There are only a couple weeks left in the school year. The weather is AWESOME, which leads to the inevitable: thoughts of SUMMER VACATION! Kids are more interested in recess this time of year rather than producing quality work. I hear many teachers talk about students who are rushing through assignments with an urgency for completion, rather than quality.
When I was a fourth grade teacher, I would talk to my students about the importance of being responsible, and when they didn't meet expectations, I would keep them in for recess or after school to complete and/or improve their work. The result was students who resented the assignment and even me at times… can you believe it?! Not to mention, parents didn’t appreciate the generic letter that I would send home asking for help. I didn’t know any better… I was young and many of my colleagues were using similar strategies with limited success. I thought I was providing my class with a lesson in responsibility, but my students were still uninspired when the weather was hot, and it was a struggle for them to complete assignments or produce quality work late in the school year. Who wants to work when the weather is so beautiful?
There is a positive from this; I did learn! A wise mentor asked me a question, "Do you know what it means to do quality work?" Naturally, my response was, "Of course I do!" She then asked me if my students knew. I could tell she was setting me up for a professional growth experience. She asked if I ever taught my students about the simple definition of "quality". She explained four activities to put students in charge of their learning.
1. Teach a mini-vocabulary-lesson on “quality,” and help students understand the simple definition according to Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Simple Definition of Quality:
- how good or bad something is.
- a characteristic or feature that someone or something has
- a high level of value or excellence
2. Create classroom anchor charts together on the following:
- What does high quality look like?
- What strategies can you use to improve the quality of your work?
- Why is it important to produce quality work?
Anchor charts are a great way to record student thinking and highlight important parts of the lesson. The classroom created charts will help “anchor” student thinking, and students can revisit that thinking as the charts hang on the walls. This helps validate their ideas, and in this case, allow students to increase ownership and move towards producing quality work. Creating anchor charts on the concept of quality will help your students understand the "why" behind doing their personal best. Children need to know their purpose. They do not need rewards or even consequences, they need to feel empowered to do an assignment.
3. Revisit and sustain student understanding through journal writing. You can even have students blog about their position on the word “quality” through a student blogging site such as Kidblog. Blogging can give students a meaningful purpose and an authentic audience. Students can be motivated to write for their peers and parents though a safe blogging space where teachers monitor all content before it goes live. Some example journal or blogging prompts:
- What does quality mean to you?
- How will you showcase your best quality on your assignments?
- What do you think quality will look like when you are in (next grade) starting the 2016-17 school year?
- What is quality digital citizenship?
- What does it mean to be a quality friend?
4. Lastly, encourage students to place the letter "Q" at the top of all completed assignments to represent their quality work. This reinforces their understanding of quality and gives them a reason to be proud of their efforts.
Wow! Empowering students rather than giving consequences worked! I quickly noticed a difference. Students took ownership for their assignments, quality increased, and missing/incomplete assignments decreased. I received some great advice from a quality educator! Early in my career, I was very fortunate to be surrounded by some amazing teachers. They shaped many of my current educational beliefs and practices. Twenty years later, that trend has continued. I am still surrounded by many great educators who are always sharing and creating opportunities for students to feel empowered to learn.
Let's keep the synergy and sustain learning together. Please share a positive way to empower students to do their best in the comments.
Enjoy teaching, engaging, and empowering your students to do “quality” work!
#finishstrong and enjoy the summer!