Wednesday, February 12, 2020

In a Slump? Thirty Ways to Energize Your Teaching




Even the most dedicated teacher can fall into a slump from time to time. Certain times of the year—a long winter, the days before an extended holiday, or even the last few weeks before the end of the year—seem to be easy times for anyone to find the daily grind of teaching stresses tedious. When you are aware that this is happening to you, it’s time to take action to make sure that your students learn the material that they need to learn and that you can have the productive classroom environment that you want for your students and for yourself. In the following list, you will find thirty simple ways to replace the negative feelings induced by a teaching slump with the positive energy that can help your students enjoy school as they learn to be successful students.



1.     Spend your energy on large problems first and allot less of your energy for the small ones. Choose to deal with the problems that will give you the greatest benefit right away. 

2.     Make it your goal that every student will leave your class with a positive attitude every day.

3.     Keep things in perspective. Ask yourself if the problems you have today will be important next year.

4.     Change the pace. Try three new activities this week.

5.     Increase the ways that you ask students to respond nonverbally. Instead of shouting from their seats, they can hold up cards or give a thumbs up sign.

6.     Plan to ignore the small stuff.

7.     When a task seems impossible, remind yourself of the teachers who made a difference in your life. You can do the same for your students.

8.     Empower your students by designing assignments that allow for limited student options. Give them innocuous choices such as the even or odd problems, essay topics, group tasks, or the best day to take a test. 

9.     You probably need to model more for your students. Most teachers do. And don’t forget to show them what you don’t want them to do, also.

10.  Ask students to justify their answers on a test to encourage deeper thinking. 

11.  Let your students know what activities lie ahead of them so that they have something to look forward to. Try a little countdown to an exciting event to focus them on the positive.

12.  Encourage independence! Tell your students that they must “See three before me” to find answers to questions.

13.  At the end of a lesson, encourage reflection (and positive attitudes) by asking students to tell you what went well during class. 

14.  Build in wiggle breaks. Even older students need a break now and then. 

15.  When students are engaged in learning new material, periodically ask them to stop and write about these three topics: what they think about the subject so far, what they understand about the subject, and any questions they still may have.

16.  Don’t work against the nature of your students. Make the material compelling by incorporating their interests and goals.

17.  Put some color in your classroom world. Break out the crayons or highlighters to help students pay attention to what’s important in their notes.

18.  Paraphrasing is a helpful gateway to other skills. Put students in pairs and ask them to paraphrase material. Then that pair can share their paraphrase with another pair. 

19.  Avoid problems when students finish work early by having other activities for them to complete. Students with nothing to do will amuse themselves by annoying nearby adults.

20.  Increase the frequency of the positive recognition you give students. 

21.  Display student work. Rewarding students in this way is worth the time it takes to arrange it.

22.  Pose a question of the week that is related to the material you are studying but that students need to research independently. Reward the student with the best answer with a little tangible reward.

23.  Set a concrete goal with your students: 100% on every quiz, everyone on time for a week, all homework complete... Use a bar graph to illustrate their progress.

24.  Graphic organizers are wonderful ways to engage students. Busy students are happy students and happy students make happy teachers.

25.  Use a variety of media to capture your audience--movies, art, wikis, songs, podcasts, television, interactive game sites, magazines, advertisements, cartoons, and slogans are just a few of the ways that you can capture attention.

26.  When they ask, “Why do we have to do this?” be sure to have an excellent answer ready.

27.  Use your student’s competitive instincts to your advantage. Create teams to compete against other teams. Best of all, challenge your students to compete against themselves by working to improve their own best performance.

28.  Work with your students to set personal long- and short-term goals for themselves. They will work harder with a clear focus for their work.

29.  Take photographs of your students. Be thrifty and print them out on paper. Your students just want to see themselves on the classroom wall.

30.  Schedule in some fun every day--for you and for your students. Smile together and misbehavior will decrease.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Help Your Students Learn to Work Well Together




It is necessary for teachers to make it possible for students to work well together—an undertaking requiring diplomacy as well as consistent effort on your part. Social inclusion is such a vital aspect of any student’s life that the effort can often result in beneficial dividends for everyone in the classroom.

One of the most important ways to make sure all students feel that they are valued members of a class is to work to remove the barriers to social acceptance that may exist among them. For example, students could feel excluded because they do not know their classmates. It is a mistake to assume that students know each other well. Even students who have attended school together for several years may not know much about their classmates.

Another barrier may occur because students may live in different neighborhoods. If you teach in a school where students may live at a distance or come from very diverse neighborhoods, it is likely that they have not had many opportunities to interact with each other outside of school.

In addition, students who have not been taught how to behave courteously or who have not learned socially acceptable ways to resolve conflict often struggle to form appropriate relationships with their peers. Helping everyone learn how to interact in an acceptable, courteous manner will take time and consistent effort on your part.

Perhaps the greatest barrier that you will have to help your students overcome is the perception that they may not have much in common with a classmate whom they do not know well. With effort and persistence, you can assist students in learning to recognize their commonalities so that they can learn to accept and support each other. Use the tips in the list that follows to guide you as you work to help students remove the barriers to peer acceptance.

·       Make sure that each student’s strengths are well known to the rest of the class.

·       If a student has an unpleasant history of failure or misbehavior, make it clear that it is time for a fresh start and that you are providing that opportunity.

·       Show your students the correct ways to interact with each other. Teach courtesy. It will not take long before students become aware of the expectations that you have for acceptable behavior. They need plenty of models and monitoring until they have learned to cooperate productively.

·       Let each student shine. Every student should believe that he or she is really your favorite.

·       Be sensitive to the differences that divide your students and to the potential for conflict that those differences can cause. It may take a while until you get to know your students well enough to be aware of the social differences that exist among them, but vigilance on your part will make it easier to help students learn to work together well.

·       Make it a point to recognize students who work well with others. Whenever possible, praise the entire class for its cooperative attitude.

·       Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other. These do not have to take up a great deal of time, but can be done in brief activities scattered throughout the year.

·       Plan enough work for your students to do so that they are focused on instruction and don’t have time to discover their classmates’ negative character traits.

·       Promote tolerance and acceptance with a display of posters, bulletin board displays, and encouraging mottoes.

·       Encourage students to share experiences and personal information about their family, culture, and goals while working with each other.

·       Make it very easy for students to understand class routines and procedures and to follow directions well. Students who know what to do are less likely to make embarrassing mistakes for which they can be teased or excluded later.

·       Be careful that you model appropriate behavior frequently, thereby encouraging your students to do the same.

·       Don’t give in to the temptation of rolling your eyes or losing your patience when a student blunders in front of classmates. Your actions could set that student up for social exclusion later.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

If Students Planned the Lesson...





If you were to plug “Great Lesson Plans,” into just about any search engine, all sorts of useful information for teachers immediately pops up. Instead of going online, though, how about thinking about a great lesson from a student’s viewpoint? One good way to find out what students really want is to simply ask them how they would like to learn the day’s material. Or, administer a quick survey (www.surveymonkey.com). Solicit advice via exit tickets or suggestions dropped into a suggestion box. All of these are good ways to find out what your students would like to do in class. Even without that useful feedback, however, it is possible to anticipate the elements of a lesson that students would include. Here are some of the essentials that many students would probably like to see included in a student-created lesson plan.
·       An opening exercise that allows them to chatter away while making the transition to the day’s lesson. The exercise should also be interesting while reminding them of what they already know. Something like a Round Robin or brief discussion, for example.
·       Silly videos related to the topic are always a plus. Even better are student-made videos.
·       Games of just about any sort—low or high tech. Board games are always good no matter what. Student made board games are the most engaging.  
·       Any game that requires players to roll dice is immediately a huge (and noisy) success.
·       The perfect student lesson plan will certainly include sharing, collaboration, or teamwork in every possible permutation.
·       Students like questions that they can answer with relative ease. This sets the stage for activities where they quiz each other. They would also choose to hold competitions where they can answer as a team and not be put on the spot individually.
·       Beating the clock is always fun. So is setting a personal best goal and working towards it.
·       One predictable student preference is being able to shift partners during an activity or switching teams in the course of a lesson. Movement instead of remaining seated all class keeps everyone alert.
·       Music of all kinds. Student performances. Background music. Headphones. Music adds a layer of enjoyment to almost any type of instruction.
·       A countdown to something is always fun. Not a frantic, frenzied race, but a countdown that focuses an activity—such as an online countdown clock to an activity.
·       Students like learning something interesting or peculiar so that they have a good answer to, “What did you learn in school today?” They also like learning interesting and peculiar information just because it’s fun to think about. Weird facts are always fun to know.
·       Students enjoy an opportunity to write on something besides notebook paper. The more outrageous the surface the better.
·       If students were to design a lesson, there would be lots of gaudy coloring. Students would be writing on the board more, too.
·       If there is a lesson with a reading component, students would probably design it in such a way that classmates read it together—and not in that embarrassing popcorn style either, but with friends or friendly teammates to share the reading load.
·       There would also be a component where students do something to help someone else. Whether it be playing an altruistic game such as Free Rice (www.freerice.com), or just helping out classmates, students like to feel that their contributions to the world matter.
·       Having several choices of meaningful and interesting activities to do in a reasonable amount of time would also be part of a student-designed lesson plan. Having a free choice among the choices is even more interesting for some students.
·       Manipulatives, three-D graphic organizers, paper airplanes, and squishy toys are almost mandatory in student-designed lessons. Rubber bands and paper clips would also find a way to be included as well.
·       Finally, in the ideal lesson designed by students, any homework would be something that fits in with their out-of-school lives and interests and can be done simply—without fuss—and in just the right amount of time.