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Create a Syllabus for High School Students

Do you remember your first college class?

The day you stepped foot in the door you were handed a syllabus that described the focus and objectives of that class, as well as a clear calendar of topics to be learned and project due dates.

You may have even been warned not to lose it, as another wouldn't be provided (okay, I'm dating myself here. We didn't have electronic copies of things yet when I went to college).

But it was well established that a syllabus was important and yet, I never received one prior to my freshman year of college.

This seems another one of those easy to remedy challenges that can definitely better prepare students who are college-bound and also those who will be going into the workforce, who have to follow a schedule.

High school students are notorious for mismanagement of time. One great way to better teach them to manage that time and become more accountable for their learning is to provide them with a syllabus.

In my AP Literature and Composition class, students receive a syllabus that maps out the entire year, with clear expectations and specific objectives to help students see the whole picture. It doesn't only help students though, it helps me stay on track and see the scope of the year.

Here are some things to include in your syllabus for the maximum organization for all:

  • The title of the course and when and where it meets

  • Your contact information and the best way for students/parents to contact you

  • a brief description of the class

  • a list of objectives

  • assessing policies including how you will handle plagiarism or other academic dishonesty

  • required materials and other resources

  • texts that will be used throughout the year

  • a break down of each unit you will cover with any major assessments

    • consider adding the approximate length of the unit

    • the purpose and expectations of learning

  • the standards covered throughout the year

  • rubrics used if there are any

  • calendar of assignments, including reading responsibilities

Review my whole syllabus here: APLiteratureSyllabus15-16.pdf

Putting these essential pieces of information into a document will undoubtedly help any teacher organize the year and backward plan appropriately for optimal student success and it will help students clearly understand what is expected and the timeline for the full year. This global perspective will ensure focus for everyone.

Following a syllabus is a skill that can easily be taught in high school to better prepare students for their future and it doesn't only have to apply to seniors (although for them is it more of an imperative). The sooner we help students learn to use a syllabus as an organizing tool, the better adept they'll become at finding their own way through it.

Don't be afraid to be flexible with your syllabus and leave a TBD (to be determined) to allow for student input where possible. As long as you're clear with what your expectations are, students will only gain from this experience.

How do you communicate the goals of your courses with students? Please share

*this post originally ran my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in September of 2015


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