Browsing Category

Back to School

How to Invest Students In Your Classroom’s Big Goals

Back to School, Featured, Goal Setting, investment
 Hey, y’all!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but as we are approaching Christmas Break, I wanted to share something that has been on my mind. While Christmas Break is obviously a time to recharge and enjoy time with family, it is always also a time where I reflect on the past semester in order to figure out what I should adjust in the spring semester. One thing I always reflect on is how close my students are in pursuit of our classroom big goals, and how invested they are in reaching them.

One of the things that I really focused on during my first year teaching was this idea. I was/am a firm believer that while I may be able to get up in front of the class and deliver great lessons, and have the students do the most engaging activities but if the kids weren’t invested in what we were doing and the reason behind it, then I wouldn’t get the best results consistently to really “move” students.

As I mentioned in my first back to school post, a big part of how I view teaching is shaped by my time as a Corps Member with Teach for America. The core values of the organization and their philosophy of “Teaching as Leadership” is the lens in which I view my own teaching practice. One of the tenets of the strategies discussed in Teaching as Leadership is about this very topic. I want to discuss investing students in how I understand it and want to think through this for my own classroom, and from the lens of being a middle school teacher.

I Can + I Want

Investing students in a real way in their own academic success is especially critical in schools that are working to close achievement gaps (most all!). According to Teaching as Leadership, to invest students, they have to believe that they “CAN” achieve, and they have to really “WANT” to achieve. Our job, as educators, is to make sure that we do what is in our power to make sure this is true for all students. Not only do teachers have to be on top of their game instructionally, but we have to make sure our classrooms are places that remove barriers that affect student achievement in order for kids to know they can achieve, and are inspired daily to want to to do so.

Now, before I move on, I want to be clear that I am talking only about what educators can control. We may not be able to change a student’s home life, situation he/she came from, or any outside factors that are affecting a student’s life, but we can control our classroom environment, and the culture of our classrooms. 

Classroom Environment

Most teachers I know at least somewhat enjoy decorating their classrooms (they may not enjoy the toll it takes on their bank accounts, but that’s another post!).  Creating a welcoming environment is definitely a first step in investing students in classroom big goals and their own learning, but it boils down to more than that. Having clear student expectations, procedures, routines and systems in place that hold all students to a high expectation is also especially important. All students, even some of the most challenging, need (and want!) to know how to operate in you classroom. Establishing accountability, and empowering students to be good decision makers and to understand they can contribute positively in a classroom is also essential in investing your students. To break it down…

From Teaching as Leadership:

To Create a Welcoming Environment: 

  • Have clear systems in place
  • Reinforce Expectations
  • Model and practice 
  • Hold Students Accountable When Expectations Aren’t Met

Classroom Culture of Achievement

For students to be invested in your classroom big goals, there has to be a culture of achievement in place to help foster that investment, as well as nurture it when obstacles arise. Students should understand that anything other than their best will not be accepted, but they should also not want to give you anything less than their best (again, remember that really investing your students = I CAN + I WANT). As the teacher, your attitude, consistency, the classroom environment, etc. can foster the I CAN in a student, but building the I WANT in a student can be a little more tricky.
 
To Create a Culture of Achievement: 
  • Communicate that effort leads to growth (or, growth mindset)
  • Convey that students benefit from achievement
  • Consistently reinforce effort in class
  • Invest stakeholders and role models of the student

Academic Content

Finally, to invest students in your big goals you have to ensure that you’re teaching TO your students, and not AT your students. This goes well beyond differentiating (buzz word!) and includes using learning goals and what you know about students to help get them to WANT to achieve. 

To help foster the I CAN + I WANT in students with you academic content:

  • Communicate why it matters (relevance)
  • Teach to fit your students’ needs
  • Give students choice
  • Design real-world assignments/projects
—-
Again, investing students in your classroom big goals is an on-going process. AS teachers, we have to work intentionally every. single. day to build the I CAN and the I WANT in each of our students. While this may come easy to some, for most it will require constant reflection and adjustments in teaching practice. 
 
Investing students in my classroom big goals is important to me because it is why I show up to work every day. I want my students to reach the goals we decided upon at the beginning of the year, so I have to do what I can in order to move them to do so. This blog post is not sponsored by Teaching as Leadership, or Teach for America, but as I said above, this is the lens in which I view my teaching practice and I believe is all extremely relevant and actionable stuff. If you’re interested in learning more about the Teaching as Leadership model and/or want to see where you fall on the rubrics for each category check it out here
 
What do you think? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Instagram @kelseynhayesblog!
 
Want to read more about setting big goals for your students? Check out this post!
 

Back to School: Reviewing Procedures and Routines for Your Middle School Classroom

Back to School, Behavior Management, Expectations, Featured, Procedures
 Hey, y’all! I’m back today for post #2 of the Back to School series, this time about Reviewing (or setting up, if you’re a new teacher!) Procedures for Your Middle School Classroom!

Teaching my students my procedures and expectations is one of the cornerstones of making my classroom work. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I think sometimes, those of us who teach older kids (I have 8th graders) assume kids should know how to operate in a classroom by now through experience, or at least common sense. Well, about 2 minutes into class, those of us who have ever thought that have immediately regretted it 🙂 All students (whether the best or worst  behaved!) need (and want!) to know how they are supposed to operate in your classroom, and what is expected of them. In this post, I’m going to outline a list of procedures to think through for your own classroom. This is by no means an exhaustive list, especially if you teach a lab class or special class like chorus or art, but is a base list. I’d love to hear others you come up with in the comments!

Whether you’re a brand new teacher, or a seasoned pro, it is definitely worth your time to review your classroom procedures and expectations in the summer (and reflect more on them in the school year, but that’s another post!). Your style changes, your students change, your room or set-up may change. What has always worked in the past may continue to work, or maybe you had a particularly challenging student that made you realize you needed procedures for certain classroom things. Either way outlining exactly what you want clears your head before the school year begins.

One of the most helpful things I saw when I first became a teacher was a teacher’s procedures laid out in an A to Z format in one document. Committing your procedures and expectations to paper makes certain that you have in your mind what you want exactly. In my opinion, it is always best to have more procedures than needed thought through and ready to implement versus trying to get your students to buy in after the fact. Another absolute God send when I first became a new teacher was Harry and Rosemary Wong’s book The First Days Of School: How To Be An Effective Teacher*, so if you are a new teacher or a veteran who feels like you need to brush up on classroom procedures/routines, I HIGHLY recommend this book.

Now, let’s get to the A-Z Procedures list with questions…

Thinking Through Procedures

Attendance

  • What do you want kids to do if they miss a day? (with Attendance Notes, to get Make Up Work, etc.)
  • What do you want kids to do it they’re tardy to your class?
Attention
  • How do you get the attention of students in your classroom?
  • What does “being attentive” look like in your classroom if just being quiet isn’t enough?
Bathroom
  • What do you want kids to do when they need to go to the bathroom? (How to get your attention, getting a pass, signing out, etc.)
Binders (or Folders)
  • If your class has binders, are they left in your classroom or do kids take them with them every day?
  • Do you want them out at all times or under their desks?
  • If they stay in your room how do you want kids to retrieve them and put them away each day?
Computers
  • How do kids check out computers in class if they take them to their seat?
  • How do they need to operate them?
  • How do they need to return them?
  • What procedures do they allow in the beginning of class on the computer so class starts successfully?
  • What if their computer isn’t working, needs to be charged, or they need help troubleshooting something?
Electronics (other than computers)
  • Can students ever have electronics in your room (like a phone or tablet)?
  • If so, how do they know when an appropriate time to use it is?
  • When they can’t be used, what do you want students to do with the device?
  • What is the procedure if they have out a device at an inappropriate time and get caught with it? If your school collects them, where are students supposed to put it?
Entering the Room
  • How should kids enter your classroom each day? (Begin from the hallway and work your way to them being seated)
  • Do they need to get something before sitting down?
  • Can they get up to get something after being seated?
  • Do students need to begin any work immediately? How will they know what that work is?

Exiting the Room

  • How should kids exit your room each day? (Again, think through a few minutes before they leave to walking out).
  • What must be done before they leave?
  • Will you give a “Go” signal and let them do it all or will you lead them through the steps each day?
Grades
  • How can a kid request to see his grade? By note? Raising his hand? Asking before class starts?
  • How can a student submit late work to be graded?
  • How can a student re-do an assignment? Is that allowed and if so, does the newly completed assignment go somewhere different than tuning in regular work?
  • How will you communicate grades to your students, and how often?
Homework
  • How will students know their homework each day?
  • Do you require them to write it down somewhere? Do you need to check it?
  • Where do they turn HW in?
  • Do you spot check it before you go over it?
  • What happens if a student loses a copy or the HW?
  • What happens if a student forgets to do the HW?
  • What does a student do with late work?

Independent Work

  • What does Independent Work look like in your classroom? What do you need to teach so this is implemented successfully in your room?
Intercom (had to include this one b/c it is my pet peeve!)
  • If someone comes over the intercom to your classroom, what do you want kids to do? (It never fails that when the front office says, “Ms. Hayes?” that 5 kids answer “YES!” as if their names suddenly changed 🙂 )

Lockers

  • What needs to stay in student lockers and can’t be in your class?
  • What if a student forgot something in their locker they need for class?
  • How do they ask to go to their locker?
  • Do they need to sign out?

Make Up Work

  • How does a student know what he/she missed?
  • How long do they have to turn it in?
  • Where does it go in your classroom once it is completed (a special place for make up work?)
  • How long do they have to complete the make up work?
  • Do students have the re-do option on exams? What is that process?

Paper Headings

  • How do you want students to head their papers each day? With just a name? Name/Date? Assignment name at the top?

Parent/Guardian Contact

  • Do you have a system for parent/guardian contact?
  • Do you only want parents to call school or email you to connect or can they call your cell phone?
  • If they send notes from home with students, where do the kids put those?

Partner Work

  • What does partner look like and sound like in your room?
  • What do you need to teach so partner work is productive in your classroom?
  • Is there a place students can look to see if it is partner work time and what those expectations are?

Pencils

  • What does a student do if he/she needs a pencil?
  • What if it needs to be sharpened?
  • How do you collect borrowed pencils?

Phone

  • What happens when the phone rings in your classroom? (Do 3 kids run to the phone? 🙂 )
  • Do you have a specific student answer the phone, or can only you answer it?
  • Do students continue working or does everyone get silent?

Receiving Help

  • How do kids ask for help in your room? Are their things you want them to do before they ask you?

Seating

  • How are kids seated in your room?
  • What do you want ids o do if they have a huge problem with their seat for whatever reason?
  • Do you offer flexible seating? If so, when can they move around during class? How are their seats chosen daily?

Small Group

  • How do you want kids to work in small groups? What does success and participation look like?
  • Is there anything you need to teach them so they can work in small groups successfully to meet your expectations?

Supplies

  • What do students do if they need to get supplies other than a pencil?
  • What do students so when they need to clean-up/give supplies back during class?
Tissue
  • What does a student do if they need a tissue?
  • Do you want them to step outside to use the tissue?

Trash

  • What do kids do if they need to throw trash away?
  • Is it okay for them to get up and do it, or are they supposed to wait? Or is their a bin by each table?

Uniforms

  • What do you/ a student do if he/she is not in uniform in your class? Is there a procedure for getting the student in uniform?

Water

  • What if a student wants to go to the water fountain during class? 

Whole Class 

  • What should you teach for whole class instruction to be successful in your classroom? What do the kids look like and sound like?

Visitors

  • What do you do if a visitor comes to your room? Does a particular student answer the door? If someone is coming in for the lesson, do you have a student ambassador to greet them, or see if they’d like a copy of the assignment? Or do you handle all knocks at the door and students are to continue with what they’re doing?

Creating Procedures

Once you have thought through all of the procedures above (and I’m sure you even thought of others!) it is a good idea to commit your procedures to paper. When doing so, make sure your instructions are clear and concise (and maybe even in a numbered list format!) so they are easily understood by you and made so you can simply communicate them to students.

Again, each year I go through this process so I can fully reflect on each part of my classroom and make sure that my actions and my classroom environment are all geared to maximize student learning time and to build a culture of achievement in all students. 

Teaching Procedures

Just like a brilliant written lesson plan, you have to now teach these procedures to your students over and over again! When teaching procedures you will have to go over them often, if not daily with many of them, until students get the hang of it. In the first few days of school, you should be teaching procedures (explaining, modeling, practicing, etc.) as they come up in the classroom. Obviously simply going through the list and explaining to students what you want will not be enough and you and the students will end up frustrated!

I’ve heard teachers say many times “You’re spending how long teaching procedures?”. I always explain that in the long run the time I spend at the beginning of the year helping students get them down will save much valuable instructional time down the road, and keep me from going grey earlier 🙂

What did I miss? Do you have any procedures in your classroom that I didn’t cover here? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

 

_________
If you missed the first post in the back to school series about setting big goals for meaningful achievement in you classroom, check it out here!

 

Back to School: Setting Big Goals for Student Achievement in Your Classroom

Back to School, Featured, Goal Setting

Hey, y’all!

I cannot believe it is July 19th! Seriously, it feels like the month of July has flown by. My first day of school with students is August 10th,  the official opening day for teachers is August 8th, and we also have “retreats” before that with some PDs at school. My summer is winding down quickly and I am in full back to school mode.

Last week, I was at training all week and had significant time to connect with other teachers. I had already made a list for a “Back to School” series I had planned on blogging about, but I was able to connect with a teacher who just finished her 1st year, and a teacher who is about to begin her 1st year which changed my plans a little bit! After talking with them it got me thinking about my first year experience, what I learned that was helpful (and not so helpful!), and what I still do today to “get ready” for my students. In the next few posts, I’m going to incorporate all of that in with my Back to School posts! I’ll be talking goal setting, behavior/investment plans, reflection (teacher and student), procedures, first days of school, etc. and hope that you’ll join in too!




Before I start, I want to explain a bit about my first year of teaching. I did not go to school to be a teacher (gasp!). I was a Political Science major who made my way to teaching through the Teach for America program. I became a teacher officially through Texas’ and my district’s Alternative Certification Program, and unofficially through much trial and error, support, and coaching. Part of how I view education and the practice of teaching is shaped by my time in Teach for America and by the core values and teaching practices that I learned with that organization. Some of what I’m going to talk about and reflect on in my Back to School posts are pillars of the TFA organization, and I want to communicate them as I think through them for my own classroom. If you want to read more about closing achievement gaps, or teacher effectiveness (with real world applications!), then I highly recommend Teaching As Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap* (affiliate link*). Now, back to it…

Today, I want to start with talking about How to Set Big Goals In Your Classroom. 
With many things in life, if you don’t know where you’re going then you’re most likely not going to get there. This could not be more true with teaching. The best lessons, the best intentions, and the best classroom environment can only get you so far during a school year,  especially if they are not in pursuit of your overall, end-of-year goals.


What  I mean by “Big Goals”:

“Big Goals” are the academic, and personal goals you want your students to accomplish this year, particularly, by the end of the school year.  You can set individual “big goals” with students, but having whole class big goals is a rallying point that can help focus your class all year. Your goals should be ambitious, but feasible, and able to be measured somehow (more on that in a bit…).

I set my initial big goals in the summer, even before I meet my students. After looking at historical data, I can at least have an idea of where the bar should be set in order to really push my students. This allows me to begin investing my students from day 1, and I can adjust the goals after they take their diagnostic assessment.

Why you need to set “Big Goals”:

Like I mentioned above, you can’t get somewhere, if you don’t know where you’re going.
Period. Yes, teachers can teach content until they’re blue in the face,  or teach to “pass a test” but they have to have outlined in their own minds exactly what it is they want their students to be able to do overall, so they can plan the steps, and properly prioritize how to get each student there.

Also, if you happen to teach students who are academically behind, this is maybe even more important! Their growth goals and academic benchmarks are the same as other students traditionally with this era of state testing, so there is more work to be done in order to close achievement gaps and to catch them up. Using “big goals” in the classroom not only help the teacher, but also the students conceptualize where they’re headed, and can make learning feel more manageable for students who may have not been typically as successful in school. 

How to do it:

  • Set Your Initial Vision and Goals: First, you need to outline your vision for your classroom. What do you want your students to know, and learn, both academically and personally? Why are those specific goals important? Like I mentioned above, you need to set your initial big goals for your classroom based off historical data for your incoming students and what you know about your school community and the general backgrounds of your students. You should outline the goal, why that goal is important and how progress will be measured throughout the year (and why). Again, they should be feasible but ambitious. Don’t be afraid to dream big. This, paired with how you decide to invest kids in your class goals (more on that soon), can be very motivating for students!
  • Give a Diagnostic Assessment: Giving a diagnostic assessment, or “pre-test”, is extremely important in order for you to gauge where your kids are academically. After you analyze the diagnostic results, you can adjust your big goals if necessary. Your diagnostic assessment should be aligned to your end of year assessment(s), is better if it is a recognized test (like a released state exam, or something that has been validated) and should have enough questions/opportunities for students to demonstrate their current understanding of standards (goal is about 5 questions each).
  • Tracking: Once you understand where your kids are after giving the diagnostic assessment, and you know exactly where you want them to be at the end of they year, you need to ensure that you and your students have a meaningful, effective way to track progress throughout the year. The students should understand in a real way where they are in pursuit of the big goal, and you will be better prepared to get all students to the goal if you have a system in place that you can keep up with in tracking data (for yourself, and with the students).
  • Talk About It: Once you have your goals outlined and you understand exactly what student success will look like in your classroom, then it is important that you remember to communicate it with your students! In a later post, I will discuss investing your kids in the class goals, but on a basic level, you need to make sure that early on your class goals are known. In my class, I always put the goals on a big bright poster in the classroom surrounded by the kids’ personal goals that they set on the 1st days of school. I try to reference the goals very often, if not daily. The poster stays up all year round and the students do reflection exercises on where they are in relation to their goals and our class goals (more on that soon!).

What makes good “Big Goals” (Examples):

A good goal is one that can be measured, will require significant work by all students, is ambitious and is rooted in data. You need to decide if success in your classroom will based off growth, overall mastery, or both.
Examples:
  • All students will average 80% on all standards learning goals 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is a mastery goal. 
  • Students will grow by 2 years according to their Lexile level 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is a growth goal.
  • All students will apply to a magnet program for high school 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is also a “personal” goal. 
Setting big goals for your students not only gives you and all of your students a roadmap for success for the entire year, but it shows all kids that you hold them to high academic standards and know/expect that they all can achieve. 
Do you already do this in your classroom? What are some of your big class goals? What is your process? Let me know in the comments, via email, or on Twitter



________
This is post 1 in the Back to School Series. To see post two click here

p.s Want to start a teacher blog like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!