Creating an environment for learning is the foundation for all instruction within a classroom. It is critical that the foundation is solid in order to build the learning community in the classroom. Classroom Instruction That Works identified five activities that a teacher can do to create an environment for learning – set objectives, provide feedback, reinforce effort, provide feedback, and implement cooperative learning. One way teachers can integrate all five of these activities in an effort to establish a learning community is to provide students and their parents with a syllabus.
Colleges and university have been providing syllabi since their existence; however, many K-12 teachers have not implemented a course syllabus as a standard practice to create an environment for learning. When students enter a university, there is no guessing game about what is expected and how they will be evaluated. K-12 teachers have to eliminate the guessing game. The easiest way to do this is to document how they plan to deliver instruction and their expectations of students.
A simple way to provide students and their parents with a syllabus is to create an online syllabus using a free blogger account, such as, WordPress. Once you create your account, you can go to Pages and add a page entitled, Course Syllabus. (I believe there is already a default page, About Me.) Make sure your syllabus has the following components:
- Course Title
- Course Start and End Dates
- Instructor’s Name and Contact Information – Teachers should provide their personal contact information, such as, an email address and cell phone number. I’ve always provided my home phone number before cell phones were popular. Students and parents do not tend to use them when you are transparent.
- Course Description
- Learning Objectives – If your state uses the Common Core Standards, then copy and paste the standards that pertains to your course here. (Or, provide a link to the standards.)
- Required Course Materials – Provide the list of the textbooks or online sources that you will use to teach the course. You can even have a link to your supply list here. (Click Add Media and upload your supply list, so that, students can always download their supply list.)
- Grading Criteria – This is very important to students! They need to know what types of assignments they will have to complete and how their assignments will be graded. RubiStar is an excellent tool to create rubrics that can be used to evaluate students’ performance.
- A Description of the Category of Assignments
- Weights of Categories of Assignments
- Grading Scale
- Policies and Procedures – Explain how you plan to deal with late submissions, plagiarism, and online behavior. Many of these policies are probably in your school district’s discipline policies. However, for those policies not covered, you need to be explicit about how you plan to deal with anything that could arise. You also need to discuss how cooperative learning is a part of the learning environment in the course that you will facilitate. So, it is imperative that you discuss participation.
- Pacing Guide – As a K-12 teacher, you might not want to do a weekly pacing guide. That can be quite extensively for 40 weeks. Since in my school district, students are given quarterly report cards and a progress report at the midpoint of the quarter, I list the concepts that will be covered every 5 weeks for the school year.
Here are some samples to help you:
- University of Illinois College of Business
- Penn State University Systems Engineering Online
- University of Florida Online Course Syllabi
Once you finish your course syllabus, let the readers and me know by pasting a link to your syllabus as a response to this blog post.