We are a few weeks away from the official start of the school year in the Northern Hemisphere. Kids are wrapping up their vacations, while teachers dive in the year’s curriculum trying to do their best for students. Part of doing their best means ensuring students have the best tools to learn, and the most suitable environment to do it.
During the past week, we had the pleasure to talking with Alicia Tanpreet Johal, M.Ed, a science teacher and science curriculum specialist at Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego, California. She is a frantic Piktochart user, and designs dozens of infographics per year for her students. Her designs range from class syllabus, to work methodologies or grading techniques. Her goal is to make students feel at home while providing a new, more exciting learning tool for them.
After our chat, we asked her if she would be willing to share her creations with you, and give a brief description of the design and the goals behind each on of them. Lucky for us, she agreed!
If you are a school teacher about to start the calendar year, you MUST read this post. It’s full of super valuable insights and tips!
6 Beautiful Classroom Visuals by Alicia
Apply LENSES Methodology
Is there a skill that you are going to be teaching multiple times throughout the year? For science this could be how to write an effective scientific conclusion. For english this could be how to annotate and summarize a piece of text. For social students it could be mastering data based questions with 5 paragraph essays. For math it could be how to graph a line and write an equation. If you know this skill will be repeatedly taught or referred to, make a graphic for the students. They can keep a copy in their notebook or iPad and refer back to it when they get stuck on a missing step. Flocharts, graphic organizers, and acronyms are great ways to scaffold instruction for your students. Make something they can use not only in your class – but all classes. We use the LENSES guidelines for graphing this year in math, science, and social science classrooms. This was a way for us to collaborate. Make a team of colleagues and come up with some cross-curricular goals and skills to ensure student learning.
Explain Your Grading System
Grading happens differently at each school. At my site this year, we are embarking on a standards based grading journey. We knew this new lingo would present some confusion and many questions from students and their families. We created an easy to follow chart in the science department for students to make connections between what they already know about grades, and applying it to our new system. If your grading is staying the same, think about using Piktochart for rubrics, project ideas, and tic-tac-toe assignments.
Design a List of Skills
Have a discussion with your department this year and try to answer the following questions:
- what are your teaching goals?
- what are your learning goals?
- what are the goals you have for your students?
- what are the goals you have for your department? For your school?
Open the year with honest conversations and expectations and come up with a list of skills your students need to learn. Plan backwards with the end in mind, thinking:
- where do you want your students to be before they head off to summer break?
- what do you need to do to get there?
We all have the content we need to teach, but often the skills are overlooked. Design a list of skills that your students will be able to accomplish this year. Or even better – break it up by each unit you are teaching. Share this with the other departments, administrators, parents, and most importantly – your students. Excite them by showing them everything they are going to learn and explore this year.
Create a Bedazzled Syllabus
Imagine your middle school self. You walk into the room of your 2nd period class and there is a lot to take in. New faces, new chairs, new smells, an eye wash and way too many windows. You sit down at the first open seat and let out a sigh of relief. You made it. The classroom is bright, colorful, and full of projects, models, posters, and lots of stuff you just want to touch. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better – you are handed a stapled packet! Stop. No middle schooler (or any schooler) is ever excited to see a stapled packet of rules and regulations. Even if you print it on pink paper, they still aren’t excited. My favorite Piktochart idea has been the bedazzled syllabus.
A syllabus is not a contract in my class. A syllabus is a way for me to:
- open up the lines of communication
- review expectations
- get students excited about their new year of science
Piktochart has hundreds of images that appeal to all content areas and all ages. Use a template or start from scratch. Whatever you do, make a syllabus that your students want to look at and more importantly – make a syllabus that your students want to show their parents.
Prepare a Social Media Contract
Is your school making a plunge into the educational technology world? Is it your turn to give the digital citizenship talk? Do you remember how boring last year’s slides were? If you said yes to any of the above, then you need to revamp your social media talk at school. Make an interactive and informative document about the do’s and don’t of technology and social media. The students will be more interested in this visual than the slides you made up last year. Have the students do a scavenger hunt with the document to locate the most important information and then print it out for students to take home and get signed by their parents. Better yet, show your sample and ask the students to make their own social media contract!
Make a Fun Back-to-School Classroom Poster
It’s the first day of school and you want to make sure that not only do you set the tone and remember to take attendance, but also make your students feel comfortable in this new space. Whether you are taking in 200 new middle schoolers or 35 new elementary schoolers, the kids are taking everything in – including the door of your classroom. What does your door look like right now? Dark blue paint? Wooden with a window? White and silver? Regardless of what it looks like now, you probably agree that it could use some sprucing. Create a fun welcome back to school poster or a “Welcome to Room It’s-Going-To-Be-An-Awesome-Year” poster to make the students feel at home. Spice it up with images they recognize (like social media outlets) or a quote that resonates with you and your goals for the year. The students WILL look at it, the students WILL look at you, and this small gesture of appreciation for them will start to build relationships beginning with the first day of school.