A few weeks ago an English teacher I work with was telling me about a problem she used to have with her senior English students. They had to complete a fairly extensive research paper over the course of several weeks, and during those several weeks she would schedule certain days to take them all down to the school library to "do research." Which was fine, except she discovered that often her students would not make very good use of their library time; she'd find them sleeping, or goofing off on the computers, and she ended up spending a lot of her time with them in the library chewing them out and making them get back to work.

Ms. H recognized that her students needed a little bit more help with the whole "do research" thing, so she put together a "goal sheet" for her students to fill out, which turned out to be both remarkably simple and remarkably useful. The goal sheet contains these four items:

  1. Today's goal [for the library visit]
  2. Assistance needed from teacher or others
  3. Accomplishments: List what you accomplish in detail
  4. Where to begin next/Future goals - set new goals

The day before a library visit, she has each student fill out the first two items. As each student enters the library on library day, they have to get their goal sheet from Ms. H (along with accompanying materials like their current outline, current draft of their paper, note cards, etc.). She takes that opportunity to review the students' goals with them and give them any last minute guidance, suggestions, etc., and sends them on their way. After each student finishes their work in the library that day, they fill in the last two items on their goal sheet and give it back to Ms. H, which sets up the students for the next time they go to the library. She said it has really helped her students to clarify their specific goals for their library time, and it also gives her a way to regularly monitor each student's work and provide assistance over the course of a long and complicated assignment.

So a little while after that conversation with the English teacher, I was having a conversation with a cosmetology teacher I work with about her frustration with her students squandering time they spent in the lab. (Her course consists of two main types of instruction: classroom time, which is all about learning the textbook stuff, and lab time, which is when they actually get to practice on mannequins and, eventually, actual people.) She said they all had stuff they were supposed to be working on, but they'd often get sidetracked or start goofing off, and she ended up spending a lot of her time with them in the lab chewing them out and making them get back to work.

I thought, "Hey, that reminds me of something," and I showed her Ms. H's goal sheet, and she said, "This is perfect!" Win!

So for all of you who thought that English teachers and cosmetology teachers and math teachers don't have anything in common, I'm here to tell you you're wrong. (Now if someone could just finish the joke for me...)

Photo Credit: COD Newsroom Flickr via Compfight cc

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