Sunday, August 3, 2014

10 Ways to Start Out the First Week of School...Like a 21st Century Teacher!


Common Core, Habits of Mind, and the Charlotte Danielson framework have a large focus on student-driven learning. Here are ten ways to have your students own their learning from Day One!


  1. Allow students to organize the classroom library.
    •  For all you OCD teachers out there, this isn't as scary as it sounds! When I have students organize the library, I introduce three jobs: Macho Men/Women, Label Masters, and Organizers. The Macho Men/Women carry the bins of books from one place to another. They need to communicate with both the Label Masters and the Organizers to figure out where the books go. The Label Masters identify categories of books and label them for other students. The Organizers sift through all of the books and put them into categories. All of the students tend to be Organizers at some point or another. I don't assign them roles, and I don't expect them to stay with one role the entire time. I simply explain the roles and give students free reign. What are the benefits to this activity? You can see the students who take on leadership roles, and those who need help. It is clear which students work well together, and ones who do not. Students get to see all of the books in the library and find books that interest them. Most importantly -- it gets students excited about reading! 
  2. Assist students in creating an online portfolio to document student learning. 
    • Allow each student in the class to create an online portfolio to document their work. This can be in the form of a blog with regular updates, or a website with links and pictures of projects completed by the student. Play around with what website you want to host this on. Two great options include Google and Weebly. Last year I used Weebly, but I think I'm going to switch to Google this year. As a first week of school activity, I start out with having students do an about me page so they can familiarize themselves with the program. What are the benefits to this activity? It allows for great student-parent-teacher communication. This is evidence of all the great things you and your students are doing in the classroom!  
  3. Introduce a Help Wanted board. 
    • I used a help wanted board for a student-driven project last year, but there's no reason it can't be used from day one. Simply put a sign that says, "HELP WANTED," on an easily accessible bulletin board. Designate one color post it or notecard for questions and another color for answers or suggestions. Designate appropriate times for students to access the Help Wanted board, and allow them to use each other as a resource. Make it as focused or as vague as you want. This could be help in a specific subject, random quandaries, tech questions, book recommendations, or all of the above! If technology is easily accessible, consider adding an online Help Wanted board. Padlet would be a great website to host a Help Wanted board. What are the benefits to this activity? It helps create an environment where students are dependent on each other. This promotes curiosity! It helps meet the needs of students in another way! This provides opportunities for students of all levels to help one another.  Make the interactive bulletin board instantly by downloading the FREEBIE from my TPT Store! 
  4. Designate TECHsperts (or other experts). 
    • Embrace students' strengths by allowing them to complete an expert application. The application should require students to reflect on traits and qualities they possess that make them reliable resources for students. I make this optional. Select the student expert, and let students know that this is the initial go-to person in this area of the classroom.  What are the benefits to this? This makes students feel special and needed in the classroom. It gives students a sense of responsibility in the classroom. This embraces all kinds of talents. Enjoy my freebie of a classroom application!
  5. Implement the stoplight cup procedure. 
    • This is more of a classroom management tool that requires students to reflect on their immediate needs. When students are working in a group or on some sort of student-driven project, provide students with three solo cups -- red, yellow, and green. Red = I need help and can't move foreword without it. Yellow = I need help, but can work on something else in the mean time, it's not urgent, or a classmate might be able to help. Green = I'm working hard! What are the benefits to this procedure? This requires students to reflect on their needs and how the teacher can assist. It encourages students to rely on peers for help. Visually, it's totally manageable for teachers to see which students need help!
  6. Implement a student-led positive reinforcement plan.  
    • Students enjoy compliments for good behavior, and being recognized for what they do right. Want to know what they love more? When OTHER students are the ones pointing out these things! Bucket filling is a common positive reinforcement plan, but I put my own spin on it since we were reading the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Take a look at it in my TPT Store to download my Wonder by R.J. Palacio Wonderful Student Positive Reinforcement Bundle. What are the benefits to this? It makes students feel good about themselves, and gives all students a chance to stand out. 
  7. Write goals with your students, both academic and behavioral...Then REFLECT!
    • Holding students responsible for their own learning is extremely important. I incorporate students' goals into their online portfolio. Students reflect each week in their blog as well. Click here for the Weekly Reflection Prompt FreebieWhat are the benefits to this activity? Writing and setting goals hold students responsible for their own learning. 
  8. Start a class newsletter. 
    • Give students choice and freedom to write about the classroom happenings. Be sure each student is assigned a role (ie. editor, advice column, math report, reading report, book review, PE sports report, etc.) Rotate roles and publish the newspaper weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Switch up the roles each time so students get a chance to write something new, and get creative with topics! What are the benefits to this activity? This keeps parent-teacher-student communication open. It takes less time on the teacher's end (crafting newsletters can be extremely time-consuming). Students are able to practice writing skills in an authentic way. This allows students to be reflective of what they are learning. 
  9. Write classroom rules and expectations together. 
    • Create an anchor chart (or something along those lines) and provide students with post-its. Brainstorm expectations of the classroom. To guide students a little more, I make these anchor charts very focused, here are some examples: "What Reading Looks Like," "When to Use a [insert volume] Voice," "What I am Doing vs. What the Teacher is Doing." What are the benefits to this activity? This allows students to be reflective of what their expectations are. It allows students to feel as if they are part of the classroom community. Students are held responsible for their actions.
  10. Partake in a collaborative technology project. 
    • Use this as a way to familiarize your students with technology. Provide students with a task, such as creating a How-To of classroom procedures or informative posters for the classroom, and allow students to work together in a group to complete the task. Challenge your students to problem-solve with technology by not allowing them to use a voice! I'd use Google Drive to do this activity. Any Wiki would do, though! What are the benefits to this activity? This allows students to experiment with technology and rely on others for assistance. 


Click here to see how the Danielson framework and Common Core Standards align.