Common Core Bundle with Mastery Checklists and “I can” Statement Posters. This file is available at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/English-9-10-Common-Core-At-a-Glance-Mastery-Checklists-and-I-Can-Posters
2. Lesson for Expectations and Authority using “Roughing It” excerpt is available at http://www.civiced.org/index.php?page=fod_ms_auth02_sb.