Planning For The Upcoming School Year

I have big plans for the upcoming school year. Foremost among them is to improve my teaching so that my students can learn more. I plan on accomplishing this primarily by more thoroughly, more consistently applying the science of learning in my classroom. 

I will accomplish this by giving my students knowledge organizers (KO) at the beginning of each chapter. The purpose of this is for my students to have an outline with the relevant vocabulary, concept questions/answers, and important diagrams. I will explicitly teach my students how to self quiz with the KO by covering up the term, definition, or answer column with a piece of paper and then saying/writing the answer. For a good introduction and primer on KOs and how to use them, check out this blog from Durrington High School.

erosion and deposition KO

I am also going to  ask my school to pay for a subscription to Quizlet. The purpose behind paying for Quizlet is to get access to the data. My plan will be to use Quizlet in class about once per week for ~10-15minutes, and to require students to use Quizlet for homework once per week. 

The questions students will be answering with Quizlet will involve nearly everything I want them to learn. The content will range from simple vocabulary memorization to concept questions. To see how to quickly and easily make flashcard decks with Quizlet, click here.

Quizlet should improve student learning by giving instant feedback and tracking their answers over time. I can harness this data to directly benefit my students by having them look at their own data and teaching them how to interpret it and then to spend more time studying what they struggle with. 

The data is also where I get the benefits of subscribing. Quizlet will aggregate the data for me and I will be able to see which questions are easy for students and which are hard, and the assignments will be automatically graded. I will have access to all of this at the click of a button, with NO GRADING. So, the hope is that I will improve student learning, be able to give specific feedback to individuals/groups/classes, be able to dig deeper into the content because students will be retaining more due to the spaced repetition and retrieval practice Quizlet provides. AND I should be able to do all of this while reducing my workload!

I am planning on using one more tech based tool, Seneca Learning. In my 6th grade class I will use the KS3 Geography content because it fits perfectly with Earth Science. My plan for this is to provide students with time to go through the modules about every other week. When the content is relevant but we do not have class time, it will be assigned as homework (Most of the modules can be done in less than 10 minutes).

This will be helpful because, like Quizlet, I will get data on student time and performance without having to grade the student work myself, saving time. Seneca Learning also does a good job of providing numerous examples, diagrams, and applications that reinforce and extend what we are learning.

I will need to be careful of how I have students use tech. I think the above tools are helpful, provided students engage with them smartly. In order to encourage this, I will have a zero tolerance policy with tech. If students are on the wrong website/playing, then their iPad will be taken away in a series of escalating lengths.

I am also planning explicitly teaching my students 6 effective study strategies. I will primarily teach my students about retrieval practice, elaboration, and dual coding. I will tell them about spacing, but the spacing will be more passive for my students (it will be based on my planning) whereas the students will be active in retrieval practice, elaboration, and dual coding.

These strategies will help them reap the full benefits of their own study time and improve their use of various study tools (KOs, Quizlet, Seneca, etc). 

One study strategy that I am focusing on in a new way will be elaboration. The elaboration study strategy involves providing explanations of ideas/concepts and making connections between different topics and your life. To facilitate this I made the worksheet shown below. At first, we will do the worksheet together. Then as students become used to the format and process they will have more and more independence.


The goal is to encourage my students to move from memorizing everything (This is a real problem in Taiwan) to seeing the relationships/distinctions between different vocabulary and concepts, which will help their memorization, understanding, and ability to apply what we are learning.

In order to help students make connections between what we are learning in the science classroom and the “real world” I am going to provide students with a handful of articles each month of which they will choose one to make connections with and summarize. They will also cite the article in a simplified format before moving to proper MLA format 2nd semester (Cross-curricular!).

Through all of this, I will give students regular low/no-stakes quizzes that require students to be able to know the vocabulary and concepts and apply them to different situations. The quizzes will generally take between 5-15 minutes of class time. This time includes checking their answers and clarifying misconceptions.

I am not implementing all of this from scratch. Doing all of this from ground zero would be impossible and lead to an exhausted teacher and less educated students. I am not implementing anything new, I am just tweaking how I use various tools with the goals of being more consistent and enabling my students to learn more.

To sum it up, I will

  1. Use Knowledge Organizers throughout my units
  2. Use Quizlet to help students learn both vocabulary and key concepts (retrieval and spaced practice)
  3. Use Seneca Learning to reinforce what my students are learning
  4. Teach and model effective study strategies (retrieval practice, elaboration, dual coding, etc)
  5. Encourage connections to the “real world” by requiring summaries of science articles
  6. Integrate low/no-stakes quizzing throughout all units