Thursday, August 16, 2012

Students Set the Classroom Expectations

I just finished my third day of school and tweaked my usual routine for establishing the expectations my students and I have for each other for our two years together – there are a couple cool tech tools integrated, and my kids responded to it well.

I don’t like rules – I like expectations. There is one rule in my classroom: we don’t make fun of people for the way they are born. Race and gender aren’t an issue, but now my kids know they can’t drop phrases like “That’s so gay” of “That’s retarded” in my classroom. Ever. So we come up with expectations for our time together. Well, they come up with expectations for our time together.

The expectation strand starts with a think-pair-share around two simple statements: In a classroom, a teacher’s job is to: and In a classroom, a student’s job is to:. Students individually completed these two statements with several bullet points. Next, they shared out their responses with their group members to create a ‘super-answer.’ Finally, students accessed a Google form with these two statements on them via a web browser on their phone or iPod touch, a QR code on the wall in several places, or on the shared classroom computer and uploaded their ‘super-answer’ to a spreadsheet.

The next day (today), I explained how Google forms worked and copied and pasted the entire ‘student job’ column and created a Wordle out of it. After explaining how Wordle generated its word clouds, students collaborated with their groups to create phrases that expressed their expectations for themselves and for me based on the largest words in the cloud. After getting an expectation from every group and recording them, we repeated the process with the ‘teacher job’ column. Finally, after collecting information from all of my classes today, I compared the lists and came up with a list of seven student-generated expectations for themselves and for me for our two years together. 

Tomorrow students will have the opportunity to approve or modify the list of expectations that they created. Once I receive final approval, the expectations will be put up on a poster in the room for the rest of our time together. So what is the list for tomorrow – what did my students come up with? The list of student expectations is to listen, ask questions, respect everyone, work until you understand, participate, be productive, and learn from everyone. I am expected to grade fairly, help students problem solve, be patient, make learning interesting and fun, help students understand material, listen, and learn from everyone. Needless to say, I’m psyched with how these lists turned out.

I like this activity for a couple reasons: we are talking about expectations, not rules. Students are generating everything – they set the expectations, not me. And finally, students get used to using technology in my classroom.  Thoughts? Tweaks? What do you do to establish expectations in your classroom?