Tuesday, April 25, 2017

5 ideas for finishing the year strong - #lastbell

End of year by TheCompelledEducator.com

For many of us, we're about one week away from starting the last month of the school year. If you're like me, you're still wondering why time seems to go faster and faster every year. With the last month of school approaching, it's the time of the year when teachers know their students best, students know classroom routines and their teachers, and it's a great time to finish the school year strong!

Last year around this time, I was part of leading a movement on social media called #lastbell. It's a reminder that time in classrooms in May is just as important as the first few weeks of school. Our voxer group for female leaders in education saw a need to motivate, encourage, and support educators as we enter the month where teachers, students, and parents are tired and want to pass on learning. You can read about how #lastbell inspired a district last spring, and we hope that you will join us in May as we lift up students and educators everywhere!

Here are some resources and ideas for #lastbell as we head into May:

Literacy buddies  
If you teach older elementary students, partner with a younger class for literacy buddies. Let the older students read to and with the younger students. End the year with a literacy party to celebrate number of pages and/or books read.


Take it outside! 
Take a box of sidewalk chalk and the lesson outside. Let students capture their ideas in writing on the sidewalk. 


Practice gratitude. 
Supply your students with colored paper, markers, stickers, and anything else they might need to create Thank You cards for another teacher in the building. Have them to sign their name to the card, then place the card in the teachers' mailboxes. Don't tell the other teachers what you are doing.


Class Awards from TheCompelledEducator.com

Celebrate your students!
Everyone likes to be recognized. Feel free to download and use certificates I created, or create your own. If your school allows, also share pictures of students with their certificates on social media. 

Practice Random Acts of Kindness
For a week or a month, have a RAK of the day. Listen to the stories your students share about the joy they get out of performing these acts of kindness. 
Here are some ideas:

  • Make a thank-you card for a custodian
  • Help pick up trash in the hallway or lunchroom
  • Say hi to a new student
  • Smile at everyone you see
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Write a thank you note to a lunchroom worker, secretary, or nurse
  • Tell someone they're doing a great job
  • Give someone a high five


We hope you will join in the #lastbell fun starting next week! Be sure to share on social media using the hashtag!


Official button for #lastbell. (Right-click to download)
Share in your email signature, on your blog, & social media.




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Student Choice as an instructional strategy - three ways to encourage it

When my daughters were young, they usually didn’t want to go to bed at their bedtime. To give them choice, I wouldn’t ask them if they wanted to go or ask them what time they wanted to go to bed. I would ask them, “Do you want to walk to bed or do you want to be carried to bed?”

The simple analogy relates to the opportunity for choice that we need to give to students in the classroom. It’s no longer enough to simply say, “Do as I say.” While students can’t make a choice of IF they want to learn certain content as it relates to standards, they can make choices on the HOW. For example, one of the Alabama state standards for Chemistry states, “Use the periodic table as a systematic representation to predict properties of elements based on their valence electron arrangement.” We can’t let students choose if they want to learn the content, but we can partner with them and allow them to choose how they want to demonstrate their learning as it relates to the standard.

Here are three ways we can create opportunities for more student choice:
Ask students It’s that simple. When deciding on lessons, projects, videos, examples, starting points, assessments, experiences, etc, teachers need to ask themselves, How could I get student input about this? (Then do it.) Using a rating scale is an easy way to find out what students like and dislike, what concepts they are having trouble with, and where they perceive their knowledge level to be.
Allow for collaboration
Give students the opportunity to work together in small groups or with partners to brainstorm ideas, give feedback, and research together. Learning how to develop criteria alongside the teacher creates more ownership and leads to an opportunity for self-check and reflection. Student choice that is a result of collaboration can lead to greater accountability with self and others.
Explicitly teach skills By explicitly teaching skills, it doesn’t mean to avoid teaching content. It means that in addition to teaching content, teach students the skills they need to problem-solve: how to evaluate evidence, ask questions, find information, create hypotheses, and develop, defend, and analyze arguments. Equipped with these skills, students can make better and more informed choices.
By allowing students to have more choice, it can increase productivity and motivation. Choice, like all other teaching strategies, is just that - a strategy. We don’t need to use one strategy for all situations. Choice should be implemented with purpose and as a means to help students learn more than what they ever thought they could or wanted to.


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