How to Teach ALWAYS Actions in Your Classroom

The Teaching ALWAYS Actions™ are “must do” behaviors in the Student Engagement Framework™ (click here for more on this framework). Below, we present a way for teachers to apply these essential teaching practices:

Action 1 Procedures:

The ultimate goal is to get the first day of school off to a good start by communicating and teaching students about the rules and procedures. Students, much like us, want to work in environments where consistency is applied and fairness remains a priority. Remember, students gain better opportunities to engage in learning when they feel safe and cared about. Establishing rules and procedures affords students this safety. We find the majority of students engage in learning when teachers continuously communicate, teach, and assess classroom rules and procedures. When students fail to pay attention to a particular rule or procedure, re-teach and re-assess students. When considering rules and procedureswhat we permit, we promote.

Action 2 Targets:

Students learn when they know what is expected of them. Learning targets communicate expectations to students and help teachers know what they are assessing as students are learning. To help students learn, teachers need to create very clear learning targets and communicate them in ways that students understand what is expected. The Bloom’s Taxonomy Chart provides teachers with the help they need. The verbs in the chart are aligned to various mental levels and let teachers know what to assess and students know what to learn.

Action 3 Practice:

To help students achieve at their best academic levels, teachers need to provide students with opportunities to practice. Think about an athletic coach and a team. The coach wants to do everything possible to prepare each player to win a game. During practice the coach teaches a skill, recognizes accomplishments of each player and the team, and offers feedback to improve performance. The coach engages with the team during practice time for the sole purpose of helping each player achieve at a high level. Transfer this example to a classroom. The learning task (thing students do in class) must align to what teachers expect students to accomplish (learning target). As students perform the task teachers provide specific feedback to recognize what students do well and assist them to overcome learning gaps. Teachers engage with their students during practice sessions to coach every student to achieve the target.

Action 4 Feedback:

How important is feedback? Take a look at the results from a teacher who conducted an experiment to answer this question. She asked students in three different classes (same content and same grade level) to respond to a writing prompt. In one class she only provided a grade (A to F); in a second class she provided a grade and descriptive feedback; and in a third class she only provided descriptive feedback. When students took a test with outside reviewers assessing their writing, students in the feedback only class outperformed the other two classes.

To get the most out of practice sessions, teachers need to provide students with very specific feedback, congratulating them for their accomplishments and providing specific and timely feedback to help them improve their performance. The type of feedback, the time at which feedback is provided, and the way teachers advise students will determine if students stay engaged in the learning process and better yet, own their learning.

Action 5 Grades:

After students practice learning tasks aligned to learning targets while receiving specific feedback, they are ready for the teacher to judge, or grade, their work. Now, teachers need the critical skill of developing good summative assessment tools including tests and performance assessments. Summative measures are included in a student’s grade, unlike the formative assessment of “pulse checks” used during practice sessions.


Asti Kelley, TeacherReady®

Excerpt from: Who’s Engaged?

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