10 Classroom Strategies to Dramatically Improve Student Achievement
1. Establish a climate of mutual respect.
Have students develop and agree on a set of guidelines for acceptable classroom behavior, based on the idea of mutual respect and everyone’s right to learn. Enforce these guidelines strictly and consistently and students will rise to your expectations. (Suggested Course – Classroom Management Keeping it Positive)
2. Set high and clear expectations for quality work.
Publish guidelines (rubrics) for high-quality work, and have students evaluate performance against the guidelines. Make sure guidelines are based on local standards for academic achievement, address content (not just format and mechanics) and are sufficiently challenging. Use guidelines diagnostically—not just to assign grades. – (Suggested Course – Raising Rigor In Your Classroom)
3. Insist on high quality by having students polish their work.
Establish a culture of planning, rough drafts, critiques, and polishing work. High quality work does not come easily the first time. Insist on multiple drafts of increasing quality. (Suggest Course – Creating Learning Classrooms for Today’s Students)
4. Get students to read twice as much every day.
Reading is the key to everything, and yet most students don’t read enough. Consider setting a goal of doubling the amount of text that students are reading every day—but make sure the reading is manageable, enjoyable, and personally relevant. Also, have students talk about what they read, and write about it (see below). The ultimate goal is to get kids “hooked on reading.” (Suggested Course – Helping the Struggling Reader Succeed in Grades 4-12)
5. Get students to write twice as much every day.
Students also need plenty of opportunities to write. Consider doubling the amount that students are writing. This doesn’t mean you have to correct twice as much. Use self-evaluation against a rubric, peer editing, and other such strategies. As with reading, make sure that the extra writing is not just “busy work.” Have students write as a means of personal expression, and as a way of clarifying thoughts. Writing, like reading, should be an enjoyable and self-fulfilling activity. (Suggested Course – Creating Enthusiastic Student Writers)
6. Establish a culture of evidence and justification in your classroom.
It’s true that “everyone is entitled to an opinion,” but everyone must be prepared to justify an opinion, using evidence. From now on, make this a rule, for yourself and for your students. Always ask, ‘How do you know that’s true?” “What is your evidence?” Never allow someone to say, “It’s just my opinion” or “I don’t know why I think that.” (Suggested Course – Academic Discourse for All Students)
7. Introduce and discuss at least one new “power word” every day.
“Power words” are abstract vocabulary words that are useful for thinking and talking about content. Power words are words like perimeter, inference, hypothesis, and category. They are the kinds of words that appear in the prompts to test items. Power words help young people think, and express their thoughts, at a higher level. (Suggested Course – Building Academic Vocabulary and Deep Comprehension)
8. Have students think with numbers every day.
Spend at least part of every class period counting, measuring, estimating, calculating, etc. Where appropriate, insist on quantitative evidence. Ask questions like “How many?” “What percentage?” Display data in tables, graphs, and other visual forms—but always emphasis meaning and analysis, not just the collection of data. (Suggested Course – Developing Students’ Mathematical Habits of Mind)
9. Maximize the percentage of time that all students are engaged in the content.
In many classrooms, students spend a great deal of time chatting, sharpening pencils, arguing about grades or homework assignments—and engaging in other activities that are not directly related to the content. In many classrooms, a few students get most of the attention. Take steps to ensure that all students are engaged in the academic content as much as possible at all times. (Suggested Course – Increasing Student Engagement: Planning Outside the Box)
10. When introducing an important new concept or skill, make sure everyone understands before moving on.
Use performance assessments to ensure mastery and understanding. Use cooperative learning and other strategies to ensure that students take responsibility not just for their own learning, but for the learning of others. Have all students show they understand. Establish a classroom culture of asking for clarification and help—and make sure all students get the help they need. Don’t let anyone fall through the cracks. (Suggested Course – Strategies for Assessment-Driven Differentiated Instruction)