When teachers at any grade level think about their classroom responsibilities, their focus is almost always on how to cover the mandated subject matter: the knowledge students should gain and the skills they need to develop. Although these are the key components of instructional planning, too often we neglect to build in specific ways we can help our students master that material as well as learn the behaviors that will enable them to become successful adults. We lose sight of the big picture: how we can create opportunities for our students to succeed.
The consequence of this simple oversight is not benign. Without including a variety of ways to help students learn to be capable learners, we make it difficult for them to learn and grow. The result is that teachers and students alike will face hours of frustration instead of academic success.
Caring teachers purposefully build in opportunities each day for their students to be successful. They use a variety of techniques, strategies, tips, and activities to appeal to as many students as possible. This multi-faceted approach to the complex and challenging problem of reaching and teaching students is a tactic that works for many successful educators.
Although every teacher’s classroom is as unique as a fingerprint, it’s not difficult to begin to purposefully include opportunities for students to be successful. To make sure that you have offered your students as many opportunities for success as possible, consider adapting some of these suggestions to meet the needs of your classroom.
1. Show students how to maintain an organized notebook. Keeping up with notes and papers is an important skill that can make it easier for students to succeed.
2. When you make assignments, be sure to discuss the best study skills and time management tips that will allow students to make good choices when they begin working. Teachers who take the time to help students figure out the most efficient ways to do their work make it easy for students to do well.
3. Teach students to pay attention when you are giving directions. Good listening skills and the ability to understand and follow directions will enable students to proceed with confidence because they will have a clear idea of what to do and how to do it correctly.
4. Make sure students know how to seek help from you while they are in class or even after class. Making yourself available at appropriate times to help students can really make a difference for those students who may be struggling with an assignment.
5. Offer plenty of models, samples, and examples of finished products so that students know what their own work should be.
6. Break down larger projects into smaller work increments with specific mini-due dates so that students are not overwhelmed.
7. Provide opportunities for students to consult each other or periodically check each other’s work. Allowing them to do this often clears up mistakes before they become permanent ones.
8. Use the electronic resources available to you to share information and notes about class on a classroom blog or Web site. Be careful to keep your postings about such important information as homework, classwork, grades, and other requirements updated regularly.
9. Check to be certain that all of your students have the resources they need to do their work. If a project calls for online research, for example, students will need access to a computer and printer. Even something as insignificant as the lack of a pencil can make it difficult for students to do their work well.
10. Be prepared to allow students who need extra time to complete an assignment to have that time. Be flexible and work together with them to determine an acceptable deadline. Sometimes just a bit of extra time is all that students need to really do a good job on an assignment.
11. Appeal to your students’ learning style preferences whenever you can so that they can access the material as easily as possible.
12. Design assignments so that the difficulty level of the work begins with items that are easy to manage and then progresses in complexity. This encourages student confidence and willingness to persist at completing the assignment.