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What will I do to establish and communicate learning goals, track student

progress, and celebrate success?

Establishing and communicating goals and expectations has been a major emphasis
at my school for the last couple of years. The utilization of a standards based
classroom has been implemented in Newton which has ensured standards are
posted daily as well as lesson essential questions that are reviewed daily to
communicate the expectations and goals for the day, week, and unit. Also posted
are the instructional strategies for the day so students know what we are aiming to
achieve and how we are hoping to achieve it on a daily basis. To start class every
day, I go over the upcoming schedule of what we will be learning and the
expectations for the day. It has become of the classroom routine while the students
are working on their activating strategies so everyone understands what will be
Our efforts in tracking student progress have taken a major step forward starting
with this school year. In an effort to monitor how well our students are
understanding the material and where they are in their efforts to master the
standards, we are implementing common assessments throughout our content
which are designed in our professional learning communities (PLCs). Every five to
seven school days we provide our students with these common assessments and
analyze the data to gain an understanding of what aspects of the content students
are succeeding with and which components they are struggling with. After compiling
this data, we are able to offer individualized remediation based upon the needs of
each student. Once students have been remediated, we are able to assess the
students again to see how they are progressing with the material and what
adjustments need to be made.
Celebrating students success is another major emphasis throughout the entire
school with the implementation of our positive behavior intervention strategies
(PBIS). We aim to reward and celebrate achievement in the classroom through their
academic successes, such as passing exams or earning a certain average, and
outside the classroom with their contributions to the school and community,
whether it be picking up trash they spot in the hallway or volunteering to come to
the board to contribute information or knowledge with the class. Students are
rewarded through the issuing of PBIS tickets, which can be entered into a school
wide drawing for prizes at the end of the week. I also make sure to connect with
parents to let them know about success that their students are having. I usually try
to make phone calls or send e-mails to students who have shown gains in their
understanding and achievements. Since the implementation of PBIS and standards
based classrooms in our schools, we have seen student achievement and growth
steadily increase over the course of the last couple of years. It will be interesting to
continue to track this progression.
What will I do to help students effectively interact with new knowledge?
One of the methods I use occasionally in my classroom to help students interact
with their new knowledge is through an activity we call line of contention. I have
found this interactive activity a great way to get students up and moving while
generating great class discussion and critical thinking. After learning about a new
topic in our American government class, students are given a chance to formulate
an opinion on the topic by being posed an agree or disagree question. After a
moment to form an opinion on the topic, students are then instructed to get up and
place themselves along a line that spans the length of the room that shows how
strongly they agree or disagree. Once students have placed themselves on the line,
the classroom microphone is passed around so students may express why they
have placed themselves on that particular segment of the line and how they
reached their conclusion. An example of a scenario would be as follows: The issue
of Executive Orders by the President to exercise his power as Chief Executive has
been a major issue of debate over the last few decades. Do you agree or disagree
that Executive Orders are a necessary and vital function for the President to be able
to carry out all of his duties as Chief Executive of the United States and why?
What will I do to help students practice and deepen their understanding of
new knowledge?
American government lends itself to opportunities for students to put into practice
new ideas and knowledge that they gain which subsequently seems to allow them
to deepen their understanding. After spending a few days discussing different forms
of government (there are eight that the Georgia Performance Standards requires
them to know) and developing a baseline of knowledge for each type of government
(through divided notes, graphic organizers, class discussion, etc), the students were
allowed to put their new knowledge and ideas into practice through an exercise
where they created their own government to a fictional country. They had to create
a government which incorporated different modes of organization and power
distribution as well as create a rationale behind it which explained how the
government came to be, where its power comes from, how the government and its
powers or organized, and how it sustains itself. The students were very excited to
engage in this project and created some great examples which showed an in-depth
understanding of the subject matter. Since finding success with this project, I have
tried to create new ways to engage my students and allow them to put into practice
what they are learning.
What will I do to help students generate and test hypotheses about new
An activating strategy that I use once or twice a week in order to help students
begin to develop ideas about the content we are learning is unpacking the standard.
Every time we begin a new standard, students copy the standard down and then
dissect it piece by piece to make connections to previously learned material and
ideas they already have about the content. We identify each part of the standard,
from verbs to nouns to key vocabulary terms and phrases, and begin to make
connections through class discussion. Once we have broken the standard
completely down and understand what it is asking of us, students create a
hypothesis regarding the standard based upon the essential question for the day.
We then take the index card we have done all of this on and set it to the side. At the
end of class we come back to the index card and revisit our hypothesis. Our ticket
out the door is for students to provide a written response as to how accurate their
hypothesis was and what may have changed or been confirmed during the period
and what we learned that day.
What will I do to engage students?
Student engagement has been an increasingly difficult topic in social studies. We
cannot lecture for fifty minutes anymore and have students pay close attention to
detail. Creative activating strategies and the use of technology in the classroom
have both been ways in which my department has tried to increase student
engagement. Activating strategies such as the line of contention have gone a long
ways in getting students to jump in and engage the content. Varying instructional
strategies also helps as students get bored of the same thing day after day. Over
the last couple of years I have tried to integrate more and more technology in the
classroom as well. We have access to iPad and laptop carts in the media center,
which have proven to be a major accessory to our classrooms. Students are excited
to participate in learning when they are able to use some mode of technology. I
have found that my students test scores go up when we play the online review
game Kahoot where I can tailor questions to fit the needs of my kids. Students log-in
using a game PIN that is creating by the program and answer timed questions that
appear on the screen. Students enjoy the game and the competitive nature of it.
They are much more engaged in Kahoot than they are when I pass out a paper copy
of a review guide. With this new technologically savvy generation, the use of
technology in the classroom is necessary to improve student engagement.
What will I do to establish or maintain classroom rules and procedures?
Classroom rules and procedures are established in my classroom on the very first
day and opening week of school. We discuss expectations on the first day of class
and how day to day procedures in the classroom will operate. Teaching freshmen, I
have found that structure is incredibly important as they try to figure out high
school the first few weeks of the school year. Structure makes them feel safe and
secure as they become familiar with the routine of the classroom and school. My
classroom rules are posted on the bulletin board in the classroom and are clearly
labeled and recognizable. They are also printed in the class syllabus, which students
take home and return signed by their parents. This serves as almost a contract of
sorts that everyone understands what types of behavior and effort is expected
throughout the school year. Everything has a purpose in the classroom, from when
students are allowed to talk to when they are allowed to use the restroom or
sharpen a pencil. Students can have say in procedures as we learn about how they
best operate within the classroom, but I have found a structured environment that
has a plan is the best way to produce an atmosphere conducive to learning without
major disciplinary issues.
What will I do to recognize and acknowledge adherence and lack of
adherence to classroom rules and procedures?
Students are recognized for their adherence to classroom expectations through
several different modes. The most common is through verbal praise for participation
or mastering a standard. It does not have to be a large, gran praise, but rather a
simple thank you or small show of appreciation goes a long ways in encouraging
students to continue to pursue the expectations of the classroom. Students can also
be acknowledged for their adherence through the PBIS system and the raffle tickets
I mentioned earlier. However, when students do not live up to the expectations of
the classroom rules or do not follow procedures, we have a method to address those
issues. The first time a student fails to comply with the rule results in a verbal
warning. I can often prevent students from stepping out of line simply by moving
near them. After the warning, parents are contacted. After three parent contacts,
students may be referred to an administrator if problems continue to persist. I have
found that consistent and open contact with parents has been a major resource in
reducing classroom issues.
What will I do to establish and maintain effective relationships with
Establishing effective relationships with students has been something that I have
improved in over the last couple of years. I am very involved in extracurricular
activities at my school, such as coaching football and being involved in FCA.
Students see me in the hallways and after school being involved and taking an
active interest in their lives and wellbeing. At the beginning of the school year, I
always have students write an introductory paragraph about themselves and tell me
their interests and what they are involved in around the school. If they are involved
in a club, I try to make sure to support one of their fundraisers during the year. If
they are in band, chorus, or drama I will catch one of their performances and then
make sure to comment the next day how much I enjoyed it. With student-athletes, I
will drop by one of their games or practices to check in on them. These
opportunities also allow me to meet and greet parents. If a student is not involved
in anything with the school, I often try to find some commonality, whether it be a
sports team, school subject, book, pets, etc. Taking this step has allowed me to
establish great relationships with my students which means they are willing to try
more difficult assignments from time to time in class and stretch themselves.
What will I do to communicate high expectations for all students?
High expectations are communicated to the students on the very first day of class.
Teaching freshmen is always an adventure because they have just gone from being
the oldest on campus to the youngest. When it comes to expectations for
assignments, I will often model what I am looking for the first time we do a
particular activity so students can gain a visual understanding of what I expect. As
far as behavior goes, I believe in modeling high expectations as well. How I dress,
how I talk, and my punctuality and preparedness must always exemplify my
expectations to students.
What will I do to develop effective lessons organized into a cohesive unit?
We are fortunate that our department has a common planning period. Every
Monday, the American government teachers meet in our PLC in order to discuss
data from common assessments, look at the pacing guide, and take a multitude of
factors into account in order to plan an effective lesson and unit. As a PLC, we build
a unit plan which provides an overview of our expectations for the upcoming unit.
We build EQs, differentiated assignments, performance tasks, as well as
assessments that our students will engage in as they gain new knowledge to master
the standard. Once we have built the unit plan together, we begin to break it down
piece by piece into lessons. We discuss each lesson to make sure the objectives and
instructional strategies make sense according to our classes and their learning
styles as well as ensuring they fall in line with the Georgia Performance Standards.
By working backwards, we are able to sculpt effective lessons from an overall unit.