Category Archives: Lessons

What Do Students Expect of Teachers?

Teachers love to tell students what is expected of the students in and out of the classroom; however, the kids very often have expectations of their teachers too. I tend to enjoy student input regarding assignments, due dates, and more, but I most appreciate their ideas regarding how I should conduct class and they are surprisingly honest and realistic when they do it.

Thus, I have an activity that allows students to provide me input; includes individual, small group, and whole class lesson segments; and concludes with a set of student expectations for me. Here are the steps:

  1. Allow the students 90-120 seconds to jot down what they expect of me as their teacher. I ask them to consider what they liked and disliked about prior teachers as a guide if they are unsure.
  2. Number off the students to form groups of 3-4. I like to have the students vocalize their numbers as I point to them (“1…2…3…” etc.); plus, I like mixing them up at the beginning of the year since they always start with those they know. This takes about a minute.
  3. Once the students are grouped by their numbers and facing one another, I have the students–when I say “go” and not before–point to the person they wish to be the recorder. Whoever has the most fingers pointed at them then stands, and I inform the student standing that he/she can then pick the recorder for the group. This gets laughs and I tell them that they should volunteer rather than choose others in the future. This takes about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Now, the students compile their lists into a single one without repeats. This typically requires 3-6 minutes.
  5. Next, I have a word processing document projected on the front board, and I ask a group to tell me one expectation on its list. I type it on the document for display and then allow the first to group to decide if we move clockwise or counterclockwise (students love choices, and it builds trust). I then take one expectation from the next group, and continue to go from group to group until all of the expectations are displayed on the document. This takes 4-10 minutes.
  6. Once all of the expectations are displayed, I ask the students to silently choose the three from the list that are most important to them as individuals. I provide 60-90 seconds for this.
  7. After this, I instruct the students to agree on a top three as a group. They have to determine the process for doing this, and they only get 3-5 minutes to agree. I like this part because I can watch to see who dominates, who goes submissive, which students work well together, and those who don’t.
  8. I then repeat the process I used in step 5 above to compile this condensed list. Generally, I have a list of 8-15 items at this point. This takes 2-4 minutes.
  9. Lastly, I give every student three votes, and we vote by show of hands which expectations should be adopted as a class. The top three vote-getters are the expectations of me from this class. This takes 3-5 minutes.
  10. However, I surprise the students the next day by showing them a compiled list of all five of my classes’ expectations, and they vote again for three. At the end of the day I take the top five vote-getters as the expectations of my students for me, and I do my best to live up to their expectations. This takes 3-5 minutes.

At the end of the day I make a poster of these expectations and post them in my room. Last year the expectations were “Doc will…”:

  • respect all students and their ideas,
  • be consistent and fair when grading assignments,
  • remain organized and structured,
  • maintain control of the students and classroom, and
  • keep grades updated regularly.

I thought they did a great job, and I’m curious what tomorrow’s results will be.

The First Day of School is in the Books!

Today was a great day! The kids entered my room and were enthusiastic, excited, and energized. Each class accomplished the goals of the day, and I left the school feeling invigorated to do it again tomorrow.

I polled my classes anonymously to find out why they chose the particular class in which they enrolled with me, and I was happy with the answers. Since each class I teach is a choice for students, I’m always curious to see the kids’ reasons for being there. For my advanced students the top three reasons for taking upper level work are:

  1. Teacher preference,
  2. For the challenge, and
  3. Interest in the subject.

For my non-accelerated students, the top responses were:

  1. Counselor placed me here,
  2. Sounded easy, and
  3. Interest in the subject.

I was pleased to see that students in both levels had a few responses indicating subject interest, although these responses were very few in comparison to the top two answers. I also appreciated seeing the challenge response being so prominent in the advanced courses. The students seem to be understanding that challenges are not to be avoided but embraced.

We also completed the activity I posted two days ago, and it was a hit. One class went a bit long because of so many questions, but they were very curious about the class and me. Fun times and the kids got to dictate the conversation while also staying on-task!

Let’s hope tomorrow is as good of a day. 🙂

Another First Day of School Activity

Yesterday I posted about a video I would show after my students and I discuss “why we read?”

I plan to follow this activity with this one (which has been a great starter the last 4-5 years):

On the first day we have lots of comings and goings because of schedule changes, so I start with an easy activity and a game. I have the students take the first ten minutes to write down any questions they have about me or the class on 2″ by 2″ pieces of paper. They can ask anything they want and do not put their names on the slips of paper. I don’t have to answer a question, but it’s rare to get an inappropriate question. The kids drop their slips of paper into my cap and away we go.

I answer every appropriate question, even if it’s a silly one because this is how we get to know one another. I always hated the list of rules (I don’t have any rules in my classroom–never needed them) and the reading of the syllabus on the first day, and this allows me to answer their questions, making their interests the focus from day one. It’s their class after all.

This takes about 30 minutes, and then I give them some word puzzles to complete in groups for the ever-requested extra credit. It’s only five points, but they think it’s a billion and will do anything for the points. This ends the period.

Today I spent about four hours finishing my room and making copies as well as creating a project for my students to open the year. I really enjoy getting in early and not having to go into the school the day before classes because it’s a madhouse. Teachers, in my experience, are no better than their students when it comes to procrastination, and the copy room the day before school starts is where you want to go if watching frustration and stress is your cup of tea.

I’m finished and taking tomorrow off. 🙂

First Day of School Activity

I’m thinking about starting my classes with the question “Why do we read?” I’ll have some individual, partner, and small group activities, and then we’ll watch the video here and react to it. I’m curious what the kids will think about the video and why they read.

Screen shot 2013-08-31 at 12.59.36 PM


Update: I worked for about four hours at the school today. I made copies, arranged desks, finished my postings, completed my paperwork, and finished all of my online trainings. Tomorrow I’m going in to re-arrange my office space because I’m sharing a desk with two other teachers, and (in truth) I really don’t need a desk. I don’t store things in the office, but I do bring some work there on occasion. Three days until the kids arrive!

Closer to the First Day of School

Today I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with another teacher discussing the best way to present information to a large group of teachers. I think we came up with a good plan, but I do have a maxim in which I steadfastly believe and observe its truth each year: teachers are the worst students.

Teachers are accustomed to having control, doing things their way, leading the meeting, deciding what is and what is not important, and when they are on the receiving end of a learning session it becomes readily apparent they often wish to be the providers of the learning. Nevertheless, we came up with a plan that I think will work while maintaining engagement.

I also texted and e-mailed back and forth with a couple new teachers about curriculum mapping and lesson designs for the beginning of the school year. This lasted–off and on–about 90 minutes this afternoon.

Tomorrow, I will be going to my classroom to begin setting up my room, and then I’m going to design a presentation before planning my wall decorations and resources. I’m a bit of a planner and I’m frequently teased about my linear organization methods, so I’m sure there will be a few grins and giggles if anyone else is working at the school while I’m planning.

But, first and foremost, I have to hook up my mini-stereo. I have to have my tunes while I work. 🙂

The Online Calendar

I maintain a website for all of my classes with additional links to help pages; however, the most useful page I created is the online calendar, and I spent an hour yesterday updating that calendar. It’s a simple but time consuming process because all of the dates must be changed from last year’s school calendar to this year’s school calendar.

This calendar has become my favorite online resource that I created.

  • Parents use it to see what their kids are doing in class and what they should be doing at home.
  • Students use the calendar to see what is upcoming or what was missed.
  • Administrators use it because it’s essentially my plan book.
  • Other teachers follow my lessons and unit progressions during the year.

Plus, I can include downloads, extra videos, and more for my students to peruse.

At the end of each year I print the calendar and keep it for the next year. I examine what went well, what did not, and what I can do to improve my lesson sequences, units, and assessments.

Web pages and online resources are expected of teachers by administrators, parents, and students, yet teachers are frequently not provided time during the school day to create, maintain, or update these tools. Although my website does require time each day and week to keep it up-to-date, it’s worth the time because it becomes a first contact point prior to people contacting me about assignments and activities. Since I started the website, my phone messages and e-mails have decreased significantly because I don’t have to answer every question; parents and students get their information from the calendar most of the time.

Summer Work

Well, are you enjoying the summers off where you do nothing but travel the world with your cadillac salary and benefits plan? Yes, yes, I know. You don’t have this, and you have work to do, but the perception is out there that teachers do nothing but wait until class starts to start thinking about teaching again. However, my summer remains full.

I have purged my files of old, unneeded files.

I rearranged the department office.

I attended a conference.

I have prepared my online resources for next year.

I set up a mentoring system for our department’s new teachers.

I have already had two sit-downs with teachers who are teaching new classes this year.

And now, my next task is to update my unit lessons list. What I do is keep a record of each unit I teach, and I record a list of every lesson I’ve used within that unit. I review each year’s calendar and update the lessons I have added to each unit.

This allows me to keep a log of what worked and what did not as well as maintain a list of possible lessons for the next year. When I’m running short (or long) of time time, I can refer to my list and see what I can do that will be an enrichment activity, a quick and dirty lesson (getting right to the skill without anything extra), a two- or three-day sequence of skills, and so on.

It seems like a simple thing, but it has saved my bacon a number of times. Sometimes, I just need a quick resource for ideas, and this works well for me.