Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

Yes, there are Advantages to Online Classrooms

November 12th, 2020 | Comments Off on Yes, there are Advantages to Online Classrooms | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

After about six months’ worth of online, in-person, or hybrid classes, what do you think about virtual learning? Has teaching gone the way you had hoped and planned? Your answer is probably no. However, there are advantages to the online learning platform, whether you are teaching in that format or are taking professional development or advanced degree classes yourself. 

Since the spring of 2020, millions of students and teachers worldwide have experienced at least one course by computer, whether it was by choice or not. Many classrooms were forced into a virtual platform because of COVID-19. Neither students nor instructors were prepared for the adjustments required, from lesson preparation to assessments to technical difficulties. 

It is time for a little evaluation of teaching and learning virtually. There are quite a few benefits inherent in online education. 

  • The classroom setting can be anywhere. Choose to teach (or learn) at the kitchen table, your bedroom, on the front porch, a home office, or any other place. There is no commuting time or worries about traffic, high heels are optional, and (usually) only your head and shoulders are seen in class. It is smart, though, to utilize a relatively undisturbed area for class time.
  • Virtual learning has few limits. Classes are available on any subject from anywhere in the world. If you teach second grade but are interested in art found at the Louvre, you can do it or sign up for an online class in math or reading to brush up on those skills for your own virtual classroom. 
  • Online education does not cost as much as in-person classes. Expenses rise each year to attend school, from private preschools to public middle and high schools to prominent universities. While some classes may be better in traditional classroom settings, like a biology lab or a communication class, most programs work quite well online. Instead of paying sometimes exorbitant fees to sit in a classroom, many courses online are free or as low as $50, in some cases, depending on the institution and program. Financial aid is available, too.
  • Classes may be self-paced instead of requiring due dates. Complete assignments when you are ready. If you have a full-time day job, study at night. This type of schedule can be more challenging with a traditional school setting.
  • Add to your resume. Whether you take online classes yourself or are now teaching them, there are related skills that you can add to your portfolio. 

Obtaining an online degree or teaching courses virtually can be a convenient and less expensive means of imparting or receiving knowledge. Educators are always learning new things. Embrace the changes and add a few more skills to your already extensive educational repertoire.

 

The #1 Way to Thrive – Not Just Survive – This School Year

October 29th, 2020 | Comments Off on The #1 Way to Thrive – Not Just Survive – This School Year | Certification Prep, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Whether you are a brand-new teacher or a veteran who has had some challenging school experiences over the years, there is one thing you can count on. This year will be different. Whatever you anticipate – it will likely exceed all your expectations – good and bad.

Covid-19 has changed the “face” of education, quite literally. You may be required to teach in-person classes, a combination of in-person and virtual (hybrid), or completely online. You may start the year one way and it may change after a week or a month.

Teachers need not only survive the 2020-2021 school year, but they also need to learn how to thrive despite demanding and ever-changing circumstances. How can you do that? BE FLEXIBLE.

Flexibility is one of the hallmarks of a good teacher. Situations arise all the time that necessitate rearranging your schedule, lesson plans, route to the cafeteria, teaching style, and so much more. This year, being flexible can save your sanity.

What can you do?

  • Do not create lesson plans too far in advance. Ultra-organized teachers often develop lesson plans over the summer, at least for the first several weeks of school – not the best idea for this fall. Try not to make plans for more than a week at a time, as they will probably change. It is much easier to rearrange a week’s worth of lessons than an entire month.
  • Prepare lessons that are easily adaptable for face-to-face teaching as well as online.
  • Stock up (if you can) on cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer. If you do not use them in the classroom you can always keep them at home or donate them.
  • Practice talking all day from behind your mask. It can get stuffy. One way around this in the classroom is to teach for 15 minutes or so and then let the students complete an activity on their own for about 15 minutes.
  • Be open with communication with your principal, school board, parents, and students. Acknowledge that no one has all the answers. Everyone is doing the best they can right now.

Flexibility is key for teachers this year. Implement some of these ideas and add your own. You will not be able to eliminate all the stress, but you can certainly lessen it by preparing now.

Yays and Nays for Elementary Virtual Learning

September 14th, 2020 | Comments Off on Yays and Nays for Elementary Virtual Learning | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Student Online Learning

For some young students, it does not matter what the educational platform is, they will succeed. Others will struggle, whether they are taught in a traditional classroom, in a virtual synchronous situation, where class meets “together” and works at the same time or asynchronously, where self-directed independent work is required.

Many elementary classrooms across the country are using a combination of these types of learning scenarios as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. More is coming to light as we evaluate how things worked in the immediacy of online learning last spring and how things are progressing this fall, where a few more options have developed.

What are the advantages of a virtual classroom setting?

  • There are fewer opportunities for social distractions from peers. The “drama” often evident in in-person classrooms does not exist online, or at least is drastically reduced.
  • Students who are self-motivated can excel.
  • In most cases, there are more chances for individualized teacher attention outside “class” to help students who need further instruction.
  • There is less pressure on students to speak up in class, which is perfect for quieter children.

How is virtual learning hurting some elementary students?

  • This type of classroom can bring challenges for the family. At least one adult or older teenager must be available to offer continual support and ensure a distraction-free environment. This can cause a significant burden for working parents.
  • There is a “technology gap” for some families. Not everyone has access to the latest computers or software or reliable internet access, according to Mary Stephens, longtime educator, and founder of PrepForward.
  • Socializing is difficult, if not almost impossible, in an online setting. Students must seek peer relationships outside school via extracurricular activities.
  • Students must learn in an unfamiliar classroom setting. Whether it is at home or a parent’s office, the traditional and often comforting classroom environment is nonexistent.

No matter which side of the debate you are on, the fact remains that virtual learning is not going away soon. We continue to discover more every day about the best ways to reach elementary students and guarantee their academic success.

 

7 Tips to Increase Success When Taking Online Classes

August 31st, 2020 | Comments Off on 7 Tips to Increase Success When Taking Online Classes | Certification Prep, Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Whether you are taking online classes this semester as part of continuing professional development or are teaching online and virtual classes because of the pandemic, there are some strategies to help you and your students be successful.

It may take some extra effort, self-discipline, and motivation. No one disputes the fact that learning and teaching this way is an adjustment for everyone. Follow these guidelines to make the process proceed more smoothly.

  1. Create a dedicated workspace to complete online work. This could be at home at the kitchen table, at a library computer station, or in a corner seat at your local favorite fast-food restaurant. Ideally, the area should be as quiet as you can get it or at least have a minimum of distractions so you can concentrate. Plan study times around family and work responsibilities.
  2. If you have the option, start slow. Taking one online class rather than several, until you get used to the format, is the best scenario. If you do not have any choice, break studying into small, manageable chunks rather than sitting for hours in front of the computer to (hopefully) prevent burnout.
  3. Manage your time wisely. Use an online or physical planner to denote study times, assignment due dates, and other commitments.
  4. Take advantage of student resources. Consult an advisor or counselor, visit chat rooms, or contact your instructor, if necessary. The resources are there to help you.
  5. Organize your work, both in a planner and by creating folders on your computer. Keeping everything in a specific place keeps you from losing it or forgetting about it.
  6. Become familiar with your computer and the learning platform your school uses. Have a reliable resource for computer-related issues – they always occur at the most inconvenient times!
  7. If you do not understand an assignment, ASK your instructor about it. Most professors are happy to help you and would rather you ask than have you do poorly on the work.

The first time you teach online or take an online class can be a challenge, but it is not an insurmountable one. Follow our recommendations to make it easier.

What You Need to Know about Teacher Certification Exams

August 6th, 2020 | Comments Off on What You Need to Know about Teacher Certification Exams | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Math Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

No matter in what state you plan to teach elementary school, you are required to take a teacher licensing exam – and pass it – to obtain certification. Many times, the anxiety for this knowledge-based test surpasses that of most of the college courses you take in your education course of study.

It is, therefore, even more disturbing to realize that over half of prospective teachers fail the teacher certification exam the first time, regardless of which test they take. Whether it is a case of extreme nerves, lack of exam preparation, inadequate knowledge retention or if required teacher-prep courses do not align with the material being tested, the fact remains that if a potential teacher wants to teach, they must pass the exam.

What can examinees do to prevent failure? Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are strategies that can help ensure success.

  1. Start planning for the exam EARLY in your senior year or even late in your junior year of college. Know which test you are taking for your state, when it is offered, the cost, what happens if you do not pass, etc.
  2. Obtain a study guide for the test or tests you will take and read them. Complete as many practice tests as possible to familiarize yourself with the types of questions that are asked, as well as the subject matter that is evaluated.
  3. If you perform poorly on the practice exams, try to determine why. Insufficient knowledge or misunderstanding the subject matter can be remedied by taking additional college courses (since you are preparing ahead, this is doable) or taking an online class in addition to your regular education courses.

There is no shame in failing your teacher licensing exam. However, lack of preparation should never be the reason. In most cases, if you follow these guidelines, you should not only pass your test, but do well. Good luck!

Employ these Creative Strategies for Distance Learning

July 24th, 2020 | Comments Off on Employ these Creative Strategies for Distance Learning | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

While some school districts have made their decisions about how school will look this fall, others are still working hard to offer the best scenarios for families, teachers, and students. It is likely that few people will be satisfied with whatever option they must follow.

What is certain is that educators will do everything they can to implement as many learning strategies as possible to ensure that they cover the required material and that students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery of key concepts.

Here are just a few techniques to consider if some or all your instruction is relegated to online delivery.

  1. Start class each day with a 10-15 minute “warm-up” activity or question that involves two or three students sharing about themselves and what they are doing at home with the family. Questions can be light-hearted or more thought-provoking.
  2. Provide frequent feedback via email, highlighting both positive and negative comments about student work, attitude, diligence, etc.
  3. Screen sharing is beneficial for teachers and students, both for completing assignments and addressing technical issues that may arise with computers in general or the specific platform your district utilizes.
  4. Permit side chatting between students if the instructor can monitor the conversation. Some students have become more comfortable contributing to class in this format as it does not require them to “speak up” in front of others. Students enjoy it when the teacher participates, too.
  5. Prepare innovative assessments for individuals and groups that are interesting and fun.
  6. Develop a closing activity each day for each student to complete. It could be a simple form with questions about the lesson, a chat between students or groups, or a discussion that the class has about a given topic.

There are dozens more ways to actively engage students online. Note that these methods can also be utilized in an on-ground setting, as well.

No matter what form your classroom takes this semester, having a plan ensures that you can meet the needs of all your students.