Teacher expectations and student achievement go together like cheese and crackers. There is simply no way to accomplish all that must be done during the school day if the students are not carrying out routine tasks quickly and efficiently.
I recently received this question through my contact form:
"What is the most effective way to distribute equipment in a K-6 PE setting? I need an efficient plan to hand out equipment quickly and efficiently to all students."
First, let's make an important distinction. Teachers set student expectations all day long for all manner of tasks, but teacher expectations and student achievement when we are talking about the use and handling of objects are potentially the most problematic...especially if the objects are PE equipment that is soooo tempting to throw/roll/lob at other kids. But the same could be said of so many things:
- Pencil sharpeners
- Bathroom soap dispensers
Humans just like to get their hands on stuff and mess with it.
So setting classroom expectations for handling stuff takes a different kind of reinforcement than setting expectations for turning in papers or being quiet during a teacher read-aloud.
Let's get started.
I hope you didn't think that this process would be a short and simple recipe, some magic approach that engenders perfect discipline the first time. Nope...this takes time and repetition, but only up front; after student expectations are set and habits are built, you earn back the time you invested.
Step 1. Arrange the items logically. If the situation calls for it, put some thought into accessibility for the item(s) in question. In our PE example, that might mean lining up the balls on a bench before class. In your classroom, it could mean placing the clipboards in a bin by the door.
Remember, the kids will have to get the items in questions, so put yourself in their place (actually walk through the process) and figure out how to arrange things to avoid pushing and shoving, which leads me to the next step.
Step 2. Consider the "flow." Do the students come up all at the same time? By two's or three's? In a single-file line? Make your arrangement of items match the preferred process for getting them.
TIP: Practice everything yourself before you just go for it and explain it to the kids. Really walk and talk through it; doing this will expose any flaws in your plan.
Step 3. Determine your student expectations. Base this upon your experience with the item in question...or grab a clipboard, ball or jump rope and see how much trouble you can get into with it! Jot down a few notes if needed so you don't forget something.
Now you are ready for the students.
Teacher expectations and student achievement are intimately connected, and a lot of it has to do with your delivery style.
Step 4. Overview the item and it's use and care. Don't be afraid of humor! Give the item a name, call it your friend, say what makes your friend happy or unhappy...use your imagination. Make it brief, but cover all the bases on...
This is expectation setting...use the phrase "my expectation is..." a few times so you can refer back to it (see step 8).
"I'm gonna throw this ball as soon
as you turn your back!"
Step 5. Model the entire process. Don't talk through the process...show them. Walk the path that they will walk, pick it up the way they should pick it up, use it in the correct manner, then put it away properly. We are visual learners and many elementary students simply cannot translate verbal instructions to personal actions. But show them...and they are much more likely to get it.
Step 6. Model with a few assistants. Draft a few kids from the class to go through the same process you just completed. This time you will be watching and gently correcting if (when!) they make mistakes:
Step 7. Guide the class through the process. Remind them of each step, from the initial line up to where they ultimately end up.
Step 8. Stop...go back...repeat. If it is not going well, start over. And I mean over from the beginning. Put the stuff away, sit back down, remind them and do it all over again. (Sounds similar to teacher expectations and student achievement during the student line up process, doesn't it?)
Never let students practice a process wrong. If you do, you'll never get the performance you are hoping for. As stated above, invest the time now for dividends that last the entire year.
In extreme circumstances, you may spend an entire class practicing (or it may just seem like you did!). And that's OK...somtimes we need more practice to master something and sometimes we have to out-wait the naughties. Kids are smart. In either situation, they'll learn.
That's the basic process. Apply it in varying measures to every expectation you set. Not everything may take all eight steps, but many things will.
In the future? I'll say it again: Repeat, repeat, repeat. Any time expectations are not being met, take the entire class through the process again.
Keep that sense of humor! Patience is your best ally when working on teacher expectations and student achievement.
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