This year I overhauled my classroom materials by consolidating each unit unto one single packet that I hand out on the first day of the unit. Although it has taken some trial and error to figure out what works best and it takes a lot of initial prep time, I have found it to be a huge success already. There are many reasons why I like this method of teaching:
- It gives students a clear road map of learning – This is the most important part of the transformation. I put a “goals and activity tracker” page at the front of every packet. I go through the unit’s objectives with the students and they can check off all of the activities as we go through them. Not only does it help students see the flow of the unit but they can actually connect how the activities help them achieve the unit’s goals. So, when it comes time to quiz I simply have them check off the goals if they think they’ve mastered them. It’s amazing how this self-monitoring improves test scores!
- It allows for extension activities and flexible teaching – I create the packets so they contain extension activities for fast learners so they can learn more advanced material without going ahead of the other students. I also create the packets knowing that we might not have time for every activity and that’s okay. Students have all the materials they need so it allows for flexibility in teaching and learning.
- It keeps students (and teachers) well organized – This might shock you, but I have had only one student lose his packet this entire semester. In the past, I had to keep extras of every worksheet because students would lose them constantly. It’s hard keeping track of so many lose pieces of paper, let alone remember the order they go in! But not anymore. Students have not only kept track of their packets, but they actually know what each one is about and what we learned in that unit.
- It creates a nice cyclical routine – Students know that I hand out a packet on day one and it means looking at the objectives. They understand that when we finish the packet that some sort of mastery assignment is coming. They know I will then ask for all of their warm-ups and also I will check through their packets to hold them accountable for their learning. It has created a rhythm in my classroom so students can predict and know what’s coming next.
- It means no frustration with making last-minute copies! – Although this is a minor advantage, it just so happens that making copies is no small task if you do it last minute. Inevitably the copier breaks or runs out of ink and you’re stuck without your materials right when you need them. But by planning ahead with the packet, all the work is done before the learning happens and nothing goes wrong in the classroom. It’s a beautiful thing.