The idea of student engagement and assessment from MINUTE ONE of DAY ONE, sounds a bit crazy, right?
Through 22 years of teaching I can tell you is that every group of students I have taught is different, but each one has something truly amazing to contribute. As an educator I find it imperative to look for the good and find ways to bring out the best in every student.
Middle school is a delicate time. Students are trying to navigate friendships, independence, and decisions about athletics and extra-curriculars. As teachers, we need to be sensitive, kind, and have high-expectations. As you think about the school year ahead, consider…
- What classroom practices worked well this past school year?
- What management strategies need tweaking to make better use of instructional time?
- What procedures or routines make the most of student learning?
- What tools do I need to make sure that ALL students feel represented within my classroom?
It is important for me to set a consistent tone with my students from the moment they walk inside my classroom door. I want them to know they are loved, that in our classroom there is not a moment to waste, and we are going to do amazing things. Here are some creative assessment and engagement strategies I utilize from the start…
Quick Strategy #1: 1-Minute Challenge
I bring my students into the classroom and line them along my back wall. I tell them that they need to get into a line in alphabetical order by last name in 1 minute without talking. I begin my watch timer, and off they go. This allows me to make some quick assessments.
What is the purpose of the 1-minute challenge? It gives me formative information about:
- which students take charge and are assertive?
- who can follow specific directions?
- who is willing to work until the task is complete?
- who is engaged?
All of this information helps me to quickly assess my group of learners.
When the time is up, we check their alphabetizing efforts compared to my seating chart. The students head to their assigned seats and we get to work. Grab my editable powerpoint seating chart here.
Quick Strategy #2: Get Students to Work!
Students: “We have to work? On the first day?”
Me: “No time to waste, my friends!”
I like to get students right down to business on the very first day so that they aren’t spending their entire day listening to me talk. Instead, we will go through a typical day so they can experience first hand how the class runs. While it is imperative to teach classroom procedures and expectations, they learn this essential information as we get started. As we get down to work students learn…
- Arrival procedures: How they arrive in the classroom and prepare to learn.
- Supplies needed:What learning tools are must-haves each day in class
- Turning in assignments/Passing out work: It seems silly, but I have processes for this because my students know what to expect each time I collect or pass out work.
- Participation: How I hold students accountable for their classroom participation.
- Finished with the task at hand:What they do when they are finished with work expectations.
- Departure: How they pack-up and leave your classroom
I don’t administer tests or make them listen to extensive syllabus explanations. Instead, we take on some “getting to know” one another activities. I LOVE chit chat cards to begin thoughtful discussions and these middle school stations to create and display. I model each of these tasks so that students are aware of the class expectations when it comes to discussions and assignment completion expectations.
Quick Strategy #3: Observe
As students are spending time discussing and then move onto to their digital stations, I walk around the classroom to observe and asses the students in action. From my monitoring, interacting, and listening, I am able to observe:
- thoughtful discussing
- active listening
- support levels needed for student success
I make some anecdotal records as I observe. All of these observations allow for me to make purposeful decisions for planning and implementing instruction, as well as considering partners for reading and writing workshop.
If you are looking to make the most of your very first day of school, or even quarter, engage your students right away and take the time to thoughtfully observe and formatively assess. It will give you the best and most productive start yet. If you are in need of some resources to get your year started, I have a great bundle of standards-based activities to start your year off strong…
All the best as you plan and prepare for your new year ahead!