The idea of engaging and assessing your students from MINUTE ONE of DAY ONE, sounds a bit crazy, right?
This year I head into my 17th year of teaching. That number still boggles my mind a bit because it seems hard to believe that I have had the good fortune of working with various groups of students for this lengthy amount of time. What I can tell you is that every group of students I have taught is different, but 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?
I am already thinking about the incredible year ahead, and the tone I want to set with my students from the moment they head inside my classroom door for the very first time. I want them to know that in our classroom there is not a moment to waste and we are going to get started right away. Here are my quick strategies to engage and assess my students right away…
First, I meet and greet students with a kind smile at the door of my classroom. This simple act gives me the chance to connect with my newest group of students and set a positive and optimistic tone before they even begin their learning.
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 observations.
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.
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 to work on the very first day so that they aren’t spending their entire first 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 tackle novel units just yet. Instead, we take on some “getting to know” one another activities. I LOVE chit chat cards to begin thoughtful discussions and flip books 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 completing their flip book, I walk around the classroom and observe 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 grouping students for literature circles, guided reading, or group work.
If you are looking to make the most of your very first day of school, quarter, or semester, 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.
All the best as you plan and prepare for your year ahead,
Be sure to check out the other posts in our blog series:
and stay tuned for the coming weeks.