In those first few hectic days of a new school year what do you really want to find out about your kids? What will help you the most as you plan your lessons for the approaching days and weeks?
In addition to the big stuff that you’ll find out from pretests and maybe some interests that you’ll learn from an interest inventory, do you need to know:
- Who can organize their answers on a page?
- Whose handwriting is readable?
- Who listens to oral directions, who watches for written ones, who looks to other kids to see what they are doing, and who guesses?
- Who can hand in their assignments without losing them, and who actually puts then in the right place and on time?
- Who can be depended on to complete their classwork each day? homework?
- Who can manage sitting by the window and still get things done?
- Who enjoys helping other kids? who doesn’t want to be bothered?
- Who works well with help from other kids, and who will need your constant attention?
- Who always wants to be called on, and who avoids it at all costs?
and at the top of many teachers’ lists:
- Who can sit beside who?
As the year goes on, (keeping that teacher’s eagle eye scanning!) you’ll find out plenty about all of these issues, but at the beginning of the year, you can jump-start the discovery process a little bit with brief activities that will provide some information fast. Mini-assignments such as bell ringers or closing questions should work well. Task cards are great because each individual one tells you something new about your kids. And you can do as few (even just one!) or as many as you want each day. Whole class activities such as a a round-robin question or a class discussion of a back-to-school topic can provide you with other insights.
Make it a part of your lesson planning to incorporate activities like these that will tell you what you really want to know. Maybe even keep a chart of your findings! In no time, you’ll have a trove of really useful information at your fingertips. And all the time, you’re still keeping that eagle eye out!