Student Engagement & Ownership, Day 1

One other start of year success I want to mention:

I was thinking about ways to make my classroom very student centered, as my school has really taken on the Danielson framework for teaching, focusing on select specifics such as Domain 2b: Establishing a Culture for Learning and Domain 2d: Managing Student Behavior.  In this subtopic, a teacher can be rated as distinguished with evidence like:

  • Students demonstrate through their active participation, curiosity, and taking initiative that they value the importance of the content.
  • Instructional outcomes, activities and assignments, and classroom interactions convey high expectations for all students. Students appear to have internalized these expectations.
  • Standards of conduct are clear to all students and appear to have been developed with student participation.

That last one really struck me as new, as I’ve always been a dictator about classroom rules.  So, I was contemplating how to go about activating students to develop their own rules while keeping things in order.  I also wanted to up the level of student discussion and participation.  As a result, my first thought was to have students to come up with the classroom rules on the first day. They could write them down, or we could have a class discussion, and together we would come up with appropriate rules, rewards and punishments (and we’d all be one big happy family…).

However, I had a chance to talk it over with the AMAZING Sam (of Continuous Everywhere…), and he had the same fears I did about such an open policy on rules.  His suggestion (which I implemented [and it worked wonders!]) was two-fold.  First, I had a discussion with students after reading through my syllabus (where I came up with my rules already) about what makes a productive student.  The class came up with great ideas and examples of what a productive student looks/acts like.  I also had them give a why to each statement, as in “a productive student is not on his cell phone because that would keep him from focusing on his work” or “a productive students works through the problems slowly and thoroughly so that she has a strong understanding of the problems.”

Then, as class came to an end, I gave students an exit slip, where they answered four brief questions, reflecting on the classroom rules in the context of our discussion.  I asked questions about the classroom rules, such as if there was anything they would like to change/add to the syllabus.  Students gave great feedback.  Most were happy with the way thing are, a few gave great suggestions.

I spent 4 or 5 minutes at the beginning of the next class discussing some of the results.  I explained one or two rules that students had mentioned that I (unfortunately) would not change, but I was able to discuss exactly why that rule is important (like my cell phone policy).  Then, I discussed the two rules changes/additions I was going to make.

Overall, I think the students are all happy with the classroom rules, many of which are fueled by debate structures I’m using.  What’s new is that the standards of conduct “appear to have been developed with student participation.”

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4 responses to “Student Engagement & Ownership, Day 1

  1. And more than that, the kids are being implicitly told — on day 1 — that you care about what they think and what they have to say. You’re sending a message about what you value, and kids will respond to that as long as it is done genuinely. And it looks like they did. 🙂

  2. I had the same fears and as a result, did not try this idea. But I like the way it’s implemented here and it sounds way less scary. My school is also using the Danielson framework. The scary thing is, we’re using it on teacher evaluations without having been trained on how to use it in the classroom. Uh-oh! So obviously I’m very interested to hear more about what your school is doing with it.

    • We are also going to be evaluated with it, I believe starting next year. My school likes to be ahead of the game. So we are starting to try out evaluations with it this year…It’s led to some great discussions, but in some ways I get really frustrated with the process because we are trying to build a portfolio of evidence to show our wonderfulness with Danielson. However, I feel that my response/evidence to most of the criteria is in those moments that happen (hopefully often) in my class. It’s very hard to hand in paperwork that shows evidence of students being “inquisitive” or “relying on each other for learning”…I can talk my way through tons of evidence, but how do I hand something in to be evaluated?

      • I agree. I am in the same situation with formative data. I have small classes so I can tell you who knows what but I don’t know a good way to document that. They want us to pre-test and post-test every unit but I’m still a baby enough teacher that I don’t have exams written ahead of time to use as a pre-test. I do a daily bell ringer and exit slip but haven’t figured out a way to collect data from it yet. It’s not enough that we know, we have to do extra work just to turn in a piece of paper.

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