“Check-Ins” That Allow Student Ownership of Education

If there is anything that I am a huge advocate for, it’s student ownership of their education. Allowing students to take ownership over their education solves various issues that arise year after year such as apathy towards grades and behavior problems in the classroom. Students that are in charge of what they are learning, and can advocate for themselves inside the classroom are empowered. They want to do better because they feel as if they are the ones in control of what they are learning. If you wish to create empowered students in your classroom, one way to start is to create a “Check-In” system.


Students need to know what the end goal is before you begin a unit or a lesson. There is nothing I enjoy more than going to a training where the day is mapped out and it is clearly evident what I will be gaining from the hours I am investing in their program. Students respond similarly. So, before I begin each unit or a major lesson, students are asked to go do a Check-In.


Student Check-In Station

In my classroom, I have a cardboard organizer where each student has their own folder. I teach enough students that some slots have three or four students’ folders in one slot – the students get used to sharing. When the students are asked to do a check-in, they go back to the organizer, grab their folder, and locate the exact page I have listed on the SmartTV (yes, my district is quite fancy).

I designed a rating scale for each of the Informational and Literature Reading Common Core State Standards that was SUPER student-friendly. I transformed each Reading Standard into an “I can…” statement at the top of a page that students can understand without much explanation from me. Then, underneath the I can statement is a rating chart from 4 to 1, where 4 = “I got it!”, 3 = “Almost!”, 2 =”Kind of” and 1 = “Nope”.


Each number has a corresponding emoji because that’s what my kids absolutely love right now. For each rating, I broke the standard down into a few bullet points to make choosing their rating a bit more scientific than just guessing. My students will read the bullet points and mentally check-off which ones apply to them.

They then give themselves a rating under the Tracking My Progress section, provide an explanation for why they rated themselves that and then write down one solution for improvement in the future.

Once they have finished their Check-In, they return their paperwork to their folder and return their folder to its slot. Then, class commences! We repeat this process halfway through the unit, and then again at the end of the unit. This prevents any students from slipping through the cracks and intimately informs my teaching on an individual student level.

Etiquette for Check-Ins

The biggest reason that Check-Ins work and continue to work for me are that students trust that what they write inside of their folders is only between them and I. I do not read them out loud in class, nor do I address my concerns about their answers in front of any of their classmates. If I need to do re-teaching, we decide on a time for additional practice with a standard without making it extremely obvious to their classmates that they felt inadequate. Students can be kind of hesitant at first to admit that they don’t know something, so make sure you handle the first round of Check-Ins well. After they build trust in you, they will start to be brutally honest in their Check-Ins, which is fantastic for informing your future teaching.

Please be sure to check their answers after class. I often will place a check-mark near students who felt they were in the 3 or 4 range, and I will leave a short note to any students who felt they were a 2 or 1. This shows them that I am reading what they are writing, and it gives us another line of communication outside of class discussion or having to approach me one-on-one after class.

If you plan to implement a system that empowers your students’ learning in some way, write to The Genius Educator and let us know what you have planned!

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