Ideas for Next Year…Already?

The end of the school year brings a lot of things for teachers: frantic efforts to help students pass, piles of grading, the ritualistic cleansing of the classroom, and of course, a couple of days off before we start preparing for next year.

Of course, for the obsessive among us, we have already begun planning, plotting, and prepping brilliant activities and assessments for next year. I’m no different – I’ve already begun hatching maniacal schemes that I can inflict on students from Day 1 next year.

I thought I’d share a couple of those ideas and, hopefully, get some feedback from more experienced, battle-hardened educators.

1. iGoogle. On day 1, I am planning to introduce students to the world of Google by having them create a Google account and an iGoogle page. I have a lot of reasons for this, not the least of which is that students can use Reader to subscribe to their teachers’ websites. Other connected ideas including using Google Docs (and Forms), shared calendars, to-do lists, bookmarks, and a host of other potentially useful and productive tools. My thinking is that, once it’s been created, this is something students should use every day outside of school (and can customize to include some “fun” stuff, as well.

2. Documenting Standards. We have a host of standards we expect students to meet over the course of the year – reading targets, writing targets, district outcomes and indicators, even the NETS. We try to document students meeting those standards by creating good assessments, but the students still feel like they don’t learn anything.

My plan is to give them standards worksheets at the start of the year, and over the course of the school year, they will accumulate “evidence” (read: assignments) that document how they have met each standard over the course of the year. For each standard, they will also write a short reflection, explaining how this proves that they met that standard.

I’m still not sure what standards I’ll be including, but I’ll definitely include reading and writing targets and our outcomes and indicators. In addition, I could include the Habits of Mind, thinking skills, NETS, and who knows what else, but all of that might be too much work. What I really want to do with this is minimize the environmental impact by doing it all digitally. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we have the access for that quite yet.

3. Digital Turn-In / Paperless Grading. I’m thinking about having students submit essays either via email, through Google Docs, or through a wiki. I’m still not sure if this is a good idea. I know Word has some great features for editing and commenting, so that might be the best option. Anyone with experience doing this? I’d love to hear how you set it up. I already use “Track Changes,” and I’ve read some stuff on using macros for common mistakes/comments, as well as some Word add-ons that look pretty cool. I’d love to take it a step further and do this all the time.

These are just a couple of the ideas I’m already getting jazzed about for next school year. How about you? What are you already planning to do differently?


4 responses to “Ideas for Next Year…Already?

  • Mark Isero

    These are great ideas. As for how students should turn work in, I highly suggest Google Docs. It has worked well for our school. Only potential issue: Some students lower their standards when turning in things electronically. Somehow, printing something out seems more “final” and “professional.”

  • Ms. Teacher

    I inevitably find typographical or small grammatical errors in my work only after printing it out! I suspect the quality of the final work would decline both mechanically and organizationally, unless students were instructed to work with printed drafts before submitting the final copy digitally.

  • thehurt

    @Mark: I’ve definitely been leaning towards Google Docs and you might have pushed me over the edge. One question: How do you set up the “turn in” process? Do they each have their own accounts and share their docs with you? Or do you do something different?

    @Ms. Teacher,
    Interesting that you and Mark have each had the same experience – gives me something to think about. I think it’s a mentality – like Mark said, the printed paper seems more “final.” Obviously in the “real” world, this is not always the case – I just sent a formal proposal via email that was “final.” Do you think this is something that falls on us to teach (i.e. that digital does not equal “draft”)?

  • Rich

    Have you thought about an electronic classroom on the Web? There is a great site called “” which is similar to all the students’ facebooks, but it is completely customizable by you! You could create a page in which the students can post daily, interact with each other outside of you room, and even feed off of each other for ideas. Its also a great way to have HW turned in or work proofread by their peers. And because its online, everything is stamped with a date and time.

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