Student Centered Classrooms

As we approach the much needed Thanksgiving break, it easy to forget the importance of creating and maintaining a student centered focus and its impact on student achievement and student behavior.

Below are somethings that I have enjoyed reading and reflecting on.

Life of an Educator: 5 Ways to Make Your Classroom More Student Centered

NAE-60 Student Centered Teaching Strategies

Creating Learner Centered Middle School Classrooms

Student Centered Learning Environments: How and Why


Teaching Kindness to Reduce Bullying

Why Teaching Kindness in Schools Is Essential to Reduce Bullying

This morning, I came across this Edutopia blog post that ties nicely with our 6th grade class meeting from yesterday based on How Full Is Your Bucket and the children’s version, Have You Filled a Bucket Today.  The lesson was a great success!


Here are the resources we used.

How full is your bucket

water drops

Kid President’s 20 Things We Should Say More Often

Fill Your Bucket-children’s song

16 Conversation Starters with Struggling Students-from ASCD

16 Conversation Starters with Struggling Students

Knowing exactly what to say to students who are struggling is sometimes difficult.  I found this list of conversation starters by ASCD and will keep the suggestions in mind while working with kids.  Maybe the right question will make the difference.


1.  I may not know the best way to help, but give me a hint at where to start.

2.  How can we connect the work/lesson with information that you are already comfortable?

3.  If you were the teacher, how would you want the material explained?

4.  What would make the work more doable?

5.  What can I do to make it hard for you to “not succeed”?

6.  Describe one question that you have about…

7.  Tell me one classmate that you could turn to for help?

8.  Needing help is natural.  Can you think of anyone or anything that never needs help?

9.  What happened the last time you needed help with something?

10.  The last time I needed help was…

11.  Sometimes effort and performance do not match.  Would you agree or disagree with this?

12.  Talking about it may help.  How will waiting help us move closer to a solution?

13.  Let’s wait to talk.  When will you be ready to talk about it?

14.  On a scale of 1-10, how frustrated are you with…

14.  I have tried to help you by…, what else do you need from me?

15.  I may need assistance with getting you back on track.  Do you mind if I get a little back-up?

16.  We will work together.  Let’s keep a record of our effort.  How should we do that?

Positive Phone Calls Home

Positve Phone Calls Home

This Edutopia piece is so right. We are often tired and bust, so we fail to take the time to let parents know when their children do what they are supposed to do. We also get frustrated with students and only call he with bad news. By starting with good news before the need to call with bad news, parents feel that we like their child and are will be quicker to help us out.

Professional Learning: 5 Special Strategies for Teaching Tweens by Rick Wormeli

5 Special Strategies for Teaching Tweens

This short and easy to read article provides some simple things to remember about and to try with our tween students.  I am really working on the idea of formative assessment this year.  The transition to semester grades is a little daunting because the kids are going to have so many grades by the end of 18 weeks if I put a GRADE in the grade book for every assignment that they do.  Today, I met with each child as he/she finished a short assignment to talk quickly about the errors on his/her paper.  Even though many of the kids were making the same mistake, I wanted to see if the kids got more out of the one on one explanation of errors.  We’ll see…

“Of all the states of matter in the known universe, tweens most closely resemble liquid.”    This is a quotation from the article, and I love the metaphor.

Bell Ringer Ideas from Edutopia

More great ideas from


Other Ideas for Bell Ringers–

Photographs- my board from Pinterest–Daily articles with comprehension questions.  Remember to preview the articles.

A Google a Day

180 Journal Writing Prompts

The Daily Post-A Prompt a Day  Not all are school appropriate; however, many great ideas.

Professional Learning: Grading

“Grading takes away the fun of failing.”

This is a quote from a TED talk that I listened to this morning.  Most of the talk wasn’t about grading or even K-12 education, but this comment really stuck with me.  I find this quote to be both very accurate and very sad.  I wonder what my students could accomplish if they weren’t caught up in the desire to get THE grade.  Would they be more willing to take risks that would lead to great learning if they didn’t worry about THE grade?



The First Day of School

Two weeks and the students will be walking through the doors of the school, down the hall, and into my classroom.  I have some work to get done before I am ready, but I have started working on my welcome letter and syllabi.

Since I believe that relationships are a key part of a successful classroom, I start the year by giving my students a letter about me and ask them to write me a letter about themselves.  This accomplishes a couple of things.  First, students want to know a little bit about their teachers, and my letter provides them with information about me while also allowing me to emphasize a couple of key ideas.  Second, by asking the students to write me a letter, I am able to get an informal baseline writing piece.  I can see their strengths and weaknesses as writers and can use this information to guide instruction.  Finally,  the letter allows us to make some connections.  Maybe they are a fan of Georgia football or Vera Bradley.  By sharing these interests early in the year, we are able to start building a strong relationships which enhance the classroom environment from the beginning. Here is the draft of my Back to School Letter–Draft

Last year, I started batting around the idea of changing how I set up my grade book because I found myself forcing assignments to fit into categories to keep things balanced when I had four categories.   This year, I hope to have three categories for assignments.

Here is what I am thinking.

Level 1–practice assignments–completion grades/homework. 10%

Level 2–formative assessments–quizzes/graded assignments/minor writing assignments. 40%

Level 3–summative assessments–test/projects/major writing assignments. 50%

Classroom Management Ideas

Classroom Management…

I start every school year saying that I am going to tighten the reigns from the start, and I fail miserably at it by the end of the first week.  For me, classroom management is much more difficult than teaching any concept or skill because I like to be liked and don’t believe that students should hate/fear/distrust their teachers.  As I have perused Pinterest, I have found some things that I just might try.

1.  Source:

My Version to Print  stop what you are doing

I am going to print off several of these and laminate them. Then, if a student is disrupting or making poor decisions during class, I can place one in front of him/her in an attempt to redirect without breaking the flow of the class.  If the behavior continues, I will pick the card up along with the student’s agenda and will take a behavior point off.



2.  Source:

“NOISE… Remove one letter at a time when their voice level gets too loud. When NO is left, there is NO more talking! Love! Gives the kids a chance to get themselves under control.”

This will have to be used when the situation is appropriate like during cooperative group work or partner work, but the use of a visual might be effective in helping students monitor the noise level in the room.


3.  Source:

I like this because it builds on positives instead of negatives.

This will work well for my class because I have tables instead of desks.  I can easily assign colors to the tables.  The challenge will be to decide what I can use as a reward and how to manage marking 5 periods over a week.  Any ideas?



4.  Source:

Students taking zeros for assignments is something that I find extremely frustrating. After modifying it a bit, I may make copies of this and have students complete it each time they fail to complete an assignment.