Inspiring college readiness isn’t always as easy as teaching the standards.
It’s no secret that the Common Core Standards are designed to help students become “college ready” by the time the graduate high school. It is a beautiful ideal.
A few years ago in my school we designated a couple days a month to be college readiness days. On those days teachers were required to “do some type of college related activity.” Super specific huh? I bet your school administration never does that to you right?
That year I was teaching first grade, and my team decided that the first school wide college day we would simply have a discussion about what our students wanted to be when they grew up. Then we would talk to them about how college could help them achieve their dreams.
Well, that activity was a total flop. I was teaching in a poor inner city neighborhood. As I should have expected, most of my students wanted to be just like their parents when they grew up. (Duh!) While many of their parents worked hard at respectable jobs in the community, none of them needed to go to college to achieve their goals. Telling them they should consider going to college as a means to achieving their dreams involved a lot of stretching that day.
There were a few more misses that year before we started to get the hang of it, and today I though I would share with you some of the takeaways I learned from that year of teaching in uncharted territory.
You can’t want to go to college if your dreams won’t get you there.
One of the first and best ways to inspire college readiness in students is to help them to dream big. In pre-k and kindergarten one quick and easy way is to bring back the dramatic play center. Don’t just have a play house and dolls though, be intentional in setting up play that helps students envision themselves in a college- needed career. How about setting up a play doctor’s office, or veterinarian? Other ideas include, a play science lab, classroom, or nature observatory (magnifying glasses, terrarium, and pretend field journals).
Another way is to have guest speakers from the community come to your classroom and talk about what they do, get children exited about it, and mention that they went to a great college.
Read about people just like them who went on to exciting careers they might like.
Don’t just read biographies though, because children and adults alike often subconsciously attribute some magical quality to famous people which caused their success. Instead choose books that feature everyday people and children talking about what careers they love. There are several books series written for just that purpose. Some of these books feature children, talking about careers they might like, and why. Books about everyday people are relatable and your students can visualize themselves in those careers through the eyes of the children on the pages.
Emphasize careers when you talk about student learning objectives for the day.
Instead of saying “today in science we will learn about the planets” say “Today we are going to be astronomers.” I have found it best to do this for one subject/unit a week. Make a big deal about how your students are beginning a course of study that can lead to an interesting future career.
Your students may not yet know what they want to be when they grow up, but they can set goals for themselves that will open doors to more and more future possibilities for them. Talk about what it will be like when they achieve their goals. Sure, they may change their minds loads of times, and they probably should, but the principals of hard work and determination to achieve your goals is the same either way.
5. Celebrate achievements as step in the right direction.
This is often referred to as a growth mindset. Instead of celebrating success as a hard and fast thing, celebrate the work towards a goal. Always attribute praise to a students hard work and determination, rather than to some intrinsic quality. For example, say, “Doesn’t it feel great to see you hard work paying off?” instead of “you are so smart.”
Encourage college readiness in your students by getting them to dream big, work hard, & never back away from a challenge. It can by one of the most challenging and most rewarding things you teach your students this year.
Looking for resources to help your students discuss their college readiness goals at school this year? Check out these resources from my TPT shop:
Want to read more helpful posts by some great teacher bloggers? Check out February Teacher Talk: