Instead of waiting for assignments later in the term, begin with questions at the beginning - with the class syllabus. Use these to assess students' knowledge and behaviors. Questions may begin with, "What are . . . ?" To personalize foe behaviors use terms like, " How do you . . . ?"
Write discussion questions for each learning outcome and see if you can't get students involved from the get go.
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See this short article with a vivid chart: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/07/world-education-rankings-maths-science-reading
Read the Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programme_for_International_Student_Assessment
Read the Educational Trust Analysis: http://www.edtrust.org/dc/press-room/press-release/ed-trust-analysis-of-2009-pisa-results-united-states-is-average-in-perfo
Do you agree that we are being shortsighted by not improving education for ALL our students?
Rachel Small, a New Hampshire teacher of fifth-graders, practices a time-honored way of delivering the best learning experience for her students. She uses her own creative abilities and circumvents state guidelines and team practices that deter students.
Small has great plans and dreams for her students and rather than get bogged down with minutiae she encourages reading and writing about their interests. They're only ten and eleven. There's plenty of time for "musts" and "have tos." Small's students are blogging about books and now they are participating in a virtual book club with other fifth graders in another community. Check out the happy faces of the readers and writers.