Effective Classroom Strategies Based on Successful PD

Here are six tips demonstrating how the best professional development ideas can be successfully transferred to the classroom.

Imagine if some of the best practices of professional development workshops were transferred to the classroom? As a regional and national speaker, I create presentations focusing on literacy skill-building meant to support teachers in all content areas. What might it look like to transfer those pertinent workshop skills to the classroom?

Here are five foundational suggestions to create a simple, significant and sensible classroom.

1)  Keep it Simple.

As the classroom teacher, stay attentive on the Learning Intention and Success Criteria. It’s easy to create extensive lessons because we want our students to have all the information and we want them to know it all. Diving deep into a lesson leads our students to skillful mastery. Therefore, provide students the single focus and the time to dig into that Learning Intention. Give them the opportunity to concentrate on one goal and meet the Success Criteria.

2)  Provide Minimal Handouts

Be careful of packets. A thick pile of typed, stapled papers is overwhelming for some students because they think they have to finish the packet right away. They don’t see the packet as a process of product they are going to work through. Consider taking the packet apart and distributing in pieces. Students will see that the work is meant as a progression of what they will be learning and, as a classroom community, it will be undertaken together.

3)  Make it Significant

Students want purposeful structure. Instead of going through numerous slides explaining how to write a paragraph, could there be another way to teach this objective? Begin the focus with an exemplar paragraph. Create small groups of five students. Cut the paragraph into pieces, then, give the pieces of the paragraph to each group member. Ask the groups to put their group members, the paragraph pieces, in sequential order. Students are using a kinesthetic approach to paragraph writing and applying the structure of a paragraph in a socially kinesthetic way.

4)  Ask Students for Feedback

Your students want to share their ideas with you. Give them the opportunity to reflect on the lesson and on how the lesson was structured. While the proverbial thumbs up, thumbs sideways, and thumbs down might be helpful; it rarely tells us anything meaningful.  Perhaps students give us the thumbs up just so we’ll stop lecturing! If that is indeed the case, the finger formative tells us nothing. 

Create feedback opportunities that evaluate the hows of the lesson. Was the lesson delivered in a relevant and meaningful way? If so, it is far more likely to “stick.”  Student feedback is critical in the creation of vigorous lessons that assess 21st century skills; therefore, asking students to assess the lesson is giving them the opportunity to transfer and apply what they have learned to other situations and experiences.

5) Make It Sensible

When creating exit tickets for students, be very clear on what you are assessing. Students will answer the questions as you ask them; therefore, what is the information you want to glean from their exit ticket? Is it pedagogy? Is it content? Is it delivery? Whatever it is, make sure you are asking the questions directly so responses can be clear and succinct.

Final Thought: What Happens When the Lesson Doesn’t Work?

Purposefully meet with students who give unfavorable feedback. Why did the student write the negative response and what can the teacher do to support the student’s learning? Proceed with caution, however. Occasionally adolescents have moments of teenage angst, so take the constructive feedback and decide if this is a student who really wants to help you grow or a student who has an axe to grind.

Once determined, give students an opportunity to share how to improve teacher learning; one example is an exit ticket (shown below) or a letter sharing Glows and Grows (template below).

At the end of every quarter, my students wrote a “Dear Mrs. Grafwallner” letter that gave me an opportunity to ruminate, reflect or revise my lessons. Their honest feedback gave me a chance to hone my lessons and my craft.

Exit ticket/Dear Mrs.  Grafwallner file