The First Days is a series of blog posts aimed at new teachers, or teachers just looking for ideas or reminders. The purpose is to help in the establishment of a solid foundation on which you can build an awesome school year. This is by no means a definitive list. The best way to fully prepare for the year ahead is read as much as possible, open your mind, commit to the idea of change, and to proactively seek out experienced colleagues willing to share their best practices. Hopefully, the ideas below will be one of the steps on your road to awesomeness!
Learning the names of your students is important for a teacher. But, to really bump up engagement and enhance learning, a teacher needs to get further beneath the surface. In the first few days of a new school year, have your students complete interest and learning-style surveys. The information you gather will make a big difference all year long.
Prior to beginning your year, it pays to find out what your students are interested in. The results may surprise you, but they should also guide your instruction. With interest survey results, a teacher can:
- more effectively group students for cooperative learning activities
- challenge students to develop (and even deliver) particular lessons
- challenge students with independent projects
- opt students out of activities/topics they’ve already mastered
There are tons of survey examples online. It pays to search around and find one that is easy to conduct and easy in terms of mining/interpreting the data.
Learning styles surveys
The idea that students have a variety of learning styles has been around since Howard Gardner back in 1983. So, why not do yourself (and your students) a solid and find out their styles? Armed with this information, you can vary your teaching strategies and assessment tools to best engage students and get the best from them.
Include Students in the Process
Rather than conducting surveys and analyzing the results in private, why not include your students in the process? Show students your thought process in terms of choosing a survey model. Walk them through the data analysis stage. Show them how you interpret results and how the results impact your lesson and assessment planning. Talk about your mistakes and how you learned from them. Solicit additional input and suggestions. What could be more valuable than having a student tell you about an activity or lesson they really enjoyed in prior classes? This metacognition will only help your students, especially if they will be doing similar projects on their own later in the year.
The beginning of the year is a busy time. Sometimes we put off tasks because they start to eat into instructional time. But, learning about your students is one corner you definitely shouldn’t cut. Choosing the right surveys, conducting them, and studying the data will take time, but the effort will pay off all year long.