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  • The Engaging Classroom

​ Identifying Your Students' Strengths and Needs

By Towanda Harris
 | Apr 28, 2021

Walking into a classroom for the first time can cause a whirlwind of thoughts to whip around in your mind. There are so many factors to consider about the success of your students in that school year. Outside of academics, you have to consider parental involvement, student behaviors, administrative support and, of course, resources.

You would love to share stories of how your summer preparation is the same year to year. You would love to say that your reading corner is organized the same each year. You would love to say that classroom arrangements stay the same throughout the year. In this fantasy land, we could just unpack our labeled containers and unroll our anchor charts and quickly begin teaching, day one.

Reality is very different. Changes occur midyear because students are not thriving. We all know this feeling. Just as businesses consider their customers when creating new products, we consider our students when developing our plans of action each year.


In every classroom, you’ll find a range of students, from those who are working several grade levels below to those who are working above level. The only way we can equip our students for success is to meet them where they are, and the only way to do that is to get to know their needs and strengths.

Knowing our students helps us to choose the most useful resources for them and to make every moment of our precious instructional time count.

You can continue your professional learning with Towanda Harris by watching this free ILA Webinar, “Journey to a Student-Centered Classroom: Equitable Practices That Make a Difference,” and by downloading a free sample chapter of her book, The Right Tools, from Heinemann.

From the classroom to the district, Dr. Towanda Harris has trained teachers throughout the state of Georgia. She brings almost 20 years of professional experience to each of her sessions. Her workshops are engaging and provide teachers with useful tools that allow them to reflect on their current practice. Originally an elementary school teacher, she has served as a literacy coach, adjunct professor, K–12 staff developer, and curriculum writer.

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