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.

Grading Made Easy

I am always looking for ways to make grading go quicker. Through Pinterest I discovered an app called ZipGrade. It is fantastic! ZipGrade allows you to create your own answer bubble sheets (similar to Scantrons) and to grade them with your smart phone or tablet! It is great for exit tickets, quizzes, tests, or any multiple choice or True/False (T/F) assignment. You can create answer sheets with up to 100 questions. Free download and 100-scans per month or Unlimited Scanning: $6.99 for 1 year. I purchased the unlimited scanning option and do not regret it. It has saved me so much time!

I use it to instantly show students what they scored and which questions they got wrong. It also gives me the feedback to know quickly if they got the material and we can move in or if they haven’t grasped it yet and we need to slow down. With multiple choice and T/F reading quizzes ZipGrade allows me to see at the beginning of class who read the assignment and who did not. With quizzes or multiple choice / T/F assignments they turn in the answer sheet, I scan and keep it, then we go over the assignment together. They also marked their answers on the actual assignment. It allows me to collect the grade and immediately be able to discuss the answers and why those are the right answers so students can learn from their mistakes while the material is fresh on their mind.

It takes a photo of the answer sheet and saves it so you can pull it up online if you need to see it again. If you use an answer sheet frequently (such as a 5 question exit ticket) you can laminate it and have students use a dry erase marker. Simply have students erase it after it has been scanned and reuse the answer sheets for the next class.

Features:

  • Download and print free answer sheets
  • Install ZipGrade
  • Create new quiz and define key
  • Scan and grade papers
  • Review item analysis and graded papers
  • Export PDF or CSV reports
  • Use with or without student names and ID numbers
  • Internet access not required to create quizzes, scan, and grade.
  • Import student rosters (CSV) via ZipGrade Cloud website
  • Create answer sheet packs with student names and ID numbers pre-filled
  • Multiple marking and scanning options
  • Click through item-analysis to groups of students
  • https://www.zipgrade.com/

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