Academically, where are your students starting the year?
What do they need to get back on track?
How will you provide them with just-in-time support?
These are the questions, along with many others, that you’re probably asking yourself right now.
But with a class full of students with different needs, addressing those needs is easier said than done. Here are some tactics educators will use this year to improve their students’ chances of success.
Don’t Lower Your Expectations
All students like to succeed, no matter what challenges they face, especially when they know the adults in their lives have confidence in them. Expecting a student’s best isn’t expecting too much—it gives them a purpose and a goal to strive for in the classroom.
“Celebrate small successes with your students,” suggested Anne Barbour, a Grade 3 teacher in Rhode Island. “Provide a plastic trophy when they achieve something they’ve been working on, and keep those expectations high. Watering down teaching doesn’t get you anywhere. Every student is different, but they can all achieve great things if you believe in them—and if they believe in themselves.”
Take Advantage of Technology
Put your technology to work to improve student engagement. “Technology adds variety to a lesson and allows students to learn in different ways,” said Amanda Arevalo, a Grade 2 teacher in Idaho. “It’s impossible to ask a 7-year-old to listen to me talk for an hour, but eight minutes of direct instruction and a pop-up video clip can break things up and gives me time to check in with students. Technology often acts like a second set of hands and helps me get the right materials to students faster than if I had to grade and sort all the data on my own.”
As the technology lead at her school, Amanda is a big believer in supplementing lessons with the right programs. “Our students are learning digital life skills, like typing with the home row and internet safety, and they’re so excited about it,” she said. “They also know that technology is a privilege and a responsibility and that we’ve put our trust in them.”
Assess Your Students and Address Their Growth Areas
Instructional decisions tied directly to robust diagnostic data are the bedrock of student success. Lola Odukoya, director of academic acceleration content and curriculum at DC Public Schools, believes student data provides important insights—from the ability to drill down into specific domains to monitoring student growth. “We can get at a deeper level [of understanding] and use the data to triangulate with other sources to look at the development of the whole child,” she said.
Amanda uses an adaptive assessment and instructional program that pinpoints where her students need help, automatically groups students at similar levels, and provides customized lessons to address those specific growth areas. The lessons provide appropriate challenges for each student, so she doesn’t have to spend time reaching out to other teachers or scanning the internet for individualized lesson plans. “After each of my students take their first Diagnostic, we set aside time to talk about how they did, and we map their scores together,” she said. “They are so excited to see their progress and set learning goals.”
Remember That Relationships Come First
Dr. Rita Pierson, lifelong educator, believed that creating connections with students was critical. “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like,” she said in a TED Talk. “Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.”
Amanda couldn’t agree more. “I always take the time to make my students feel safe and loved to set them up for success in the classroom,” she said.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
The right tools can help you better understand your students’ strengths and learning gaps and provide the support they need where they need it most. Your time is precious, and the less time you spend customizing lesson plans to meet the specific needs of each student, the more time you can spend doing what you do best—connecting with your students to help them grow.
Have another idea for helping students succeed? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.