If You Want To Know How Awesome Your Students Are … Just Ask Them

The new school year has just begun and everything still has that “new and exciting” smell to it.  This year there are many new adventures in front of me that I'm excited about.  My EDUTriplets are starting a new adventure in Kindergarten and one of them has already begun to grow a love for reading with the other two not far behind.

Additionally,  I started a new position teaching Broadcast Journalism and Technology Education in a fantastic Middle School. I have an amazing opportunity to work with over 230 students to help them become digital natives.  Not knowing any of the students as the year started to put me at a slight disadvantage but I started to come up with a few ideas that would not only teach students a little bit of technology education but also help me get to know them as the new school year got underway.

It's All About Social & Emotional Learning

One of the common themes in any Middle School education is Social & Emotional Learning.  The ability for students to express who they are, what they are thinking and how they are feeling each day is extremely important.

In order to get to know my students, we started out the school year by talking about ourselves and sharing reasons why we are all awesome.  For example, I started my opening presentation by sharing with my students that I am left-handed and that I have an amazing set of Triplets who are starting Kindergarten this year.  At the end of the first class, each student had the opportunity to stand up and say “My name is _____ and I am awesome because _____.”

This, of course, was the start of getting them to talk to the class and open up a bit about who they are.

Tech Coach Mastermind Mid-Blog Graphic

Creating One Assignment To Achieve Multiple Results

In the second class, students were given a Google Doc and together we started our first “tech assignment.”  I asked every student to write the sentence “I am awesome because” on the top line and over the next 10 lines write down one sentence that shows why they are awesome.

This was doing two things.

  1. It was making them think about who they are and why they are important.
  2. It was helping me assess their tech skills, typing, and understanding of how Google Docs.

In addition, as a Tech Coach to a new school district, it was also helping me assess the skills of teachers I have yet to meet by watching how the students understood the G-Suite ecosystem.

After the students had their all 10 of their “why am I awesome” things typed out then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  I asked the students to create a simple list by adding paragraph styles, bullet points, and even customized emoji to their paper.  All of this was to help them learn the basic building blocks of Google Docs in a fun way rather than asking them to create a multi-paragraph essay the way they would in other classes.

The end result of this days assignment was that students now know that they can format text, justify left, right, and center (rather than hitting TAB multiple times) and create a dynamic list.

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What Will You Be Learning About Your Students This Year?

There was a hidden third reason for my students starting out this year by sharing reasons why they are awesome.  Our final project will revolve around the creation of a Google Sites website.  This Digital Portfolio will be called “Who Is _____” and the entire website will be a collection of the projects that we do this year.  My goal for each of our projects is to revolve the topics around them and the many reasons why they are awesome. In other words, the reasons why they said they are awesome will become the topics for future projects no matter what they happen to be as the year progresses.

By the end of the first week, to be honest, there were some students who were a bit taken back by this out of the ordinary approach to the beginning of the school year.  But for me, the end result was that I know have a ground base from which I can compose the melody of our time together.

So … how did you start your year?  Please leave a comment below and share why you and your students are awesome!

About the author, Jeffrey Bradbury

Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast, and father of the famous @EduTriplets Thanks for checking out TeacherCast today. Please take a moment to find me on all of my Social Media channels!

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