Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Employ these Creative Strategies for Distance Learning

July 24th, 2020 | Comments Off on Employ these Creative Strategies for Distance 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.

 

 

How Can I Keep My Students Engaged in Online Learning?

June 10th, 2020 | Comments Off on How Can I Keep My Students Engaged in Online Learning? | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It is still not completely certain what our classrooms will look like for Fall 2020. Students and teachers may be back in the classroom with some modifications due to COVID-19. Distance learning may continue like it did in the spring. There may also be a combination of the two.

Most people agree that it is more challenging to keep students engaged in a lesson when it is conducted online. There is a sense of segregation not only for the instructor but the students. Here are a few ideas to narrow the gap and keep children on task and engaged with the lessons you present.

  1. Try a different teaching approach. Online education does not have to be boring or rely on the same methods you utilize in a traditional classroom.
  2. Take advantage of technology and incorporate it into your lesson plans. Make and share videos, create discussion boards, play virtual games, and more connect your class in ways you may not have considered before. Plan activities everyone can enjoy – the teacher included.
  3. Online lessons often need to be shorter than those you conduct in person. Choose smaller chunks of information presented at a brisk pace. Mix it up a little with activities spread throughout.
  4. Make sure each of your students feels valued. Loneliness and isolation are common in distance learning situations. Provide frequent personal feedback whenever possible.
  5. Much of the curriculum can be adapted to a virtual classroom setting, so it is not necessary to “reinvent the wheel.” Keep students busy during lessons with activities that include talking, clicking, or typing to keep them engaged.
  6. Have clear goals both for you and your students to keep everyone on track. A badge or point system or a fun game could provide some excellent positive reinforcement for completed work.

No matter what our classrooms look like for the 2020-2021 school year, it pays to be prepared. Explore the possibilities now so you can help your students succeed in a traditional or virtual setting this fall.

 

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 New (and Not-So-New) Teachers Need to Know Before Entering the Classroom this Year

August 26th, 2019 | Comments Off on What New (and Not-So-New) Teachers Need to Know Before Entering the Classroom this Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s not only brand-new educators who have the jitters before the opening of school each year. Veteran teachers often feel the same way. Everyone wants to make sure they have everything they need in the classroom, as well as being as prepared as possible to make the school year start on a positive note.

Many studies have asked returning teachers what their recommendations are for the newest educators entering their classes for the first time. Here are just a few of the responses:

  • While academics are certainly important, it is also essential to build a sense of community within the classroom. Get to know each of your students on a personal basis.
  • Classroom management is critical. Outlining your expectations and that of the school right at the beginning allows for a more conducive environment for learning.
  • If you are not already, learn to be flexible. There is always something to interrupt lessons, whether it is a fire drill, administrative paperwork, or an assembly. Plan for the unexpected and life will flow more smoothly for you and the students.
  • Just like there is no manual when you become a parent, there is not one for when you start teaching either. You will be educated every day on the most surprising subjects, from a student’s home life to the best way to teach a complex math concept.
  • Find a mentor at your school if one is not assigned to you. This person will be your best source of information about teaching and school policies.
  • Connecting with your students is more important than standards and objectives.
  • There is probably a good reason (most of the time) why some of your students come unprepared to class, why they fall asleep in the middle of a lesson, or never seem to have money for lunch. Realizing the difficulties some children face before ever entering the classroom can change how you treat them and your own attitude toward them.
  • While you may have planned and hoped to teach middle school science, you might end up teaching middle school English. Being prepared to teach any subject can relieve a lot of stress.
  • Teaching your first year (and sometimes others) can be a real challenge. Look at it as a learning experience and move on.

Keeping these ideas in mind will help you have a better year. Buckle up – and enjoy!

Effective Teaching – Measuring the Immeasurable

December 5th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teaching – Measuring the Immeasurable | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

“Development of effective teachers” has become a common goal in education—I would even say, it is a catchphrase. Internet lists of teacher qualities inspire us; merit pay motivates us; mentorships instruct us; administrators inspect and evaluate us. Responsibility for and expectations of “effectiveness” have been heaped upon us teachers.

When we turn the calendar page to June and reflect on the school year, would any of us be so bold as to say, “I was an effective teacher this year”? The ageless question haunts— “How would I even know if I had achieved this enigmatic quality of ‘effectiveness’?”

As an educator, I have wrangled with how to gauge my own effectiveness against the measuring rods of the stakeholders—the students’ expectations vs. the research.

When Pearson surveyed students ages 15-19, they found that students value a teacher’s “ability to develop relationships with their students; patient, caring and kind personality; knowledge of learners; dedication to teaching” etc. https://www.pearsoned.com/top-five-qualities-effective-teachers/ Educational research indicates that effective teachers have a broad base of knowledge, plan, communicate, measure learning, create an environment for learning, and behave as professionals. http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Qualities-of-Effective-Teachers-3rd-Edition.aspx

Caring, understanding, and dedication are hard to measure; so, I’ve started looking at what I can measure.

Is it possible that the most loving, most caring thing I can do for my students is to start class on time all 180 days?

When I’ve required and evaluated weekly milestones that led up to a synthesized final project, have I demonstrated my knowledge of learners?

Does my ability to avoid getting sidetracked demonstrate that I love teaching and I love my subject matter too much to surrender my class time for an inferior cause.

Does my strict adherence to the highest standards of ethics show students the proper boundaries of the teacher/student relationship?

When I hear out my students without over talking with my agenda, have I demonstrated that communication is both speaking and listening?

I’m not sure…

Becoming “effective” can feel unattainable; however, I can start class on time; I can give assignments that set students up to succeed; I can keep class engaging and fast paced; and I can behave ethically. I can learn effective teaching practices.

When I measure my effectiveness as an educator by observable and the measurable practices, I can see where I’ve failed and where I’ve succeeded. Then, I become the learner and start working again on consistently demonstrating the teaching practices that work.

Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate?

July 3rd, 2018 | Comments Off on Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

teacher certification test

For the first time in decades, teacher licensure has become easier rather than more difficult in multiple states. Teacher shortages have pushed legislators to re-evaluate the high scores that have been required at various levels of teacher preparation. It’s not too difficult to imagine returning to a time when candidates were deemed qualified for their first year of teaching by completing course work, a single basic test, and student teaching under a master teacher.

Once upon a time, your only ticket into a teaching career was to pass licensure tests. Now, you’re looking at the reality that you may not have to pass as many licensure tests—or at least not with a score that required selling your soul for a year of grueling preparation.

Given the potential for more reasonable requirements, are you wise to prepare or to wait it out? I’m going with the unpopular answer of—you still need to prepare and work for the highest score possible. Let’s consider some reasons.

Economics:

Educators and legislators alike suspect that one factor driving teacher shortages is money. The level of attention being given to teacher salaries, benefits, and retirement plans is unprecedented. Ideally, the attention that teacher compensation has attracted will result in greater revenue. If that happens, more candidates with higher qualifications are likely to be drawn to teaching. At that point, states may be able to revert to or maintain high requirements and still keep their teachers. Securing a high test score makes sure you’re qualified not just during a temporary teacher shortage, but for the long term as well.

Content Mastery:

Teachers have to be good at so many things. You need to be able to communicate, organize, motivate, entertain, and manage resources, just to name a few. Did I mention teach?? With so many demands, you don’t also want to be wrangling with the academics. You can take some stress off the daily demands by becoming a master in your content area. Mastery of the content was one of the intents of licensure testing. Push for that mastery now—don’t put it off until you’re in the classroom.

Career:

It’s hard to predict the next turn that will be made to guarantee high quality teachers who can provide an excellent education to American students. While requirements may shift at least temporarily, the future of teacher certification is unknown. Hitting the high standards of today may turn into one of the best career moves you could make.

 

Do yourself, your students, and your career the courtesy of meeting the high requirements of today. Be wary of an attitude that rejoices at lowering requirements for teachers. Strive to be the one that can earn a top score on the test and then transfer your pursuit of excellence on to your students.