Teacher truth: There is nothing more frustrating than planning activities for your classroom only to have students not do their part. We have all been there — you roll out a new program, get excited for your students to complete it and then…crickets. Student accountability plays a huge role in classroom success. Whether it is goal-setting, conferencing, or incentives, setting up an accountability system in your classroom is a total game-changer.
At the beginning of the year, my Period 1 middle school students were not completing any of their homework. They did not see value in it and they knew no one was holding them accountable. I knew I had to come up with something fast. Some students do very well with visuals, including my group, so I decided to make goal tubes.
Goal tubes are tubes that you hang up on the wall that students can add balls to when they complete their homework (or any assignment). At the end of the week, the tube with the most balls wins. I do mine by period so each class is competing against another class. You can do one tube per student or one tube per grade level. This visual has been a game-changer for my students and has every single one of them participating in the homework challenge.
Have you ever heard that students love attention? Of course. We all have. Even with that knowledge, how often are we giving them our undivided attention? Student conferencing is the answer. Finding time to meet with each of your students to go over their goals allows your students to truly understand what the goal-setting process looks like. Look into SMART goals — that is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive goals — which make for solid goal-setting.
When it comes to testing data, I meet with my students individually to explain their current score and what they can work on to make it to the next level. I also do reading conferences to discuss what my students are reading. I have found this to be much more effective than imposing a reading log, which is often forged. Having meaningful conversations with your students helps students take pride in their work, because they know it will be checked and discussed with them.
Just like adults, students can forget things when assignments start to pile up. Putting adhesive label holders on student desks or dry erase tape will allow your students to visually make lists of what they need to do in your class. A simple checklist for daily tasks, writing expectations, math problem steps, and more reminds students of their to-do list.
This also teaches students the importance of tracking what is expected of them in an agenda or using their own to-do list system. Remember: Our classrooms are designed to facilitate academic learning and life skills. By encouraging students to regularly track tasks using checklists, you’re setting them up for success in both arenas.
Empowering our students in their learning changes the entire classroom environment. When students understand the reasoning behind what is expected of them, they tend to take pride in what they do. Just like adults, a visual incentive or a little competition never hurts. Do what it takes to get your students to be their best each and every day. Our futures depend on it.
Help your students achieve their goals while you achieve yours. Get your master’s degree in education online from American College of Education.