Secondary Solutions

Ideas, tips, and tools for the middle and high school English Language Arts teacher. Visit our store at www.4secondarysolutions.com!

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Free Download: End of the Year Teacher Survey!

Survey

I remember the terror of handing out my first end of the year survey to my students.  I was thoroughly convinced that they would come back completely extolling all my virtues or completely destroying the last shred of dignity that I had as a young teacher in May.  To my utter shock, I have uniformly had the opposite situation.  Students have been incredibly honest and fair with me. Some things they love, some things they hate, some things just needed a little tweak.  Since I have found student surveys so beneficial to honing my craft, today I want to share with you my simple survey along with the reasons why I suggest you give a similar one.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

Reasons to Give an End of the Year Survey: 

  • Learn what to edit out or change. We all have these grand plans that sometimes fizzle out.  No matter how amazing the assignments, projects, or methods sounded in our head, the bottom-line must be student learning.  I don’t think that we have to make everything a carnival ride, but we should know if some assignments are doing more harm than good.
  • Learn what necessities need to become more palatable.   Every student on my survey can write about the challenge of the research paper or the unsatisfactory ending of The Great Gatsby, but that certainly does not mean I will edit them out of my class.  What I can tweak based on student feedback, is the presentation and timeline of events.  Again, it is all about student learning.
  • Create continued equity. I want to know if students don’t think I’m not fair or if I get positive reviews only from girls with As.  Equity in education is paramount.
  • Validate the good. I’m not going to lie.  I love reading my glowing reviews.  In my humble opinion, teaching is one of the hardest careers and it can really wear a person out.  Sometimes we need confirmation of the good we suspect we are doing.
  • Consider other perspectives.  Of course students cannot dictate curriculum with their surveys because they come from a limited perspective.  By the same token, we  will be much more effective educators if we take the chance to walk a mile in our students’ moccasins.

Tips for Proctoring the Survey:

  •  Make a list of the class readings and major assignments/procedures/methods and write them on the board during the survey so students can remember what has been covered and how.
  • Consider using Google Forms so you can easily see the data and run some analytics. (More on Google Forms in the classroom here!)

Click here for the FREE DOWNLOAD of my simple survey that you can make your own!  Feel free to leave questions, comments or concerns in the comment box below and check back every week for more teacher tutorials, tips, and tirades!

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Teacher Tips: Writing Letters of Recommendation (Free Form Download!)

Letters of Rec

I teach primarily juniors and seniors this year and so I have three main waves of recommendation writing: junior enrichment opportunities, senior college apps, and senior scholarship apps.  Many of these opportunities ask students to obtain a letter of recommendation from an English teacher who can give insight into student reading and communication skills.  Whether you are sitting down to write one letter or fifty letters, here are some tips to get you through:

1. Be authentic.  Sometimes you have to be honest with students and decline to write a letter of recommendation when you feel that you don’t have the time to complete the task, you don’t know the student well enough, or you don’t think that you can write a positive letter.  Allow yourself to make the professional call either way so that you can avoid writing an untruthful ode to the student constantly cheating and disrupting class or a boring form letter about that extraordinary student in dire need of a scholarship.

2. Consider starting with a few general form letters. Every student is exceptional, but letters of recommendation may come in batches.  I have general templates for categories like: the student athlete, the most improved, the extra-curricular star, the service oriented, and the consistent hard worker.  I then fill in the general template with the specifics of the student so that I can quickly, but accurately get the letter done.  In my 10 years writing letters, I’ve had a few every year that break all molds and require me to break out all of my rhetoric skills from scratch.

3. Ask for a brag sheet and the details of the opportunity. Even if you know your students well, give them an opportunity to fill out the whole picture.  The form below is a tremendous help to me and it helps to keep students accountable.

4. Quote students. I like to include quotes from student essay writing or brag sheets in order to show and not just tell the student’s strengths.

5. Put on the finishing touches.  After you have spent time writing this letter, be sure to proofread it, print it on letterhead, and sign it.  These letters are important and you want to honor them.

 

What recommendations do you have?  Is my form helpful?  I’d love to hear from you in the comment section!

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Simple, Effective Essay Rubric

A few weeks ago I wrote about the 10 struggles that surprised me in the classroom and one of those was the crazy number of hours I spend outside of the classroom grading papers!  Then, I wrote a post about how I get through all those papers and a couple of people reached out to me to ask about the rubric that I use.  Although I have no miracle cure that will shrink the papers, I have found that a simple, effective rubric reduces the time that I spend writing feedback, so I’m sharing it today!  

Here are the things I like about the rubric that I have been tweaking for the last 10 years:

  • I give this rubric with the prompt at the beginning of a writing assignment, which makes grading clear for students from the outset.
  • I create the rubric on a full page so there is plenty of room to add short comments in boxes when needed.
  • I can easily just circle issues in the category box to explain my score if no comment is required.
  • There is a place for self-assessment, which helps students to go through a more effective proofreading before turning it in.
  • There are only 7 categories, which represent the overall areas of emphasis in my class.
  • The final category can be changed with each paper to reflect mini-lessons during the unit or other skills I want to emphasize.

You can download and edit this rubric here! 

(The above link should save as a word document in your downloads folder, but if you have any issues accessing it, here is the PDF version)

SS RubricI’d love to hear your feedback so I can keep refining this rubric.  Thanks so much for stopping by! 

 

 

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