Friday, March 29, 2013

Turning it over to them - Success in the making!

image used from flickr

I mentioned in my last post about my struggle with too much social/not enough learning focus happening in our classroom and that I'd share what we're trying out. After 2 weeks down, we've been able to celebrate some success!

Here's what we're trying:

1) We identified as a class the three main behavior areas we struggle in: on task, voice level, and caring/respect toward others.

2) We made a rubric to score these behaviors.
  • I divided the class into three groups and they each started with what a secure classroom might look like, then went up from there for exceeding and down for beginning and developing.
  • Then we came back together as a class to share out and make sure the language and numbers matched up for the whole rubric. 

3) We identified the 3 key times in the day that students struggle most: math, Words Their Way, and independent reading.

4) I chose two students per day to assess the class during those times. Those two students had a quick discussion after each of those subject areas, came to an agreement on how to score the class, and reported their assessment to the class. We did this for four days and then looked at the data and set a goal.

5) I compiled the data by assigning one point to a beginning score, up to 4 points for an exceeding score. The first four days, students scored 65/144. Many were able to see that it was below 50%, and that an average of 50% would be all developing scores. Then we set a goal for the next four days. The class agreed that we should shoot for 50%, so 72/144. Different students continued to assess and report to the class each day.

6) At the end of the four days (yesterday), I compiled the rubrics again. Good news! They exceeded their goal! They got 78/144 - 54%! We set a new goal for next 5 days. Students decided on this goal and are aiming for a little above 50%. We'll see how it continues.

Here are a few questions I would ask someone if I read about this. If you have more, feel free to comment and I will get back to you!

Where did this idea come from? I shared my struggles with one of my building administrators. She came in to observe and noticed I was working a lot harder than the students. We sat down and brainstormed some ideas, and this is the one that stuck and felt like the responsibility was being passed over to the students.

Are we seeing classroom behavior improvement? I'd say somewhat. There are still areas we struggle with that aren't necessarily during the three times students assess with the rubrics, but we can't do it all, all the time. Plus, we've just been doing this for two weeks!

Are students being honest with their assessments? Yes. I even noticed that when a few of my more off task students had their day to score the rubric, their behavior was better because they were focusing on their work and the rubric.

Why do I have students do the assessing? It turns the responsibility over to them. The idea that the students should be working harder than the teacher wasn't happening before this. I was the nag, the reminder, even the babysitter at times. Now they students get an honest reflection about their behavior from their peers and some of the pressure is off me.

Doesn't this take a lot of time? To begin with, yes. It took us a few hours as a class to come up with the rubric. I have to copy rubrics and plan who is going to assess the class. We have to take a minute to report at the end of each of the three subjects, but things that are worthwhile do take time. If this helps the learners in my classroom focus more, it's totally worth it!

Thursday, March 7, 2013


image used from flickr

It's nearing Spring Break...which means it's getting closer to the end of the year...which means my fifth graders are preparing to become sixth graders/middle schoolers. Lately we've been struggling as a class to put learning time ahead of socializing time. I know it's something so many teachers struggle with and this time of year seems to be prime time for it.

Teachers have a variety of different strategies they try to get kids to stop talking and focus on learning. From taking away recess minutes to erasing letters of a random word on the board to having them put visual reminders on their desks to who knows what else.

My biggest struggle has been how to get the students to intrinsically monitor themselves instead of me being the external reminder voice that feels like a broken record at the end of the day.

I'm going to be experimenting with something over the next few weeks in an attempt to turn it over to them. It's something I've talked over with some colleagues, and I'm going to give it a whirl. Students at this age are very aware of what appropriate behaviors look like in the classroom, but sometimes just become oblivious to what they're doing in the moment. I hope to come back here to share how it went, and maybe it can be something you can try! So, come back in a few weeks and I'll post about it then.

How do you help your students internalize the importance of the work they need to do? I know socializing is necessary. I know it's important, but how do you balance it with the learning priorities in your classroom? I'd love to hear some things you have tried. What has worked? What has flopped?