Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Does Technology in the Classroom Help or Hurt Students?

January 23rd, 2020 | Comments Off on Does Technology in the Classroom Help or Hurt Students? | Remote Learning, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Most students in elementary, middle, and high school today use some form of technology in the classroom. Computers and iPads are pretty much commonplace. Are they worth the hype or do they inhibit learning?

Education reform over the past decade or so has taken the form of school choice or improving teacher quality. While there has been some progress in these areas, many educators feel that utilizing advancements in instructional software and the one-on-one benefits of online tutorials can help students even more.

Most teachers are enthusiastic about using technology in class. There is some discrepancy, though, about the effectiveness of computer use. While there have been some improvements in math scores after using computers, there is a decline in reading levels. According to OECD, reading scores of fourth graders who use tablets are virtually one grade level lower than students who do not use computers as often.

There also seems to be a high discrepancy between lower income students and those with more advantages regarding technology. Disadvantaged students tend to spend more time using computers in class but do not perform as well in reading and mathematics.

It’s likely that less information is absorbed by reading from a device than from paper, probably because computers can be a big distraction. Learning from a person who asks questions engages a student more than responding to questions provided on a computer. There is a relationship factor.

Computers also take away from learning communally. It’s helpful for many students to learn from one another rather than simply responding to commands on a screen.

If computers provide information that does not meet student needs or is not presented in a logical format, it does not benefit them. Therefore, it usually works better for math than for reading or the social sciences.

Since one of the most important aspects of reading comprehension is background vocabulary and knowledge about a topic, success rates for checking reading comprehension online don’t work for most children, as their backgrounds vary widely.

Computers may be better suited to reinforce concepts already taught in the classroom instead of teaching new ones, to ensure that students fully understand.

I Have a Student with Dysgraphia – How Can I Help Him?

December 18th, 2019 | Comments Off on I Have a Student with Dysgraphia – How Can I Help Him? | Inclusive Teaching, Teacher's Lounge Blog

While much research has been conducted on learning disorders such as dyslexia, a lot is still unknown about dysgraphia, which is unfortunate since between 7% and 15% of students suffer from this problem. But what is dysgraphia and how can educators help students diagnosed with this disorder?

Like dyslexia, dysgraphia is not related to intelligence but is an unanticipated difficulty with writing and spelling skills that is usually discovered in primary or elementary school. It is characterized by:

  • Underdeveloped phonemic awareness and understanding
  • Challenges with correctly copying visual information
  • Unreadable handwriting
  • Inefficient grip on a writing implement
  • Incorrect spelling
  • Faulty letter formation
  • Below average writing fluency for the grade level

Students with this disorder are deficient in processing phonics and manipulating language sounds. Often, they also have issues with visual and auditory processing, as well.

Fortunately, there are ways you can support students with dysgraphia and help them to be more successful in the classroom without drawing attention to their disability.

  • Provide additional time to complete written work
  • Give students a copy of notes from the white or chalkboard
  • Permit students to use a “note taker” or tools for speech-to-text translation
  • Allow students to write numeric formulas rather than mathematic word problems

If you have a student who has not been diagnosed with dysgraphia, but you suspect that it could be an issue, recommend the child to your school counselor or testing center for evaluation. It may be possible for him to qualify for additional special education and occupational therapy resources, as well, which can only benefit him at school.

Learning more about dysgraphia and other learning challenges can help all children succeed at school and allows teachers the tools necessary to reach every student in the classroom.

To better prepare for working with students with disabilities, see our inclusion course.

How to Keep the Class Focused Until Winter Break

December 2nd, 2019 | Comments Off on How to Keep the Class Focused Until Winter Break | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

With Thanksgiving over, the classroom countdown is on to winter break, no matter what age your students are. The question is, how can educators keep students on task and learning when they are so excited about the holidays? Fortunately, we have a few ideas that can help you and them focus on school before the long holiday vacation many of us are anticipating.

  • Manipulatives are great ways to keep hands busy while learning at the same time. Stress balls and Play-Doh can aid in focusing young minds on the lesson.
  • Now is a great time to adjust the seating chart or allow students to sit on the floor. Changing it up a little gets rid of some of that pent-up excitement.
  • Allow students the opportunity to teach their classmates something new. A variation on the popular “Show and Tell” theme, students can demonstrate a craft, musical instrument, or other special talent to the class.
  • If the children are particularly fidgety, take the class outside for a few minutes to let them run around and re-energize.
  • Incorporate the upcoming holidays into your lesson plans. Not only can you add making ornaments or gifts but use sales circulars as part of a math lesson or discuss the history of different holiday traditions.
  • Make a countdown paper chain or other use another countdown idea to mark off the days until vacation. Take a couple of minutes each day to mark off one less day until break.
  • Take advantage of multi-media options for presenting lessons, whether it is using videos, a guest speaker, or including students in creative ways.
  • Have fun with your students. Designate a couple of days as “theme” days where you and the students can wear a funny hat, bring their favorite book, or invite parents to a special presentation you all prepare.

Of course, it’s important to keep classroom learning going until the break, but that doesn’t mean that every minute is all “work.” Take the time to enjoy it with your class and while they’re absorbing what you teach, they’ll also be creating memories that will last for years.

What Makes a Great Teacher

November 13th, 2019 | Comments Off on What Makes a Great Teacher | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Elementary science teacher

Educators get into the field for many different reasons. Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe it’s been a lifelong dream. Or maybe, it sounds good to have summers “off.” Whatever the reason, there are qualities that make great teachers stand out among their peers.

Excellent teachers:

  • Are organized and prepared. Lessons are planned in advance and presented clearly. Classrooms are neat, appealing, and minimize potential distractions.
  • Have well-defined class objectives outlined in lesson plans. Included are lesson topics, grading policy, assignments, and materials required. Student work is graded in a timely manner.
  • Have high expectations for every student no matter what their ability or background.
  • Know the subject matter well enough to teach it to students. This may require additional reading, study, and professional development. Teacher enthusiasm for a subject is crucial for students to want to learn more.
  • Can engage students and help them see things in different ways. They encourage students to ask questions and invite participation from everyone in the class. Motivation comes from using a variety of teaching techniques rather than sticking to a lecture format all the time.
  • Have healthy relationships with their students and show them that they care about them as people. Great teachers are accessible, sincere, and are involved in the school community.
  • Regularly communicate with parents, not just when something is wrong, but when students are doing well, too. Emails, written notes, parent-teacher conferences, and phone calls are a regular part of communication for each student and their family.

If parents are concerned about the quality of the teaching staff at their children’s schools, there are some things they can do to help. Encourage the school district to raise professional teacher standards, aid in making changes to teacher preparation programs and continuing professional development, raising salaries and improving teacher working conditions, and offering much-needed encouragement and rewards for teachers who meet the qualifications for “great” teachers.

Financial Responsibilities are Sometimes Prohibitive for Prospective Teachers

October 16th, 2019 | Comments Off on Financial Responsibilities are Sometimes Prohibitive for Prospective Teachers | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Not only does it take a lot of time to become a teacher, but it can also be quite expensive. College itself is a costly enterprise for most individuals, but when adding in expenses for student teaching, buying classroom supplies, as well as certification and teacher proficiency tests, many prospective educators must make major sacrifices.

There has been a debate for years, which will likely continue for many more, about teacher compensation, but that usually does not include the costs to start a teaching career. It costs more to go to college today, but according to the NEA, the average salary for teachers has decreased by more than 4% in the last ten years. In 2018, the average national teacher salary was $39,249. During the same period, the College Board stated that in-state students across the country spent almost $21,000 on tuition, room, and board.

A prospective teacher’s second year in college is often when the decision is made to stick with the program or not. When learning about the money they must spend to achieve their reality; sometimes, students opt not to continue with the teaching program. The cost can be prohibitive for many individuals.

Expenses for teacher candidates include background checks before entering the classroom for observations and student teaching, insurance, entrance assessments, and certification, and content mastery exams. Also, because of the demands of the classroom during student teaching, most people are unable to maintain another job to help pay for these fees.

While tuition and related costs to become a teacher are still rising, there are programs available in some locations to assist future educators in meeting financial demands. It may be possible to apply for TEACH or Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grants, which have requirements for taking particular classes and jobs to meet grant specifications. In Georgia, some programs have grants and guarantees for jobs within certain districts to ease worries about getting a job after graduation.

These types of programs can not only ease anxiety about meeting financial obligations to become a teacher but also provides welcome support for those who will teach the children who are our future.

The Complexities of Teaching Reading

September 16th, 2019 | Comments Off on The Complexities of Teaching Reading | Literacy Certification, Reading Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

A major component of all teacher early education programs is teaching children to read. It is a crucial skill that is a predictor of later success in life. Many studies have demonstrated that individuals who do not master basic reading skills in elementary school are more likely to live below the poverty level, have criminal records, and don’t continue their education.

Reading teachers often follow one of two primary courses of study – whole language and phonics. The whole language school of thought involves the meaning of words rather than the sounds that make up the words. Children are encouraged to utilize listening, writing, reading, and speaking skills to determine what the words are on a page. Phonics teaches the sounds that each letter and combination of letters make and how to combine them to make words.

Most educators prefer one method over the other, and there has been a debate for decades as to which is the better strategy. A recent review in the Psychological Science in the Public Interest journal found that both methods are integral to a complete understanding of reading.

The study found that new readers must learn that each letter has a sound, which is the essence of phonetic instruction. However, all readers, regardless of age, use decoding processes to decipher new words, which comprises the whole language method of teaching reading. Combining these strategies can be highly effective in helping students become better readers. Initiating phonics first and then gradually progressing to whole language learning can only benefit early readers.

Learning to read is a complex process. Helping students in whatever way teachers can is the goal. There are professional development programs online or at your local university to help educators who may not have the foundation in both methods of teaching reading.