“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” By Sydney J. Harris
The setting up your classroom this year will look different for most teachers but one thing teachers should keep in mind is that best practices for learning work no matter what the learning environment you are in, brick and mortar, distance learning or hybrid. Using best practices that work for all learning environments will only help teachers, students and parents if during the school year you need to pivot to a different learning environment. Below are ten best practices that work in all learning environments:
- Co-Create Classroom Rules: To create classroom rules together, start with a list and then through discussion, work with your students to create a set of rules they decide on. This will make the environment feel more like a “we” verse a “me”. It is best to have no more than four-five rules. Here is an example:
- Work hard and always do your best
- Follow directions, participate and ask questions
- Be on-time, prepared for class and ready to learn
- Be respectful, kind, polite, and courteous to others
- Build Relationships: Building relationships is the key to a successful classroom environment that promotes academic success. Check out my previous blog post 12 Ways to Build Relationships with Students Virtually for ideas!
- Clear Expectations, Directions and Structures: It is important to tell students what they are doing, why they are doing it and what the outcome should look like. These directions should be not only given verbally but also visually as well so students can refer back to them. Consistent structures helps students predict what will happen next and increases the probability of their success. Utilizing the calendar feature in your Learning Management System (LMS – Canvas, Schoology etc) is a great structure for students (and parents) to see when assignments are due.
- Anchor Charts are a great tool used to support instruction to “anchor” the learning for students. As you teach a lesson, you create a chart with your students that captures the most important content and relevant strategies. You can then place these charts in a Google Drive Folder or on a page in your Learning Management System (LMS – Canvas, Schoology etc) for students to refer back to. You can make anchor charts using chart paper so you have them for your physical classroom when you return or you can create them on a Google Doc.
- Create Opportunities for Collaboration as it develops deeper learning for students and boosts their confidence. Educators can build in opportunities for collaboration through discussion boards, project based learning activities and small group classroom discussions. Here are five digital tools to promote collaboration.
- Providing and Accepting Feedback: Feedback is an important part of students learning process. Providing comments in documents, setting up check-ins and giving a variety of formative assessments with feedback are all ways to help guide learners. Don’t forget that peer feedback is also another great way for students to collaborate and gain feedback from others. Educators want to make sure to seek feedback to improve the learning environment. This can be done by setting up check ins and providing surveys to gain feedback from students and/or parents.
- Questioning: When teachers ask higher‐order questions and encourage explanations, they help students develop critical thinking skills. One strategy educators can do is after having students watch a video or read an excerpt have the students jot down three questions they have based on what they learned. Then put the students into breakout groups to discuss the questions. Together have each group chose one question they will bring back to the whole group to discuss.
- Active Learning: Having student actively engage with the information they’re learning helps students be more successful. Utilizing strategies that you have done previous such as critical friends, gallery walks and jigsaw. To learn more ways to engage students in active learning, check out my previous blog post 8 Ways to Engage Students that you can incorporate tomorrow into your classroom.
- Formative Assessments: Incorporating formative assessments as part of the learning process allows students and teachers to grasp where they are in understanding a standard/concept. Ways you can incorporate formative assessments are entrance/exit tickets, student led conferences, polls and/or self assessments with rubrics.
- Field Trips and/or Guest Speakers: Incorporating field trips and guest speakers allows educators to bring in more real world and relevance to different concepts. For field trips take advantage of over 1200 leading museums and archives in Google Arts & Culture! Think outside the box when it comes to guest speakers, maybe you are studying fractions – having an architect or a builder share how they use fractions in their day to day job allows students to see relevance of why we need to learn fractions but also opens students up to a job they might not have considered.
There are a lot of other best practices that you can incorporate into all learning environment scenarios; I would love to hear more, add them into the chat!