sleep and student performance
Topics of student health continue to come up in meetings, articles, and other discussions for both teachers and administrators. As we continue the dialogue, I would like to share an article I read this week pertaining to sleep and adolescent performance in school.
The school schedule is, and has been, fighting the internal clock of adolescents for decades. As the article below explains, a teen has a natural desire to stay up later and sleep into the morning. Our school start time of 7:30am is 20-30 minutes earlier than the national average and an hour earlier than researchers recommend school to start for students at this age. The NPR article highlights a fairly small study with some telling results. In short, pushing the school day back one hour was a large task for the adult leadership of the school district, but it has led to positive outcomes in attendance, performance, and most importantly, student health. The article it is definitely worth a read.
Considerations for teachers
While modifying the school schedule is not within our mandate, we do have power over the daily structure of our classes. If students are short-slept and not biologically awake at 7:30, it would be smart of us to structure the first half hour to 45 minutes of the block 1 class differently. Beginning with lecture-based direct instruction or homework review might be counterproductive if our population is not altogether ready for that at 7:30. Perhaps we should consider periodically infusing the following structures or strategies to get block 1 started off on the right foot.
In-School Flipped Classroom: Flipping the classroom has been a buzzword for awhile now, but maybe it doesn't need to happen at home. With the wealth of online videos, articles, and other tutorial materials, a 10-15 minute flipped model to start the day might get you closer to that standard 8am start time and prep the learner for the day's instruction.
Self-Assessment and Peer Review: These strategies have proven to statistically improve achievement for learners. By beginning the block with a student assessment of performance, we can refocus the learners to the content and skills that we were building last block. A think-pair-share is a great class starter already; add the assessment piece to get the learners engaged in the revision process at the beginning of class.
Class Discussion: A well-structured class discussion provides a 2 to 1 effect on student achievement. Students might be slow to get started early in the morning, so providing prompts, topics, or videos could be useful.
Facilitate and Provide Feedback: In a more standard class schedule, the teacher may check homework or begin the class by diving right into content. If we take 10-15 minutes at the beginning of class to review, reflect, discuss, assess, and provide feedback to our students, we will have a higher chance of activating prior knowledge, which is very important to the learning process. While the ability to grade and provide feedback for every student's homework is not necessarily feasible, we can zero in on those we know need our input and support. A two-minute conversation with formative feedback about a performance task is engaging for students and should be utilized whenever possible, especially at the beginning of the class.
Hybrid Learning Stations: Learning stations get students up and moving through a variety of tasks and learning groups. I like utilizing this early in the day because sometimes students just need to get the blood moving a bit. Creating a Hybrid Stations Agenda requires preparation, but the teacher gets to facilitate learning in a more individualized manner when students are progressing through the block in smaller groups or pods.
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