Our district uses a learning system that requires us to assess, analyze data, plan instruction accordingly, and then reassess. One component of this program is creating student ownership. A great way to begin is by having your class/grade level write a mission statement. This is a somewhat painful process for me because I have to stay completely out of it! Without fail, my students choose one that makes me cringe! It is theirs, however, and they love it!
I begin this process by using my favorite tool, the consensus map to help students think about some key questions. I like using this map because the students really have to listen to each other. It is really tough to come to consensus on anything when you are a sixth grader, so creativity and compromise must come into play. This tool requires students to speak their minds and listen to their peers.
These questions include:
Why do we need to be good readers and writers?
What do we need to do in order to achieve our goals?
Why are we here at school?
I pose each question, and have the students go through the consenus mapping process.
1. Each person thinks and writes alone
2. The group discusses what each person wrote
3. Anything the group comes to consenus on, goes in the circle in the middle
After each question, one student per group reports out what their group agrees on, and I type it into a word document as they share.
We repeat this process for each of the questions.
I chose these particular questions to really give the students some time to think about school and their purpose. They know that they have to be at school, but why do they need to be there. I use their very own words through out this process which gives them ownership of the classroom and their learning.
Some teachers create a separate mission statement for each class. I did that last year, and I was constantly forgetting whose mission belonged to whom. Plus, we often switch students around then they lose their mission statement. This year I had all 3 of my classes write one statement which worked pretty well. To begin, I took all of their ideas that I had typed into a word document and copied and pasted it into
This site is awesome and can be used for so many different things, but in my case I chose it because the size of the words depend on the frequency. So, if everyone said a word like "learn" it would show up much bigger than the others. I thought this was a really cool visual way for them to see what other students said. I posted the wordle up on my smart notebook, but you could also print it and give it out to the students.
I asked each group to come up with a mission statement based on the words that show up largest in the wordle. The mission statement needs to be short, catchy, and easy to remember. I had each group write the statement they came up with on an index card.
I displayed these on my document camera, and we had a "heads down, eyes closed, no peeking" vote where each student could choose their 2 favorites. I did this because I figured everyone would vote for his or her own anyway.
I did this process in all 3 of my classes until I had 3 winners.
The next day, I had each student vote for their favorite mission statement.
Every time I say it, I feel like I need to add a disclaimer. Be smart, be prepared, be yourself (Unless yourself is a slacker. Then maybe try to be someone else. Maybe an honor roll kid?) I am only joking! I was pretty happy with their mission statement because it is short, catchy, and easy to remember. It is related to learning and will remind us how we will reach our goals.
Our non negotiable district goal is that 100% of the sixth graders will exceed the standard this year. We know that it is not necessarily an attainable goal, but if we leave a loophole and say that only 85% will exceed, then students will think they are off the hook. (She only needs 85% to exceed so I will just coast by this year)
I post the mission statement up on my learning cycle board next to the long term goal as a reminder of why we are here at school and what we will accomplish by being smart, being prepared, and being ourselves....
The students ended up really liking our mission statement. I think that they will remember it because it is short and simple. Until we have it down, we'll begin each class by saying it together as a way to get focused on our learning.