Dream of having students walk in the door, sit down, and get right to work? Think it’s completely impossible? It’s not. Establishing routines in your class is the number one thing to create at the beginning of the school year. Believe it or not, human beings are prone to routines and, in fact, crave them. Students feel more at ease when they know exactly what the expectations are each and every day.
In my classroom, students are expected to get their notebooks from their bin, sit down at their desk, and begin work on their bellworks which are posted on the board. Bellworks are general questions that can preview or review information from the class. I grade the bellwork sheets every Friday. Each day is worth 5 points and if a student is absent, I just ask them to write in “Absent” on that day and I still give them credit as long as they write the word. It shows that they are cognizant of their responsibilities. I do not necessarily grade their responses on right or wrong answers because 99% of the questions are opinion. This gives the student more freedom and encouragement to actually answer the question. We always, and I mean always, review their responses at the beginning of class. This does two things- the first is to let them know that I actually care about their answers and their thoughts. The second is a form of formative assessment. I want to know where they are at that moment based upon their responses. At the beginning of the year it was like pulling teeth to get them to verbally respond. Now, we can get into lengthy discussions based upon responses without any prompting from me. They respond and counter each other and it is a beautiful thing to see in a classroom when we encourage free thought without fear of a grade behind it.
Over the next few days I will be posting some of my bellwork questions from the first grading period in US History, Government, and Economics. Enjoy!