Communication and Preparation to Facilitate Academic Success

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

5.3 Managing Classroom Procedures through Performance of Noninstructional Duties
Efficient systems for performing noninstructional duties are in place, resulting in minimal loss of instructional time.

7. Families and Community – The teacher communicates and collaborates with students, families and all educational stakeholders in an ethical and professional manner to promote student learning.

7.1 Communicating with Families
Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to family concerns.

There are many circumstances that promote teacher communication with families, but none more than the academic progress of students in the classroom. There are many methods of communicating with families about student progress, i.e. email, conferences, report cards, classroom events, utilizing parent volunteers, frequently updating the classroom website, and issuing letters home, to name a few. While many teachers may prefer one or two methods of communication due to time restraints, it is helpful to develop a plan to facilitate that all parents are aware of the child’s progress in the classroom. Tracking student progress and utilizing methods for students to regularly check-in with parents on that progress should be inclusive in a well-tailored classroom management plan. Students can also be taught to take the initiative to implement communication with their parents while also regulating their progress. One method I’ve recently seen is an excellent model of how to help motivate students to catch up on missing assignments while also providing communication to parents about this missing work.

Many times, students’ grades may be low due to missing work. This work may be missing for a variety of reasons, missing names on papers, an absence/illness, the student lost the assignment, the student forgot to complete the work, the student is periodically learning in another classroom when a lesson/assignment takes place, and so on. While there may be students that turn in every assignment on time, there are still going to be those that struggle with this task. It is important that students are motivated to complete work while also building an understanding of responsibility. Also, in order to prepare elementary students for higher, academic grade levels, they should learn self-management skills by taking responsibility for their assigned tasks. As mentioned byWong & Wong (2009), “self-discipline is what discipline is all about” (p.156).

One strategy that I’ve recently seen in my internship placement and plan to implement in my own classroom is the 100% Club. With this strategy, the teacher periodically compiles a list of missing work for each student, perhaps every month. If students are missing more than five assignments on this list, the list is sent home to parents to sign. Once students receive their lists, they are then introduced to the 100% Club reward for that month (usually a party, extra recess, or another fun academic activity). Students are given a deadline to complete their missing work in their own time and turn it in for partial credit. If students with missing work complete all missing assignments, then those students are entered in that month’s 100% Club. Students that had already turned in missing assignments will be automatically entered into the club. While this strategy rewards students, they are not receiving treats and stickers for their self-discipline. Rather, they are working toward a privilege or realistic goal. While treats can be effective in some cases, self-discipline cannot be taught with constant treats and rewards (Wong & Wong, 2009).

In order for this method to be realistically effective, it is also important to reduce additional work for the classroom teacher. At the beginning of the school year, students are taught to be self-sufficient by finding their own missing assignments. The lists that are presented to the students have numbers provided on each missing assignment. Missing worksheets and homework have corresponding numbers to the list and are located in the extras bin, shown in figures 1 and 2. For example, if a student is missing an assignment titled Writing, 3. Opinion Paragraph, the student would look in the Writing folder for assignment number 3. If a student previously turned in the assignment and believes it is mistakenly on the list, they may also check the No Name folder prior to asking their teacher for help. This is a proactive intervention strategy; intervention strategies should be preplanned to prepare for behavioral problems in advance, utilizing a proactive approach to these scenarios rather than a reactive one (Fay & Funk, 1995). Proactive teachers plan for behavioral situations and seek methods to motivate students to be successful. Reactive teachers are more likely to be inconsistent with discipline, also lacking effective communication with students and families (Wong & Wong, 2009).

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Figure 1: Extras bin in 4th grade classroom

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Figure 2: Subject folders and extra assignments located in classroom extras bin

Students are not only learning to take responsibility for themselves, but are also facilitating a deeper communication with parents on their progress by having these lists signed. While witnessing this system in progress, I noticed that for most students, this really helped motivate kids to finish incomplete work in their free time. There are situations that required some adjusting to help motivate students with special needs. For example, students on IEPs may be missing many assignments. Their parents would still be notified but they may have a modification to only be expected to turn in a percentage of the missing work (this is all determined on an individual basis and the needs of the individual student). Other students may have poor attendance outside of their control. The teacher may set up a discussion with the parents/administrator and work out an agreement to have a percentage of missing assignments to be turned in. Finding ways to target social competency skills and incorporate student interest and passion can help students build their skills, while increasing motivation, engagement, and positive peer interactions (Lanou et al. 2011 and Stitchter et al, 2011). Making accommodations for struggling learners can help them become more motivated to be academically successful.

In my own classroom, I plan to have many layers of communication with parents that will be outlined in my classroom management plan. The 100% Club seems to be one method that easily provides motivation to students and communication to parents about their academic progress. Without regular communication home to parents about student progress, it may be difficult to understand why students are succeeding and struggling. Utilizing a variety of communication methods helps the instructor to reach parents before final grades are issued. Furthermore, this communication provides opportunities for students to take the initiative to try to improve their academic progress. Lastly, implementation of communication needs to be realistic in order for it to be possible. Providing systems for students to learn to take on responsibility for their actions helps provide more opportunities for this communication.

References:

Fay, J. & Funk, D. (1995). Teaching with love and logic; Taking control of the classroom. Golden, CO: The Love and Logic Press.

Lanou, A. Hough, L., & Powell, E. (2011). Case studies on using strengths and interests to address the needs of students with autism spectrum disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 47. 175-182. doi: 10.1177/1053451211423819.

Stichter, J.P., O’Connor, K.V., Herzog, M.J., Lierheimer, K., & McGhee, S.D. (2011). Social competence intervention for elementary students with Aspergers syndrome and high functioning autism. Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders, 42. 354-366. doi:10.1007/s10803-011-1249-2.

Wong, H. K. & Wong R. T. (2009). The first days of school: How to be an effective teacher. Malaysia: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.

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