As a veteran middle school teacher, I have seen many technological trends come and go. However, there’s one tool that I consistently use with students every year that I feel is an invaluable resource, and one that will never go out of style: student planners! Our planner covers are customized with photography and artwork from the previous year’s students, and include cultural components from our large Native American population. They are an item that both students and families look forward to seeing every year because they recognize it as a valuable tool for students’ success.
How can school planners be successful in your classroom? Here are 5 benefits I’ve experienced from using them in mine.
Planners Keep Students Organized
With an area to write down daily assignments for each class, as well as a calendar to mark when upcoming tests and projects are due, student planners provide a visual reminder that work needs to be completed. A child may have missed the verbal cue from a teacher that an assignment is due, or that they needed to write something down in the planner. By using the planner as an “exit ticket,” the teacher can ensure that every child has written down homework in their student planners before they leave the room.
Increases Students’ Autonomy
Middle school students are often striving toward independence, but still lack all the tools necessary. Having a student planner gives students the freedom to keep track of their own assignments and deadlines, but provides the structure needed to ensure student success.
Planners as Hall Passes
Many schools also use a section in the back of their student planners as a hall pass for the lavatory or water fountain, or to see the nurse. This allows each teacher throughout the day to see if a child really needs to use the restroom, or if they’re using each period to take a leisurely stroll through the hallway at the expense of receiving classroom instruction.
Quick Parent Communication
Student planners are an excellent way to provide notes and feedback to and from home for each subject teacher. At the end of the period, the teacher can initial the previous day’s assignment to show parents that it was completed, or write a quick note about an upcoming field trip or fundraiser. Parents can then check the planner each night at home, review the previous day’s assignments and feedback, and initial that they have seen the teacher’s comments. Parents can also write notes back to the teacher, ensuring a clear and open line of communication that is quick and efficient. This can be especially useful for families who may lack access to the internet or have inconsistent contact information.
Positive Behavior Tracking
For students with behavior issues, the student planner can be a great tool for tracking period-by-period behavior, as well as for praising the student’s progress. For example, at the end of class, a student can discreetly bring up their planner to their teacher, who will give a sticker or smiley face if their behavior has been good. It’s also a chance to address any problem behavior if it needed improvement that day. This gives the child immediate feedback on what they’ve just done, which then helps them self-regulate their behavior more efficiently later on. If they can “see” what they need work on, they are more able to correct the problem area, and when they receive positive praise, they carry that great momentum into their next period.
Each of the above methods has provided successful results for students in my classroom, and ensured that students are well-suited for the academic challenges that they face in my 8th-grade classroom, as well as the road ahead in high school.