Crafting the Syllabus

A syllabus is an important document. It introduces your students to your class, your policies, and your expectations. I give students a copy of it. They also get a home contact sheet where I collect their parent/guardians information and have both them and the student sign a statement on it that they received the syllabus and understand the policies. I also make the syllabus available on our Google Classroom for easy student reference.

For the high school classroom consider including these policies and expectations in your syllabus:

  • Break down of grades (categories, weights, etc.)
  • Late work policy (or statement that late work is not accepted)
  • Makeup work policy
  • Technology policy (think about cellphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc.)
  • Restroom use policy (unless your school has a campus wide policy that you follow)
  • Cheating/Plagiarism Policy (or a statement reminding them that this policy is in the school student handbook if that applies)
  • Class Rules/Expectations
  • Supply List
  • Remind sign up info (or whatever site you use if you use one)
  • Any information for a class website, Google Classroom, etc.
  • Expectations for how to turn in work (Do you have a bin? Do you take assignments electronically? When is an assignment considered late?)

If you search Pinterest or teacher blogs you will see several beautiful syllabi with images and magazine style layouts. Those are eye catching but don’t feel pressured to make yours look like that if you don’t have the skill or the time. What’s important is the content in the syllabus rather than the way your syllabus looks style wise.

I got the job! Now what?

First year secondary teachers, congratulations on your first teaching job! There is a lot to do to prepare for the year beyond curriculum stuff. You need to think about the following:

  • Will you accept late work? If yes, under what conditions?
  • How will you make sure students receive and turn in makeup work?
  • How will students turn in assignments?
  • How will you organize the papers that you need to grade, enter in the grade-book, file, document, or hand back?
  • What are your classroom rules? Consequences for breaking the rules? Rewards for following them? How will you keep track of consequences and rewards?
  • How will you deal with cellphones, smartwatches, tablets, etc.?
  • How will you manage classroom supplies?
  • What about your restroom policy? How will you handle students request to leave the classroom?
  • How will you document and track frequent behavior issues or missing/incomplete work?
  • How will you keep track of parent contact?
  • How will you keep track of RTI you have implemented?
  • How will you document accommodations or modifications that you have followed for students receiving such things?
  • What is your cheating policy?
  • What is your routine for starting class? Will you have a bell ringer activity? What about a routine for ending class? Will you have an exit ticket?
  • Create a substitute binder or folder and put together emergency sub plans for times when you are unexpectedly too sick to come in.

Organization – Assignments and Makeup Work

This year I have faced some big changes as I changed schools. I went from teaching seven 45 minute classes a day (each one a different prep) to a modified block schedule with six classes being 1 hour and 30 minute (alternating every day) and two 45 minute classes that meet every day. I only 2 preps. I love the new schedule. Here is how I dealt with some of the organizational challenges.

I created a spreadsheet on Google Sheets that I use to track what I have assigned or shown/discussed during the week. I try to keep all of my English classes the same but sometimes they get off schedule due to assemblies, holidays, etc. My spreadsheet helps me make sure that I remember where we left off and what we still need to do. A great thing about Google Sheets is that I can access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

I also created a calendar in a Google Doc for my students to help them keep track of homework, quizzes, and tests. They have a printed copy that they keep in their portfolio to record due dates on. The Google Doc is also linked under the about tab of our Google Classroom so students can check it if they don’t have their printed copy with them. It’s also nice to email the link to parents that want to help their child stay on top of their work. I took the weekends off the calendar to make more space for the other days. At the end of the month I save a copy of it for my records  then on the original I just change it to the next month so the link remains the same.  I like that I can also link to any relevant website. For our vocabulary quizzes I link to our Quizlet deck for that week. I collect them at the end of the month and add it to their participation grade. They must have added all due dates to it to earn their participation points.

I keep a folder on my desk for anything that I have to reference throughout the week such as master copies, copies I use to demonstrate, a list of students I need to check up with, etc.

Absent Work

Keeping up with absent work can be a challenge. Students who know in advance that they will be gone (such as going to a school sanctioned event or activity or a scheduled in advance doctors appointment) must send me an email to request the work they will miss in advance. The emails help remind me to get it ready and help me create a record of who asked for their work and who did not.

For other absences I have a hanging file folder pocket chart on the wall. Each class period has a folder. Students who were absent are reminded to check their class folder for any assignments they missed as well as checking the Google Classroom. This makes it super easy for me to keep up with missing work. I just write down the students name and date on the paper and stick in the folder during class. That way I don’t have to search for it later and the students know where to find it when they return to school. They are expected to check it when they return and they generally have 2 school days to complete and return it unless it was a long absence.

Coming soon: Organizing Paper