Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Worked Wednesday: My Course Guide

What worked for me on the first week of school you might ask? Why my Class Course Guide, of course! Last year I ditched a traditional syllabus and begin using a one page course guide. I had two motives behind making the switch. A) How many parents and students actually read it beyond my reading it to the students in class? B) I wanted something that students could tape in the interactive notebooks that we'd use all year and refer to it when they had any questions about the class.

With those two things in mind I made the plunge and ditched that old, long, boring, traditional syllabus. This nifty little one pager (a little term I stole from the great @EdTechLove) packs a ton of useful information in a fun little delivery format. I feel that this one page Course Guide can take the place of a syllabus because it give important information about the class without all the boring, yet important, stuff that many don't even bother reading.

Included are 10 sections outlining the class policies, supply list, assignment policy, how to receive extra help, our class in social media, Schoology (our LMS), our team webpage, and goals for the year. Since this is printed on a full sheet of paper and must fit in a standard composition notebook, there's even a handy little flap when you fold it for the student's and parent's signature. I always tell my students to fold on the dotted and cut on the solid when we do foldables in hopes that no one will cut their course guide but it sometimes still happen. Not students has cut their yet (knock on wood!) and I know one does.

In addition to the 2 goals I have for students I ask that students choose a goal that we will re-evaluate each quarter. I ask that students choose a goal then explain how they plan to achieve that goal. For example, most students would write get good grades or maintain an A in math. I'd always ask them how they plan to maintain this grade. Students usually said things like study more, not procrastinate, or do homework as soon as they got home so that they would not forget. I told them that my goal was to not procrastinate because man am I the biggest procrastinator in the world. When I was a student, my best work and highest grades were a result of my procrastination but I'm learning that the stress from procrastination is never worth it.

After going over the course guide with my students, I touched on the grading scale and some other things that are in the syllabus and posted in the classroom before allowing the students to complete a team scavenger hunt using the course guide. I gave the teams 15 minutes to answer 10 questions that could be answered directly from the course guide. I gave each person a job and had one person to write their number on the board once the team finished so I could keep up with the order in which each team finished. I walked around and checked the questions as the teams finished. I circled questions that were answered incorrectly and told students to go back and check their answers.

It seemed as if students thoroughly enjoyed this activity. I figured I should come up with something high energy for the students to do after going the course guide for a majority of the hour long class period. Students worked well with their teams and the first 5 teams who answered all questions correctly received a treat. All in all this was a very successful execution of a syllabus and team building activity that worked for me, LaDonna!

         Until next time,