Archive for the ‘Tips for A Beginning Teacher’ Category

‘Getting to Know You’ Activities for the First Week of School

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Part of being a great teacher is really getting to know your students. This can be incredibly difficult when you find yourself looking at thirty new faces on the first day of school. Arming yourself with some great getting to know you activities can help you get to know your students, as well as help them get to know each other.

Human Scavenger Hunt

A human scavenger hunt is one of my favorite activities to do with my high school students, but it would work well with any age group. To prepare, you need to create a worksheet with a list of different qualities, likes, dislikes, etc. on it. Preferably, you should have as many options as you have students in the class. These can be things like “plays football” or “likes broccoli” or “has a sibling.” To increase the difficulty, put things on the sheet like “can recite the alphabet backwards” or “is wearing socks that aren’t white.” Then, have your students walk around the room finding people who fit these descriptions. Tell them to sign their classmates’ papers next to the description they fit, and that each person in the room can only sign their paper one time. If you play, too, you can use that time to talk to your students and learn about them.

Color-Coded Candy

Students love this activity because they get to eat their candy when they are done. To prepare, get a big bag of multi-colored candy. Starbursts work well because few people are allergic to them, but Skittles or M&M’s are also good options. Each color of candy should be matched with something the students have to tell the class about themselves. Write on the board what each color means. Yellow could be something they did during the summer, pink could be a favorite food, orange could be something that makes them happy, etc. You can pick what you want your students to talk about. Then, make sure each student has a few pieces of candy on their desks; the number of pieces is up to you. It is not important that they each have several pieces of different colors. If they end up with four yellow candies, for example, you can have them trade or they have to say four things they did during the summer. Go around the room and have students share their information. As they share, they can eat their candies.

Peer Interviews

Peer interviews are especially good for a speech-based class. This gets the students up in front of the room and talking to the class early on in the year. To do this activity, have the class develop five questions they will ask a partner. You can have them each develop their own questions, or develop five as a class. Then, partner the students. It’s best if you partner them with someone they don’t know well, and the easiest way to do that is let them sit wherever they want at first (because they will sit near their friends if given the option), then pair them up with someone totally across the room from where they chose to sit. Have them interview their partners and write down the answers. When the interview is over, have the partners stand in front of the room and introduce whom they interviewed and tell the class a little about them.

Personal Essays

Personal essays are a great way to get your students writing right at the start of the year. These can be essays you have your students develop into formal assignments, or they can take the form of a more casual journal entry. Ask your students to respond to several questions about themselves in writing.

by Buzzle Staff and Agencies.

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How to get kids excited about writing

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Reading, writing and arithmetic are the basics of our educational system and the fundamentals of any child’s success. There are three stages of literary development that, when properly encouraged, can lead your child to a life long love of reading and writing.

Stage One: Developing A Love For Reading

The most important first step to any child’s education is story time. Reading to your child not only sparks a love for literature, but it improves their focus and attention span. Studies have actually been done to prove that reading to a child grows the brain. Although any book you read to your child will foster their development, there are actually specific types of literature that will really give them a head start.

Classic Fairy Tales:

Start by reading classic fairy tales to your child. This will build a social and intellectual reference for them as well as teaching them to love classic literature. Once your child masters a classic fairy tale, find a deviation of the fairy tale.

For example, if your daughter loves “Cinderella,” check out “The Cowboy Prince: A Fractured Texas Tale.” This book is the “Cinderella” story with a twist. Reading these extra special twisted fairytales to your child will stretch their imagination and help them to understand the classic fairy tale on a deeper level.

Poetry And Rhyme:

Reading classic poetry and nursery rhymes along with Dr. Suessical styles of literature, will help your child to learn to read. Once your child masters the art of the rhyme he or she will naturally begin to make up his or her own. This is a good thing to encourage, as it will soon lead to reading as well as storytelling.

Stage Two: Foster Your Child’s Imagination

Imaginary play is necessary for many reasons. Imaginary play is the number one avenue for learning in children under five years of age. This is the way they grow their social skills, their understanding and this is how their imagination is stretched.

Play dates, dress up and tea parties are all great imaginary play. Non-traditional toys are good too; objects like empty boxes and blankets over tables are all good for requiring the imagination to work. Change your child’s rooms from time to time, this can be as simple as rearranging the furniture. Keep some of your child’s toys in crates so that they can be switched out and rearranged from time to time.

Stage Three: Encourage Your Child To Write

Write It All Down:

You may not be a writer, but your child will see you writing in your everyday life, and even before they know how to write he or she may come to you and ask you to write out one of their stories. When your child asks you to do this, oblige him or her. Write out every broken and silly word. Your child may not be the next Jane Eyre, but indulge him or her anyway. The rewards will be many. This exercise is good for the imagination, the deductive reasoning muscle and if nothing else it will help you bond with your child.

Solve Mysteries Together:

The exercise of reading and writing mysteries is fantastic. Make up mysteries to be solved around the house. Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar? Who left the paw prints on the front door? As your child grows, give them the crime scene and the characters and have them write a story for you.

Purchase Mad Lib Comic Books. These are “fill in the blank” comic books. They are great fun. There are many websites where you can download story cards. These are picture cards that allow you to teach your child story sequencing as well as make up their own stories.

Encouraging your child to write is as simple as turning off the television, reading a book and making up a story; his or her imagination will do the rest.

by Cathleene Filmore.

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A ‘Fresh Start’ to your behaviour management approach

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

What can a fresh start bring to behaviour management? Here are some ideas and exercises to bring to the classroom every day in the pursuit of improved relationships with the students, led by renewed enthusiasm and perspective.

It would be very easy, especially at this time of year, and with the title ‘Fresh Start,’ to turn this ezine into another article on New Year resolutions that seem to be littering the papers and glossy magazines at present. But regardless of the time of year, ‘fresh start’ is a powerful component of any behaviour management strategy. Holding grudges, allowing problems to continue unresolved and failing to repair relationships can all have adverse effects on your ability to respond appropriately and to manage your own emotions.

To continue pursuing issues, or begin where you left off yesterday (or the previous lesson) will simply encourage a downward spiral of morale. Even worse, what may have begun as a low level problem can quickly escalate into a major, on-going incident lasting several days. This type of problem leads to inappropriate responses from both teacher and pupil, sanctions, possible exclusion and most certainly lasting damage to relationships. There is little to be gained from prolonging problems, and if you are in the business of tallying up the number of misdemeanors committed by individual pupils, some will be so far in the red they will never be able to catch up and begin to make progress. It is a little like taking one step forward and at least three steps backwards each lesson! It is important to take your emotional involvement away from the issue and view each session, day and lesson as a fresh start. Don’t build on previous difficulties. Avoid using such phrases as:

  • ‘Every day it’s the same with you!’
  • ‘Your brother was just the same!’
  • ‘Not you again!’
  • ‘We’re just picking up from where we left off yesterday!’

It is not only important to view each lesson and day as an opportunity to make a fresh start; it is also helpful to take a fresh look at the behaviours and problems that cause you stress and annoyance. To continually view certain behaviours as problems will inevitably have a detrimental effect on morale and enthusiasm.

Practical Tips

Here is a simple but effective exercise to change your negative thoughts about problem behaviour into positive targets.

Make a list of the top 10 behaviours that really cause you concern in the classroom or around the school building. Your list may look something like this:

  • failure to comply with adult directions
  • calling out
  • corridor noise
  • answering back and arguing
  • neglecting to bring the lesson equipment
  • latecomers
  • moaning colleagues
  • litter in and around the school
  • low level disruption, such as tapping and humming
  • interruptions.

Once you have composed your list of annoyances, the next step is to rephrase all of them in turn into the exact opposites. Try to be creative in your descriptions. Don’t simply describe the opposite behaviour of latecomers as ‘being on time’. Try to describe the behaviour that would please you and cause your stress levels to remain at normal. This may include:

  • listening to and following instructions without argument or refusal
  • attracting attention appropriately (raising hand or showing a ‘help’ card)
  • sympathetic and helpful colleagues who boost your self-esteem
  • calm, quiet and sensible movement in the corridors

Once you have constructed your two lists, take the first one (the behaviours that annoy) and screw up the paper and throw it away. It is more effective to actually screw up the hard copy paper and throw it away rather than just hitting the delete button! Now all you have left is the list of behaviours you want to see and hear on a daily basis. Spend time developing strategies to nurture these good behaviours rather than dwelling on the negative ones.

Your thoughts and vocabulary can now begin to reflect your fresh start approach to managing behaviour. Each lesson or day brings the opportunity to start again with no overspill of the disruptive behaviour from the previous day. You are now also focusing on the positives, reducing interruptions, encouraging pupils to attract your attention appropriately rather than calling out and taking responsibility to arrive at your lesson on time with all the correct equipment.

Remembering that your thoughts and emotions drive your behaviour, it is important to focus on the positive rather than sink into the negative. Restructuring your opinions and targets for development in a more positive format will restore your enthusiasm. This will allow you to effectively manage difficult behaviour and create an environment in which you can teach and your pupils can learn.

by Dave Stott, who has nearly 30 years’ teaching experience including seven years as a headteacher.

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Don’t Waste the First Day of Class

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Despite the fact that numerous articles have been written on the importance of the first day, too many of us still use it to do little more than go over the syllabus and review basic guidelines for the course. This year I decided to try a different approach, and the results were much more dramatic than I expected. I taught real material on the first day. Despite that, there have been fewer questions about course policies, with some students actually referencing them without even a mention from me. Let me explain how I achieved these results.

On the first day (I used this approach in all my courses), I spent the majority of the time teaching content that related to the overall ideas of the course. Thus, in freshman composition, a course that focuses on experiential learning, I had the students go outside and experience a brief period of blindness. They took turns taping cotton balls over their eyes and leading each other around. We then analyzed the experience and talked about how one might craft a thesis to describe what happened. In a Western literature class, I introduced the major ideas of the Enlightenment and talked about how the interplay of reason and emotion would reoccur throughout the course.

Only after this exposure to course content did I give students a copy of the syllabus. Rather than going through it in detail, I told students that they were perfectly capable of reading it. I think we should start assuming that students ranging from developmental courses to upper-division major classes can read and understand a syllabus. Rather than treating the syllabus as something special, I decided to handle it as another reading assignment.

To prepare students for this reading assignment, I did a brief presentation (I used PowerPoint this year, which I almost never use) on the most important aspects of the syllabus: why students are taking the course, how to get in touch with me, our university’s mission statement, academic support for those with disabilities, how to access the online readings, and the overall structure of the class. I limited the presentation to 10 minutes. I have even begun to wonder if I could skip handing out the syllabus altogether and simply have students print it off themselves and read it before coming to the first day of class.

On the second day, I had students pick up note cards as they arrived for class. I asked them to write on the card any questions they had about the syllabus. In one class of just over 30 students, I answered fewer than five questions, and it took less than five minutes. Even in my largest class, which had the most questions, I was still able to respond in less than 10 minutes. Thus, my presentation of the syllabus took 15 minutes, at best, as opposed to the 40 to 50 minutes it used to take.

I also used bonus questions taken from the syllabus on my reading quizzes. This makes it clear to students who have not read the syllabus that they are losing out on extra points. I have considered giving a quiz solely on the syllabus, as I have heard some professors do, but that seems a bit petty to me. I can see, though, how that approach reinforces the idea of treating the syllabus as class material, just like any other reading assignment.

In the past few weeks since the semester started, I have had more students reference policies from the syllabus than I usually have in an entire semester. Students know how many points I deduct for late papers, and two students in one class wanted to discuss our school’s mission statement. They asked if I believed we are actually trying to live it out (we are a religious institution), something that has never happened in my eight years of teaching here.

Rather than wasting that all-important first day going over material students can read on their own, I recommend we begin by introducing students to ideas from the course. Almost all of us complain about running out of time by the end of the semester, but a better beginning can help us reclaim at least one day of it, if we use it wisely.

by Kelvin Brown.

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Student Learning: Six Causes of Resistance

Monday, August 9th, 2010

A lot of students just don’t seem all that interested in learning. Most faculty work hard to help students find that missing motivation. They try a wide range of active learning strategies, and those approaches are successful with a lot of students but not all students.

Stephen Brookfield writes about students who are beyond being passive about learning—they just plain resist it. He suggests that teachers can’t respond successfully unless they are knowledgeable about the sources of resistance to learning. Here’s a sample of possibilities that appear in his book The Skillful Teacher.

  1. Poor self-image as learners—If students don’t think they can learn, they often resist efforts that seek to make them learn. These are students who, at the first hint of trouble, abandon even fledgling efforts. Any negative feedback just confirms what they already believe: they aren’t smart enough; they will never be able to figure it out. “Developing a strong self-image as a learner—regarding oneself as someone able to acquire new skills, knowledge, behaviors, and insights—is a crucial psychological underpinning to learning.” (p. 217)
  2. Fear of the unknown—Some students resist learning because they are afraid. Students like doing what they already know. They hold on to beliefs that have served them well, especially those passed on from parents. “People committed to eternal verities can withstand years of dissonant experiences and mountains of contradictory evidence that call these [beliefs] into question.” (p. 218) For many students, the comfort and security of where they are causes them to resist going to new places, especially places where beliefs might be held more tentatively.
  3. Disjunction between learning and teaching styles—Most teachers have experienced this: bright, capable students who resist what’s happening in class. Once a student in my class said, with some passion, “I hate discussion!” “Why?” “I can’t figure out how to take notes off a discussion. What are you supposed to write down?” He was an engineering major and talked often about how clear and organized the content was in his engineering courses. Content is configured differently across disciplines. Sometimes students resist when their preferred approach to learning is at odds with how the information is organized or is being presented.
  4. Apparent irrelevance of the learning activity—Students resist learning when they don’t see how or what an activity contributes to their efforts to learn. If it looks like busywork or a waste of time, students resist. Brookfield points out that this is particularly true when learners are paying for their education themselves.
  5. Inappropriate level of required learning—Students get frustrated and angry when they can’t understand the content. They object to unfamiliar language and the fast-paced delivery of complicated material. The frustration quickly becomes resistance. Brookfield also uses the example of teachers who transfer too much of the responsibility for learning to students too quickly. Students resist. The teacher is asking them to do what he or she is being paid to do.
  6. Students’ dislike of teachers—It’s not a particularly pleasant thought, but sometimes students resist because they just plain don’t like the teacher. Maybe objections to the teacher are justified or maybe they aren’t, but sometimes teachers themselves cause resistance.

Brookfield’s list is actually quite a bit longer, but these examples illustrate a variety of sources of resistance to learning. He points out that teachers should not expect to be able to “overcome,” or completely dissipate, resistance. They should work to contain or mitigate its effects.

To do this, he recommends that teachers start by trying to sort out the causes of resistance and decide if the resistance is justified. If the instruction is being aimed at a level way above the level of most students in the class, the resistance is justified and the teacher can do something about fixing the problem.

He offers a number of other useful suggestions. For example, teachers need to build a case for learning. They should explain clearly and often why something is important, why it’s relevant, and why it’s something students need to know. For learners without confidence who are afraid of new knowledge, it helps to create learning situations in which they can taste some success early on.

Finally, teachers will deal more constructively with resistance to learning once they come to accept that it is normal and that students, in fact, have the right to resist. Students cannot be forced to learn anything. All teachers can do is to make the case for learning and work to create conditions that are conducive to it.

by Maryellen Weimer.

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Ways to prevent First – Year Burnout.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Here are my top ten ways to prevent first year teacher burnout. All of these ways have made my first year a success so far. By no means am I perfect, but I am learning each day and I am loving every minute of it!

  1. Simplify your life! You will need lots of extra time outside of school.
  2. Continue your hobbies or interests outside of school for leisure time.
  3. Stay positive and stay around positive people. Negative feeds negative.
  4. Time management. Always use your time wisely. It is amazing what you can accomplish in a 30 minute break!
  5. Set priorities. Concentrate on what needs to be done for the day. Work on  what comes next later. Don’t try to do everything at once and don’t expect to be perfect just yet.
  6. Self – evaluate! Reflect! Do not be overwhelmed by “bad days.” Reward yourself for the “good” things you did each day and learn the “mistakes”.
  7. Organize! Have a specific place for everything!
  8. Ask lots of questions! You never know until you  ask!
  9. Reach out for support both in and out of school!
  10. Get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat healthy. Your students need you each and every day!

Teaching has been the most rewarding thing in my life! Knowing that I am impacting someone else’s life makes all of the time and money I spend worth it!.

by Tara Hollomon

Cedar Road Elementary, Chesapeake.

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101 Things you can do the First Three Weeks of Class.

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010


Beginnings are important. Whether the class is a large introductory course for freshmen or an advanced course in the major field, it makes good sense to start the semester off well. Students will decide very early – some say the first day of class – whether they will like the course, its contents, the teacher, and their fellow students.

The following list of  “101 Things You Can Do…” is offered in the spirit of starting off right. It is a catalog of suggestions for college teachers who are looking for a fresh way of creating the best possible environment for learning. Not just the first day, but the first three weeks of a course are especially important, studies say, in retaining capable students. Even if the syllabus is printed and lecture notes are ready to go in August, most college teachers can usually make adjustments in teaching methods as the course unfolds and the characteristics of their students become known.

These suggestions have been gathered from UNL professors and from college teachers elsewhere. The rationale for these methods is based on the following needs: 1) to help students make the transition from high school and summer or holiday activities to learning in college; 2) to direct students’ attention to the immediate situation for learning – the hour in the classroom: 3) to spark intellectual curiosity – to challenge students; 4) to support beginners and neophytes in the process of learning in the discipline; 5) to encourage the students’ active involvement in learning; and 6) to build a sense of community in the classroom.

Ideas For the First Three Weeks:

Here, then, are some ideas for college teachers for use in their courses as they begin a new semester.

1.  Helping Students Make Transitions:

  1. Hit the ground running on the first day of class with substantial content.
  2. Take attendance: roll call, clipboard, sign in, seating chart.
  3. Introduce teaching assistants by slide, short presentation, or self-introduction.
  4. Hand out an informative, artistic, and user-friendly syllabus.
  5. Give an assignment on the first day to be collected at the next meeting.
  6. Start laboratory experiments and other exercises the first time lab meets.
  7. Call attention (written and oral) to what makes good lab practice: completing work to be done, procedures, equipment, clean up, maintenance, safety, conservation of supplies, full use of lab time.
  8. Administer a learning style inventory to help students find out about themselves.
  9. Direct students to the Learning Skills Center for help on basic skills.
  10. Tell students how much time they will need to study for this course.
  11. Hand out supplemental study aids: library use, study tips, supplemental readings and exercises.
  12. Explain how to study for kind of tests you give.
  13. Put in writing a limited number of ground rules regarding absence, late work, testing procedures, grading, and general decorum, and maintain these.
  14. Announce office hours frequently and hold them without fail.
  15. Show students how to handle learning in large classes and impersonal situations.
  16. Give sample test questions.
  17. Give sample test question answers.
  18. Explain the difference between legitimate collaboration and academic dishonesty; be clear when collaboration is wanted and when it is forbidden.
  19. Seek out a different student each day and get to know something about him or her.
  20. Ask students to write about what important things are currently going on in their lives.
  21. Find out about students’ jobs; if they are working, how many hours a week, and what kinds of jobs they hold.

2.  Directing Students’ Attention:

  1. Greet students at the door when they enter the classroom.
  2. Start the class on time.
  3. Make a grand stage entrance to hush a large class and gain attention.
  4. Give a pre-test on the day’s topic.
  5. Start the lecture with a puzzle, question, paradox, picture, or cartoon on slide or transparency to focus on the day’s topic.
  6. Elicit student questions and concerns at the beginning of the class and list these on the chalkboard to be answered during the hour.
  7. Have students write down what they think the important issues or key points of the day’s lecture will be.
  8. Ask the person who is reading the student newspaper what is in the news today.

3.  Challenging Student:

  1. Have students write out their expectations for the course and their own goals for learning.
  2. Use variety in methods of presentation every class meeting.
  3. Stage a figurative “coffee break” about twenty minutes into the hour; tell an anecdote, invite students to put down pens and pencils, refer to a current event, shift media.
  4. Incorporate community resources: plays, concerts, the State Fair. government agencies. businesses, the outdoors.
  5. Show a film in a novel way: stop it for discussion, show a few frames only, anticipate ending, hand out a viewing or critique sheet, play and replay parts.
  6. Share your philosophy of teaching with your students.
  7. Form a student panel to present alternative views of the same concept.
  8. Stage a change-your-mind debate. with students moving to different parts of the classroom to signal change in opinion during the discussion.
  9. Conduct a “living” demographic survey by having students move to different parts of the classroom: size of high school. rural vs. urban. consumer preferences…
  10. Tell about your current research interests and how you got there from your own beginnings in the discipline.
  11. Conduct a role-play to make a point or to lay out issues.
  12. Let your students assume the role of a professional in the discipline: philosopher, literary critic, biologist. agronomist. political scientist. engineer.
  13. Conduct idea-generating or brainstorming sessions to expand horizons.
  14. Give students two passages of material containing alternative views to compare and contrast.
  15. Distribute a list of the unsolved problems. dilemmas. or great questions in your discipline and invite students to claim one as their own to investigate.
  16. Ask students what books they’ve read recently.
  17. Ask what is going on in the state legislature on this subject which may affect their future.
  18. Let your students see the enthusiasm you have for your subject and your love of learning.
  19. Take students with you to hear guest speakers or special programs on campus
  20. Plan “scholar-gypsy” lesson or unit which shows students the excitement of discovery in your discipline.

4.   Providing Support:

  1. Collect students’ current telephone numbers and addresses and let them know that you may need to reach them.
  2. Check out absentees. Call or write a personal note.
  3. Diagnose the students’ prerequisites learning by questionnaire or pre-test ant give them the feedback as soon as possible.
  4. Hand out study questions or study guides.
  5. Be redundant. Students should hear, read. or see key material at least three times.
  6. Allow students to demonstrate progress in learning: summary quiz over the day’s work. a written reaction to the day’s material.
  7. Use non-graded feedback to let students know how they are doing: post answers to ungraded quizzes and problem sets, exercises in class, oral feedback.
  8. Reward behavior you want: praise, stars, honor roll, personal note.
  9. Use a light touch: smile, tell a good joke, break test anxiety with a sympathetic comment.
  10. Organize. Give visible structure by posting the day’s “menu” on chalk- board or overhead.
  11. Use multiple media: overhead, slides, film, videotape, audio tape, models, sample material.
  12. Use multiple examples, in multiple media. to illustrate key points and . important concepts.
  13. Make appointments with all students (individually or in small groups).
  14. Hand out wallet-sized telephone cards with all important telephone numbers listed: office department, resource centers, teaching assistant, lab.
  15. Print all important course dates on a card that can be handed out and taped to a mirror.
  16. Eavesdrop on students before or after class and join their conversation about course topics.
  17. Maintain an open lab gradebook. with grades kept current. during lab time so that students can check their progress.
  18. Check to see if any students are having problems with any academic or campus matters and direct those who are to appropriate offices or resources.
  19. Tell students what they need to do to receive an “A” in your course.
  20. Stop the work to find out what your students are thinking feeling and doing in their everyday lives.

5.  Encouraging Active Learning:

  1. Have students write something.
  2. Have students keep three-week-three-times-a-week journals in which they comment. ask questions. and answer questions about course topics.
  3. Invite students to critique each other’s essays or short answer on tests for readability or content.
  4. Invite students to ask questions and wait for the response.
  5. Probe student responses to questions ant wait for the response.
  6. Put students into pairs or “learning cells” to quiz each other over material for the day.
  7. Give students an opportunity to voice opinions about the subject matter.
  8. Have students apply subject matter to solve real problems.
  9. Give students red, yellow, and green cards (mate of posterboard) and periodically call for a vote on an issue by asking for a simultaneous show of cards.
  10. Roam the aisles of a large classroom and carry on running conversations with students as they work on course problems (a portable microphone helps).
  11. Ask a question directed to one student and wait for an answer.
  12. Place a suggestion box in the rear of the room and encourage students to make written comments every time the class meets.
  13. Do oral show of-hands multiple choice tests for summary review and instant feedback.
  14. Use task groups to accomplish specific objectives.
  15. Grade quizzes and exercises in class as a learning tool.
  16. Give students plenty of opportunity for practice before a major test.
  17. Give a test early in the semester and return it graded in the next class meeting.
  18. Have students write questions on index cards to be collected and answered the next class period.
  19. Make collaborate assignments for several students to work on together.
  20. Assign written paraphrases and summaries of difficult reading.
  21. Give students a take-home problem relating to the days lecture.
  22. Encourage students to bring current news items to class which relate to the subject matter and post these on a bulletin board nearby.

6.  Building Community

  1. Learn names. Everyone makes an effort to learn at least a few names.
  2. Set up a buddy system so students can contact each other about assignments and coursework.
  3. Find out about your students via questions on an index card.
  4. Take pictures of students (snapshots in small groups, mug shots) and post in classroom, office, or lab.
  5. Arrange helping trios of students to assist each other in learning and growing.
  6. Form small groups for getting acquainted; mix and form new groups several times.
  7. Assign a team project early in the semester and provide time to assemble the team.
  8. Help students form study groups to operate outside the classroom.
  9. Solicit suggestions from students for outside resources and guest speakers on course topics.

7.  Feedback on Teaching:

  1. Gather student feedback in the first three weeks of the semester to improve teaching and learning.

by Joyce T. Povlace.

Teaching And Learning Centre,

University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

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Tips For Effective Parent – Teacher Conference.

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The parent – teacher conference will always be one of the most meaningful encounters of every teacher’s start to a successful year. In order to enable teachers to experience a positive outcome, here is a list of the top ten suggestions. Always keep in mind not all of these may suit your particular style, however these ideas will keep you on the task at hand.

  1. Send out a pre-conference agenda… list two or three items you have in mind and provide the opportunity for parents to list their issues.
  2. Engage in casual conversation to get a feeling of where a parent is coming from … be an active listener.
  3. Always be prepared, have samples of the student’s work ready, and focus on specific objectives.
  4. Set two or three short term goals that will be easily attainable.
  5. Emphasize positive attributes and compliment parents on the job they are doing.
  6. Encourage parents to focus on rewards first, and then meaningful consequences for their children.
  7. Never contradict or undermine a parent’s position; however, be ready to offer suggestions, for example, such as ideas to make homework more manageable.
  8. Avoid any judgmental statements. If you stay with your plan, this will be avoided.
  9. Recap at the end of the conference to go over important topics covered.
  10. Follow up with a short note highlighting positive aspects of conference.

Remember that the conference provides an opportunity to develop a rapport between parent and teacher that will work for the good of the student. It is essential that parents are not only kept informed of their child’s progress, but that the teacher communicates his or her commitment to doing whatever is necessary for that child to succeed. Teaching offers the opportunity change lives, not only students’ lives, but parents’ as well.

by David Connery,

Woodstock Elementary, University of Rhode Island.

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Tips For Effective Parent-Teacher Meetings

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Most successful ventures require partnerships and collaboration. Whether it is a partnership with co-workers, communities, businesses or civic organizations, joint efforts towards goal is essential. With that being said, ample relationships with parents are a most important aspect for student success, and developing techniques for conducting teacher/parent meetings are just as important. Teacher/parent meetings are useful in not only identifying areas of weaknesses for students, such as conduct, academic progress, and study skills, but should be used to build relationships that could counter problems that  may arise later. They establish a rapport with parents as partners in success. When conducting teacher/parent meetings teachers should try keeping these ideas in minds.

  1. Prepare for the meeting: Before the meeting try to identify what the problems are or what you want to discuss. If more than one teacher is going to present, you may try meeting with other teachers to see what problems are recurring in other classes.
  2. What to prepare for the meeting: Gather as much information and and artifacts as possible. This may include grades, portfolios, past work, and logs of previous parent teacher communication.
  3. Identify something positive about the student: All meetings begin with a positive remark and parents need to hear about the positive things that their students are doing. And even though the purpose of a teacher / parent meeting is to identify weaknesses for improvement, acknowledgment of strength is a good way to start the meeting. Not only does it set the foundation for a good relationship with the parent, it also demonstrates that you are for the student and not to debase the student.
  4. Identify a goal for the meeting: Once you identify a problem, identify a goal. For instance, if a student has a failing grade in class, you may want to identify the goal the goal improving the grade for the next grading period. If the direction of the meeting seems to go astray try to re-focus the meeting on the goal.
  5. Be clear and concise: Being positive about students is beneficial, but you also want to clearly identify the problem of the student. This is most important in insuring improvement.
  6. Listen!!!
  7. Be open to suggestions from all involved: A teacher / parent meeting is a partnership and a platform where information can be openly exchanged. Specifically, parents are familiar with the norms of their children. Therefore, be open to suggestions from parents as well as guidance counselors, administrators, or any other parties involved.
  8. Develop a clear outline for improvement: Once a pool of suggestions is formed, develop a plan for improvement. Write down the plan that will improve the student’s performance. Every party involved should have something to do, most importantly the students.
  9. Remember to be clear and concise: For instance, if a student is forgetting to complete homework, he or she may be assigned to write down all homework assignments. The teacher would verify them by signing the  homework assignment sheet, and parents could monitor progress. The process for improvement should be a team effort.
  10. Remember to follow up: Keep the lines of communication open. Contact the parent if improvement does not occur. But more importantly, contact the parent if there is improvement. Not only will this encourage the student, but it will also create a positive relationship with the parent.

by Craig B. Reed.

English Teacher, Heritage High School,

Newport News, Virginia.

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Four Tips for Dealing with Difficult Students

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Managing students who are disruptive, those who lack motivation and appear as though they would rather be any place than in the classroom, is easier when faculty take the right stance. Anything is possible when faculty have faith in the students they teach. Learning starts with a dedicated teacher interested in meeting the challenge of how to present content in a way that successfully navigates the barriers students erect.

Believing in students is the right stance, but it doesn’t prevent students from coming to class unprepared, handing in assignments late, asking for exceptions, and talking in class. The principles of Motivational Enhancement Therapy, originally developed by W.R. Miller and S. Rollnick to help college professionals engage students with drinking problems, offer strategies that faculty can use with disruptive students in class. Each of the four principles described below has the professor acknowledging the problem and then working with the student to develop a plan to correct the problem. It’s an approach built on collaboration.

  1. Express empathy—The professor communicates with the students from a position of power, but the professor still respects the student and practices active listening. Despite the power associated with being the professor, the teacher recognizes that the behavior that needs to be changed can be changed only by the student.
  2. Develop discrepancy—Students are motivated to change when they perceive a discrepancy between where they are and where they want to be. The professor can make students aware of this discrepancy. “You want an A in this course and yet you are regularly losing points by not being in class to take the quizzes.” “You want to be a successful manager and yet you fall asleep whenever you lose interest. What’s going to happen when the staff meetings you’re required to attend get boring?”
  3. Avoid argumentation—Arguing with students only makes them more resistant. It is highly unlikely that the professor is going to persuade a student (whether that student needs to come to class or get work done on time). A more indirect approach may be better. “When you miss class, you are wasting money. You pay for each class and get nothing when you aren’t there.”
  4. Roll with resistance—Don’t meet it head on. Invite the student to think about the problem differently. Rather than imposing a solution, see if the student might not be able to generate one. “You missed the assignment. What’s a fair consequence for that?”

College professors aren’t law enforcement officers. They aren’t expected to be entertainers or hand-holders. They do have the responsibility to create a classroom setting that engages students and fosters relationships based on mutual respect. Students should not IM in class or arrive late or hungover any more than professors should show up the minute class begins, lecture, and leave promptly when it’s over. Learning occurs when both work together, treading softly on differences and celebrating strengths.

by Jason Ebbeling and Brian Van Brunt.

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