The English Classroom

A GUIDE TO IMPROVING STUDENT LITERACY

The Situation

Your students do not feel accountable.

The Solution

Picture this.

You model how to complete a task. Your students nod: “Yep, we understand”. The task begins and the students do nothing. They don’t want to do anything. And they are refusing.

The problem is that they need to be accountable. They need to know that if the work is not being complete there will be a consequence.


Strategy 1: Create Positive Relationships

Your classroom should be built upon trust.

It is important that you have healthy relationships with your students. You might be their teacher and have high expectations, but it is important that they see you as a person who can also have a joke and be human. Try the following:

  • Ask students about what they do on the weekend. Be genuine and contribute to the conversation. Offer personal anecdotes, that are suitable for class.
  • Find something unique in your students, that is unique to them. Ask them about these things. Maybe, your student tells you of their plans on the weekend. Ask on Monday how their weekend was. Bring up subjects that you have discussed before. This shows how much you care and listen.
  • Be sincere and show that you care.
  • Be fair. Do not favour students. Apply the same rules to all students regardless.
  • Make jokes, but know when to draw the line and do not be too strict. Students need freedom to make mistakes and learn, but they also need boundaries. This is an art-form and will take years to refine and develop, but work at it. There is a time for laughing and their is a time for laughing. Highlight and practise this in the classroom.

Strategy 2: Assigning Values

Students need to know that they might need to share to the class.

Assigning a value to students makes them aware that they need to do something. It might be that they have a popsicle, a number or they are Partner A. Once they have an assigned value, they then need to do something with it. They need to contribute to a discussion, or to a group activity.

For example, you get students to read a piece of writing using a RallyRead. Each student is either Partner A or B. Before reading, notify students that Partner A’s will share something to the class, while Partner Bs will have a special question that they will discover later. You are, subtly, emphasising that they need to focus and complete the work in order to follow through and know the next aspect. The work becomes more difficult to avoid.

Afterwards, if the work is not complete than you will use your behaviour management strategies to deal with the situation.

If you jump over to cooperative learning, you will see that I have a variety of activities to build accountability with students.


Strategy 3: Set Clear Time Limits

A an activity with an indefinite time limit will not be complete.

This is a simple one, but set a clear time limit for your activities. Inform students at the start of the task that they need to 2 minutes to complete the activity before the next part of the activity. Students have a time frame and you can monitor accordingly. Without this limit, time is subjective and there is no real way to calculate if anything will get done.


Strategy 4: Give Students Choice

Students need to have ownership over their learning

Where possible, give students choice about how they complete work. This isn’t always applicable, but it is a healthy way to share to students that you care about their creative input. Tell them the end road and inform them that as long as they get their than the production of the work is up to them. For example, you might provide students with a choice board. Here is an example:


Strategy 5: Build Relationships with Parents

Parents are part of the learning process too.

At the beginning of each year, it should be your priority to make positive connections with parents. You might teach a students four hours a week, but parents reinforce values and behaviours from home.

Introduce yourself to parents and show that you are likeable in the classroom. Show that you have expectations that must be met and that their a consequences if assessment are not complete. This isn’t to suggest that you should come across as stern. Being a teacher with firm expectations is healthy for your classroom, as it shows that you are in control. Inform parents when assessments are due, what students will be learning each term (A complimentary email each term/semester is helpful) and notify them when assessments are not being handed in. It is also important to inform parents when their child might need to stay back and complete work. Make it known that you will follow up with concerns immediately and that you are unwilling to let things go.

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