Before the kickoff to today's big game, you are likely to hear the announcers discuss each team's "Keys to Victory." For example, Phil Simms of CBS may describe how the Broncos need to run the ball effectively, protect Peyton Manning so he has time to pass, and play tough defense against Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
In the classroom, children have their own keys to victory. Over the past couple years, I've discussed this idea with my students before important assessments. Before an end-of-unit math assessment, for example, I ask everyone to identify the single most important thing they need to do to earn a high score. For some kids, it's paying close attention to detail. For others, it's reading the directions carefully, making sure they show all their work, or checking their work carefully at the end.
Once the kids have each identified their individual key to victory, I encourage them to write or sketch that idea at the top of their papers before they begin working. That visual reminder has made a significant difference for many students, providing a quick, simple form of motivation and inspiration and serving as another way to personalize the learning process. Plus, this process helps children understand themselves better as learners and promotes reflective thinking. Many kids like to sketch the "D-fence" sign shown in the accompanying image. In last year's Super-Bowl themed teaching tip, I described how this sign has become an important symbol in our class and represents our team's commitment to paying attention to detail.