Though most teachers are on winter break, they will probably start lesson planning next week:). After all, assisting students in re-acclimating themselves to class routines and learning as quickly as possible benefits teachers as well as students. With an attentive highly engaged student population, teachers will be in a better position to reap the benefits of their creative lessons. As students' self-confidence builds, they retain more. With higher retention rates, grades improve and that leads to a drop in the D/F rate of ELLs as well as long-term ELLs (many of whom struggle academically in mainstream classes).
Here is an excellent recap of very effective approaches to empower students (all students) to become active participants in lesson activities. NONE of them are new of course, but they serve as a reminder of the need for teachers to "keep a finger on the pulse" of student learning. Please note that the HOW-TO Suggestions are NOT new:)
1. Engage/Observe. Keep a checklist (short and simple--take a roster and use CHECKS and MINUSES on student progress). For students who struggle, quickly note what the difficulty is and set time aside within class to help that one while the rest of the class is engaged with the assigned academic task on their own.
2. Feedback Give and Take. The more constructive detailed feedback a teacher can provide, the more accessible the lesson content will be. Make it a point to interact with every student. This can be doing via small group learning activities or on an individual basis. Keep in mind that interaction with students in small groups might be a more effective way to have more time with students as opposed to one-on-one contact. However, find an approach that is the most effective for you. I use a mixture of the two.
3. Confer Frequently. Set aside time at least once a week to talk with students on an individual basis on their progress. Document, document, document! Such information is crucial in planning more effective lessons and assessment tools.
4. Design Unit Assessments. With Common Core, such assessments are already in place. However, teachers can still design unit assessments as PRE-Common Core assessments. The results from such tools will assist teacher in identifying areas of weakness and strengths for students. With such data in hand, the teacher can fine-tune lessons to address those weaknesses thereby building student self-confidence for taking the formal unit assessment.
5. Teach Self-Evaluation. For students to truly benefit from assessments, they need to be able to see where they erred and know why. For a teacher to return test papers without giving them time to discover why the grade or score they received was correct is doing little for the students. Until they understand on their own why their choices were incorrect, they are doomed to repeat the mistakes. To motivate, why not allow time in class to have them do just that and to make sure that they are not just copying, use a randomizer to select students to explain why the choices to an answer are wrong.
Happy New Year from all of us to you and your students! Yes, 2014 offers everyone a fresh start both teachers and students:)
Denise, Marnie, and Cheryl
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