If the most important thing I do is to teach my students ‘how to effectively apply themselves’,then how is this reflected in the way I set up of my classroom?
The materials listed below are the necessary elements needed to launch the Successful Learner Traits and to create coherency within our practice.
- Assessment Cards
- Strategy cards
- Desk Strips (optional)
Professionally designed posters,strategy cards and desk stips are available at reasonable cost.
Assessment Cards and other useful classroom materials are available for free download.
In September, I deliberately start with very little on my classroom walls. Everything put up in the classroom is either co-created by my students, or shared meaningfully with them. Consider again Grant Wiggins statement: assess what you value, value what you assess. Right from the get-go in September, we have the opportunity to consciously communicate ‘what is valued’. We do this in many ways: our words, actions, seating arrangements, and how we set up the learning environment. We all feel the pressure in September to have our classes all set up and ready to go. I’ve learned though, that walls filled with posters, charts, and pictures simply become background noise for my students. Such materials may actually dilute and diminish what I hope to prioritize and give value to. It is interesting to reconsider how we might prioritize our limited wall space in order to convey ’what is valued’.
So with very little on the classroom walls, and thinking about what is important, we begin to build conceptual understanding of the Traits with our students. It is very important to spend time introducing each trait in order to build conceptual understanding.
Posters are placed in a very central learning location, at student height if possible. In intermediate classrooms, we either have all the posters up right away, or put them up as they are introduced. Next, children decorate a library pocket card with their name on it, as a place to gather feedback on the SL Traits. We make a display using the students’ library pockets adding an age appropriate title, for primary it might be: Super Learners! (See Figure1) Some teachers have students decorate a small envelop and hang it on the side of their desk to collect assessment information. We communicate to parents that they are welcome at anytime to look at their child’s Successful Learner Cards. Although the students don’t readily know what the display is all about, in short order it takes on great significance and becomes a source of pride and motivation.
Finally, we make sure we have the assessment cards copied, cut, and ready to use. You may also wish to consider whether the desk strips are a good fit for your class at this point. We use the desk-name strips at the outset of the year as students generally find them so useful for a variety of uses and we can make quick reference to the SLTraits while students are working at their desks.