Rather than hand out rubrics for expected student behaviors, the students themselves create a list of habits that make a good class.
Activity #1 Setting the tone of the class.
A few years ago I came across a handout with an important purpose question: What makes a good class? (Unfortunately, I have no idea where I got this from). The students complete this from two perspectives: theirs and the teacher’s. In order to help the students clarify their ideas they list 3-5 things a teacher and student must be, say or do to create a safe environment for students to succeed. They worked in pairs and then in groups of four. One student from each group reported out. After listing the behaviors, we analyzed what habits a teacher and student share.
This is the anchor paper that is strategically placed in my class.
The final step of this activity is to complete the analogy:
A good class is like …
Here are some of the answers.
I love the idea of a good class is like
a restaurant: you enter hungry and leave full or
a tree with many branches that grow of the teacher.
Activity #2 What the learners can expect to be doing in class.
Although I am obliged to read through and discuss the course guidelines with the students, they are not engaged. However, I simplify a lesson plan created by Jim Burke which gets them thinking, generating questions and discussing.
We look at the image of Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by Caspar David Friedrich.
The students note where he is, what he is doing, and the details/objects in the image. We then discuss how the wanderer reflects the beginning of their 9th grade journey; their hopes and fears.
Activity #3 What is success? What does it look like? Does it matter?
Each student drew the symbols of success on small whiteboards. Then they read (a jigsaw activity) an article on the habits of champions, identified the big ideas and created a slide show.
Finally, as an exit note, they created a frozen statue of success.
This was as far as I was willing to let them go.