Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Students Want to Learn

I have taught all types of students and all different levels of high school math courses, all students want to learn.  They might not attend school every day or they may talk during instruction, these behaviors along with many others give the appearance that they do not want to learn, but they want to learn and I am responsible for figuring out the why behind the behavior and the how for fixing it.  My goal in my classroom is to create an environment where students like being there and they feel empowered to learn.

I ask for student feedback AND I use it to inform how I teach.  We just got new textbooks that came with an online homework option.  It provides awesome opportunities for the students to get immediate feedback and help with their homework and it grades it for me - awesome for me as the teacher, right?!  I am having my students submit their homework online for the first chapter.  Before we even did the first assignment I told them that we were going to try this and that they would have the opportunity to tell me what they think about it.  There thoughts will determine whether or not we continue to use it and they know that.  My students have a voice that matters in my classroom, and it means a lot to them!

I create an environment where failure is accepted and encouraged.  I often have my classes do a few practice problems at their table and then I call on students to share their answers.  Before calling on anyone, I give my students the opportunity to work it out with others and compare answers so that they feel confident when called on.  If they get the answer incorrect, I say "Not quite" or "Good try" to validate and congratulate them on their participation.  If a student ever gives another student a hard time about an incorrect answer I remind the class that we all make mistakes and it is important that we share those with others so we can learn from them and avoid those mistakes moving forward.  No one is perfect and no one will get every problem right in a given school year and we need to get over the fear of failure.  We need to embrace the fact that we need help and that we need each other in order to be successful!

Do less for them so that they do more.  I establish a culture of collaboration and resourcefulness in my classroom.  I rarely give my students answers to their math questions.  The response I usually give is a question that helps guide them towards coming up with the correct answer.  A question that helps them think about it and work it out on their own.  By teaching my students how to work well with others and how to be resourceful, I am helping them to become individuals that will contribute to society and that will go on to do great things in whatever field they choose!

Clear expectations and directions.  I have found that chatter in my classroom is often the result of unclear expectations.  If my directions are vague or unclear, students don't know what they are supposed to be doing so they do what they want to do, which is usually talk to a friend!  I do my best to be exact, detailed, specific, and intentional when giving my student's directions.  I always verbalize my instructions (making sure that the room is quiet, no one is talking!) and I try to write it down on the front board as well as often as possible so that students hear it and see it, and can reference it as needed.  It is amazing what students are capable of if they know what is expected!

I have found these four things to have a significant impact on all student's learning in my classroom.  What other tips/ideas would you add to this list?!

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