Senior Year: Strategies for Success

Teaching seniors can be so rewarding!

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Graduation day approaches…

However, senior students present many challenges…

On any given day of the school year, seniors may be:

excited to be the upperclassmen

invincible in their final endeavors

anxious to graduate (aka senioritis)

sad to leave the security of a school

concerned about becoming adults

frustrated by being confined to rules

nervous about the future

unsure of what comes next

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That is a lot of emotion for one human… one might think students could explode from all that… and sometimes they do have an occasional explosion of emotion. 

But senior year is so many things for so many different students…

  • It can be the last chance to bump up that GPA for college.
  • It can be the last sentimental year for activities.
  • It can be the last chance to make up credits needed for graduation.
  • It can be the last opportunity to build those lasting connections with classmates.
  • It can be the longest-shortest 10 months of their life.

In supporting them through this roller coaster of feelings, teachers have the opportunity to be part of the final influence and push into adult life. We get to challenge them in coursework, discuss future plans, help them with college and job applications, give them a preview of what college and adulthood will look like, and help them to reflect on the years they have spent in school.

Getting to be a part of this monumental year helps me to remember the true rewards of teaching and value being a part of my amazing students’ lives.

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The roller coaster of senior year

My favorite lessons with seniors:

1. Life Infographic 

We live in a very digital world and as an audience for this world, we really have short attention spans. Infographic use is becoming more and more popular as a way to communicate information.

In this activity, students create an infographic on a real world process of something they will need to know how to do in their future… perhaps something they have not yet learned about.

Resources Used: a) Piktochart–for creating b) Blogger–for sharing c) Google –for research

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Infographic by student on “Job Interviews”

2. Vacation Research Project

In this activity, students work cooperatively to research a country’s history, culture, and tourism; then they plan a vacation to visit. They need to use internet research skills, organizational skills, and budgeting skills.

Students were engaged in learning about the history and culture of other places and had some quality discussion on how they should budget their money and what they should do on the vacation. Finally, students presented their vacation to classmates in an effort to persuade them to participate in the vacation.

Resources Used: a) Google Docs–for creating/orgainizing b) Google –for research c) Google Slides –for presenting 

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Students work in groups to research and plan a vacation to a far off destination!

3. Student-Choice Research Paper

While the “senior paper” has in the past been dreaded and overwhelming for students, I’ve found that really preparing students with the essential research and writing skills, in small doses prior to assigning it, helps the paper run more smoothly for students. But the most important concept that helps students to engage is by allowing them some choice in the subject of the writing and research. Allowing this choice also makes it more authentic and relevant for students. Read more about student choice…

Resources Used: a) Google Docs–for creating/orgainizing b) Google & Google Scholar–for research c) Purdue OWL–for formating and style d) Turn It In–for submission & revision

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Research topics can vary for students’ interest!

4. Where Have I Been: TimeLine Project

My favorite part of teaching seniors is giving them the opportunity to reflect on their past, present, and future. While they do not yet fully realize it, they are about to enter the next part of their lives and it will be VERY different from their life so far. As a final project, students create a timeline of their lives. This is often a project that brings students and parents together to remember the years that have passed and to discuss the years that are to come. It is amazing to hear some of the reflection that occurs on the last day of class, as students walk around and remember times they’ve had with family and classmates and reflect on their life experiences thus far. (I tend to play really cheesy reflection music to enhance the mood.)

Resources Used: a) Google Docs–for planning/orgainizing b) Google –for research c) posters and other supplies

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Students often have a true sense of pride when these projects are complete.

And finally…. when senior year comes to an end… there I am in the audience at graduation with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. The roller-coaster of senior year has ended and it is time to get off and head to the next ride. All I can hope is that they are ready for it!

 

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Thumbs up for senior year! 

Read more about teaching seniors:

Keep the conversation going…

  • How do you engage seniors in your classroom?
  • What do you do to help prepare seniors for college or adult life?
  • What challenges do you find in engaging seniors in the classroom?

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter!

 

Take Ownership of Your Professional Development

When many teachers visualize “professional development” they likely envision a regularly scheduled event that shows a group of teachers being guided through the implementation of a specific initiative, strategy, or framework.

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This may also include small group meetings like PLCs where teachers are scheduled a time to collaboratively analyze data and evaluate the effectiveness of instruction in their classroom.

This type of professional development certainly has its place in schools. However, it is often criticized for not meeting the individual needs of teachers.

As educators, we recognize the importance of differentiating in our classrooms, but we also know how challenging this can be.  Consider the challenge it is for an administrative team to lead an organized professional development that addresses the needs of every staff member in its building.

While participating in building and district professional development is important, as educators, we should consider additional ways to take ownership of our own professional development to create relevant and useful learning opportunities.

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This does NOT mean a teacher should plan to spend every waking hour researching the newest strategy or looking for the latest technology app… a healthy balance of professional and personal life is very necessary. Be sure to find the balance.

I am fortunate to work in a district that gives its teachers many opportunities to pursue the learning they want or need and to develop these professional skills through conferences, books studies, and district organized courses (Read more about this: CBU allows teachers to sharpens skills).

However, there are many opportunities for teachers to seek personalized professional development that meets their needs.

Whether you can dedicate 1 hour a week or 15 minutes a day, there is a way to take ownership of your professional development.

1. Create a Personal Learning Community using Social Media 

Connecting with other educators on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or other platforms can give you an opportunity to learn from others who are faced with the same challenges as you on a daily basis. While you are catching up on the latest pictures posted by your friends and family, you might also come across a shared blog post about a great classroom management strategy. Delve into the article right then or save it for later when you have some downtime or are ready to try it! 

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Recently, I’ve really enjoyed reading articles by Edutopia on Facebook and have been finding lots of great things through #edtech and #edchat on Twitter.

2. Attend Education Conferences

Need some new ideas or inspiration? Conferences can be the best place to listen to what is working for other educators and consider ways to make it happen in your classroom! Even if your school doesn’t have a budget to send you across the country, search for local conferences on whatever interests you… technology? content? educational leadership? Conferences can be an awesome place to connect with others and get a new perspective! 

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I have had great experiences at NCTE and ISTE conferences!

3. Find a Book

Sometimes reading a new perspective (or being reminded of great ideas from the past) can be the inspiration a teacher needs to recharge. Ask your colleagues or administration for a reading suggestion and challenge yourself to take something away from the book. It can be even more powerful to read it with colleagues and collaborate on how to integrate it into your instruction. (Recently, I gained many ideas and insights from Making Thinking Visible & Guided Instruction.)

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I like to browse the ASCD Reading List to find a new resource or idea!

4. Find Free Online Training

You can find free inspiration, courses, and materials all over the internet. Follow some education blogs, search for free materials, or find some tutorials on YouTube. 

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Right now I am loving the Google for Education Training that I am working on!

Think of your professional development as a state of mind, not an event. 

 

Read more about taking ownership of your professional development:

Keep the conversation going…

  • How do you take ownership of your own professional development?
  • What hashtags do you follow to stay recharged and fresh in the classroom?
  • What challenges are there when managing your own professional development?

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter!

Giving Students Feedback with Google Apps

It is important that students receive quality feedback in a timely manner in order for it to be useful in improving their skills or understanding.

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If it takes two weeks for a student to receive feedback on an assignment… they have likely moved past the point of it being useful to them. This is not timely. 

As often as we do it, writing “Good Job!” or “Needs Work…” on an assignment does not give students specific enough information to advance their understanding or improve their skills. This is not quality. 

 

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Must be TIMELY and QUALITY

 

Students need specific feedback on things they are doing well and places where they can improve… and they need them in a time frame which allows them to make these improvements.

However, especially at the secondary level, when you see 100+ students a day, this can be difficult for teachers to manage. 

 

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So how do we manage giving timely and quality feedback to students?

 

Here are some ways to use Google Apps to give timely and quality feedback to students:

1. Email feedback to students as they give presentations

Try setting up an email template for your feedback prior to students giving their presentations– this could include a rubric that you mark or something as simple as: “Two things you did well were…” and “Something to think about for next time is…”  Then you are able to just focus on entering the individual feedback for students as you fill in the template. You can complete this as students give their presentation or as the next student is setting up. When you are finished, hit “send” and students have their feedback!

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Use an email template to be efficient with your time!

2. Use the “comment” feature -one time

While sometimes necessary, it can feel tedious to leave MANY comments all over on students’ work… it probably appears somewhat overwhelming to them as well. When possible, consider leaving one detailed and quality comment towards the top of their Google Document or Google Slides. Again you can use a template that you copy into each student’s comment and individualize it based on the student’s performance or revision needs.

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Give one comment that covers the main skills students need on the assignment.

3. Copy and paste a rubric -color code it

Try pasting your assignment rubric at the bottom of a student’s Google Document — this can also be done on Google Slides by adding a “new slide” to the end of a presentation and pasting the rubric there. You can highlight (or change the table cell color) where a student falls in the different areas of evaluation. I usually leave a spot for some specific comments or feedback as well.

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Paste in your rubric with color coding to give student specific areas to work on.

4.  Give more feedback to small groups

If you are really struggling with managing the amount of feedback you need to give, consider giving more group feedback. You can do this in any of the ways suggested previously with emails, comments, or rubrics. This way students receive feedback promptly and are able to discuss as a group ways to improve. Note that it is important to establish a classroom atmosphere where students are comfortable with one another and know how to productively work together.

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For all of these strategies, it is important that you prepare students by helping them to understand that feedback is a positive thing and that it helps them to improve.

Remind students to embrace a growth mindset by considering feedback and always striving to do better. 

Read more about giving timely and quality feedback:

Read more about using Google Apps for Education:

Keep the conversation going…

  • How do you manage giving students timely and quality feedback?
  • What strategies for giving feedback have worked or not worked you?
  • What problems do you see with giving students digital feedback?

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below or sharing it on Facebook or Twitter!