How Do You Know If Your Students Are Learning?

Since I’m a math teacher, I love data. I know I’m in the minority. Collecting data on students shouldn’t be that difficult. How do you know if your students are really “getting it” if you don’t assess, collect data and plan accordingly?

I like to collect data on questions on tests. I want to know what the most missed questions were, so I can reteach that material again. If you don’t have time to collect the data yourself, let the students help. Have them go put tally’s on the board for the questions they missed! Now you can analyze the most missed questions.


It’s hard after a test to find time to reteach, so be creative! I have a resource for ideas on recycling weak objectives. Check it out!

Recycling Weak Objectives

When things are crazy at school and you feel like you are unorganized and you are behind in your curriculum, remember your real purpose: to teach kids! Really teach…so they learn. If they aren’t learning and you’re working harder than them, something is wrong. Take a deep breath and gain control. YOU know what is best for your students. Make sure they are truly learning.

When I was a young teacher I remember saying, “Well I taught it to them, so I can’t help it if they don’t know it.” That’s awful! I presented the material, but I didn’t check for understanding. I didn’t ask good questions and I apparently was not planning on reteaching. I hope you don’t make the same mistakes as me. Teaching is very rewarding when you see good results. Ask yourself when you are planning a lesson, “How will I know if they got it?” Formative assessments are quick checks to see if students understand.

Examples of formative assessment: Asking questions as you walk around, a quiz after a lesson, a ticket out, a quick write, partners retelling how to do a process…the list goes on. It doesn’t have to be spectacular, but it does need to be done on a daily basis.

Plan your formative assessments and you will be amazed. You will learn very quickly, what you need to immediately reteach. You will also figure out quickly how to teach it differently AND by the end of the day, you know the best way to teach that particular topic.



The Secret to Discipline!

For years I did not know what it took to have discipline in my classroom. I’m an easy going person and it’s not in my personality to deal with behavior. I’ve had some miserable years where I let kids get away with too much and I would go home exhausted and upset.

I usually give surveys at the end of the year to help me improve. One year in the survey, several kids said that they had a hard time learning in my classroom because I let kids disrupt the class and I did nothing about it. Wow! I felt awful. That woke me up. I looked at my classroom full of students a lot differently after that.

I was a coach for many years and I felt like if I wrote referrals and sent kids to the office, that it looked like I couldn’t handle my business in my room. Coaches are supposed to have total control, right? I also was lazy and didn’t want to go through all the steps it took. The thought of documentation, calling parents and setting up conferences was enough to keep me from finding a good method of dealing with behavior issues.

Here’s what I finally learned that worked for me:

Secret #1: Be firm. Not too nice and not too mean. You have to find a happy balance. If I say something, I have to stick to it. If I tell someone to be quiet or I’ll call their mom, then I have to call their mom. That’s not being mean, it’s doing what I said I was going to do.

Secret #2:  Start from the beginning. It’s hard to try to discipline in the middle of the year. You will have a very hard time getting your students on track if you wait that long. On the first day of school, if you notice a kid that is already being rowdy, that’s a warning sign. Ninety-nine percent of your kids will be very quiet the first day of school. I’ve been teaching for 30 years and I’ve noticed that the kids that are bold and rowdy the first day could be the ones you need to start with right away. (Hey that rhymes! First Day…Right Away!)

Secret #3: Have a plan! Create a plan you can live with. It needs to be something that you will follow and something that your administration will back. It needs to include documentation, notifying parents and conferencing with the student. I have a plan in my TpT store that does exactly this:

Behavior Plan for Secondary Students

Go check it out if you’d like, but it might not fit your personality or your situation or grade level. My plan is for secondary students. It will probably work for students as young as 5th grade. If you are a young teacher, get with a veteran teacher and ask them what they do. You will be so glad that you put a plan in place. Your students will love you for this and you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a classroom where you can actually teach.

So remember:

*Be firm

*Start from the beginning

*Have a plan



Procedures in the Classroom

If you’ve been teaching awhile, you know how important it is to establish procedures in your classroom. It’s better to over do it than not at all! If you are new to teaching, do not assume students know how to get started when they walk into your room. Tell them your expectations. I go through my procedures using a PowerPoint presentation on the first day of school. Here are some of my slides:

Trust me when I tell you that your year will run smoothly if you have procedures in place. I’ve  learned the hard way. Ask fellow teachers that are teaching your same subject and/or grade level. They can help you with procedures. Yes, it takes time at the beginning to get things rolling, but stick with it! You will be so glad you did!

Let me know how your year is going. If you need a discipline plan to follow then you can find one in my TpT store.

Discipline Plan for Secondary Students