It’s no secret that teachers and students enjoy some time away from school, especially during the holiday season. While getting “back into the swing” of setting alarms and missing afternoon naps can be an adjustment, the new semester can also bring a renewed sense of purpose, a clean slate, and open more opportunities for student engagement and learning.
CHOOSE A CLASS #ONEWORD
If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed #oneword popping up among posts from your PLN, and for good reason. Instead of making another resolution that—let’s face it—we’ll probably end up breaking before MLK Day, teachers on Twitter (or “Tweachers”) are choosing words to help them stay motivated and focused on achieving their goals throughout the year. My #oneword for 2019 is “grit” because I plan to achieve my goals with tenacity, perseverance, spirit, and determination—all synonyms of GRIT!
When your students return to the classroom this month, try creating a #oneword for your class. As a high school teacher with 7-8 groups of students throughout the day, it’s interesting to hear the words my students come up with as a class to help them stay focused on their goals. At the beginning of 2018, my class words included “productivity,” “awesome,” and “focus,” all of which were unique to each class section. We posted their class #oneword on the board where they made great discussion topics for other classes. When we felt like we were getting off track or needed a boost, a student, and sometimes the teacher, would direct attention to the class #oneword as a point of encouragement.
Creating a class #oneword is a great way to encourage students to take part in developing and maintaining a positive classroom culture, while encouraging their classmates and teacher to be intentional in the learning environment.
SET INDIVIDUAL AND CLASS GOALS
During the first semester of this school year, I tried something new with my students and encouraged them to chart their learning goals for each unit. Prior to beginning a new unit, students completed a brief pre-assessment that included questions tied to each of the learning targets for our unit. In addition to the pre-assessment, I created and shared a Google Sheet where they would chart their pre- and post-test data, as well as their learning goals.
In addition to tracking their assessment data, my students were also able to view their goals in relation to their pre- and post-test scores on the second sheet of the Spreadsheet. Seeing the looks on their faces when they actually saw the improvement they made in relation to our learning goals through the unit was AWESOME! While some students saw huge growth from pre- to post-assessment, others saw only a point or two increase. Once again, when they saw the improvement they made in relation to the learning goals on the chart, I could almost see them sit up a bit straighter while their confidence increased.
Students can develop individual learning goals using a variety of mediums including:
- Google Forms/Sheets
- Create and administer a pre and post-assessment for each unit, and have students chart and evaluate their progress using a Google Sheet. Encourage students to become familiar with the learning targets for each unit and be intentional about the content they’re learning.
- Create a class Padlet wall where students can post their goals, both educational and those that are unrelated to school. Students can revisit this wall throughout the course of the year and can comment words of motivation and encouragement on their classmates’ posts. This wall can also be shared with parents, coaches, other teachers, and administrators who can also help hold students accountable and offer support and positive words throughout the year.
- Students can create Flipgrid videos as they set learning goals for the new year. These videos can be revisited frequently by students and teachers and can easily be shared with parents, coaches, etc. Now that Flipgrid is FREE for educators, everyone can take advantage of this awesome learning tool.
Encouraging students to create and monitor goals can be very powerful and can contribute to increased student engagement.
CREATE POSTS OF POSITIVITY
Students and teachers in all grade levels can find themselves needing a healthy dose of positivity from time to time. Sometimes, we’re tired. Some days, we’d rather be at home in sweatpants watching Netflix on the couch. We all need a jolt of inspiration and motivation; creating posts of positivity can be the boost teachers and students need!
A few years ago, I noticed that my high school students seemed to be more stressed than usual. Many take a heavy schedule of advanced classes, work after school jobs, participate in extracurricular activities, and are, like their dear teacher, trying to balance it all. To help bring a dose of motivation, inspiration, and a smile to their faces, I created a “Take What You Need” bulletin board in the back of my classroom. On this bulletin board, you’ll find inspirational quotes from Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter, Franklin Roosevelt, Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and the like, on small pieces of paper. Students can literally “take what they need” from the board for motivation throughout the day. Many of my students tuck the quotes in their Chromebook cases or planners where they can see them frequently. It’s a small thing that I can do to help brighten their day.
Encourage your students to contribute to a “Take What You Need” board in your classroom, or place “posts of positivity” throughout the school in places their classmates frequent. We never really know what someone is going through, and these words of inspiration, motivation, and positivity may help make someone’s day a bit happier!
How do you plan to start the new year right in your classroom?
Be sure to share your ideas and suggestions with your PLN on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or through your favorite platform, using #edtechteam, and have a wonderful, productive 2019!
Bethany Petty is a high school Social Studies teacher and author from Park Hills, Missouri. Her most recent book, Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning, shares tips and tricks to improve learning and enhance student engagement in the classroom. Follow Bethany on Twitter @Bethany_Petty