Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Effective Teachers Evaluate

July 17th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Evaluate | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

Is it fair to say that every on-the-job minute of a teacher’s life is spent evaluating? Never a moment passes that a teacher is not called upon to evaluate student learning, classroom atmosphere, lesson delivery, behavior, and more. Based on these evaluations, teachers are expected to use their quick wits and their long term planning strategies to optimize student learning in the moment and over time.

Let’s consider a teacher’s responsibility to evaluate.

Assessment of Student Learning

In both traditional and modern settings, a high priority has been placed on determining how well students have learned their lessons. In recent years, this process of evaluating student learning has fallen under the broad heading of “assessment.”

Teachers are responsible to assess individual students. Teachers assess before and after teaching. Teachers are deemed to be more effective when they use a variety of assessment tools from informal self-assessment to peer evaluations to highly-structured standardized testing.

High stakes educational testing has increased the pressure to ensure that students can demonstrate their learning on state tests. Results of large-scale assessments typically get back to teachers after instruction for that year has ended. The tendency then becomes to look at the group results and wonder what went right or what went wrong. The answer lies in the individual results. Class results can only be improved as individual students achieve. Take a minute to look at the results of the individual, and then consider what led select students to soar under your care.

For a new teacher, authentic assessment can be a greater challenge that state testing. It calls upon the teacher to have a clear picture of proficient work. For example, a second-grade teacher may know that students need to have a command of language. Does that mean they need to use plural possessives ending in s correctly in writing? How many supporting details in a descriptive paragraph should be expected of a second grader? In order to accurately evaluate, a teacher must have a clear picture of proficiency at the grade level.

Evaluation of Teaching Strategies

Teachers are wise to reflect on each lesson, that is, to analyze the effectiveness of communication in taking students from the known to the unknown. To teach effectively, you need to take a close look at formative assessment results. Discover the students’ prior knowledge and get busy structuring a lesson that will convey the student to the new content.

You may have the privilege of teaching the same content to several different classes. If you find that one class embraces your teaching and one struggles, you could draw the conclusion that your teaching is fine and the problem lies with the students. A more mature (though exhausting) outlook is that now you must specialize your lessons so that all classes can learn. You may have to design different activities, enrichment, or additional practice for your classes. While your primary responsibility during a class period may be instruction, evaluation is your constant companion.

Reflect and Modify

The most important piece of evaluation is what you do with what you’ve learned. Whether your powers of discernment are geared to students, classroom environment, your delivery, or some other aspect of education, your next step is to process your findings and decide what (or who) needs change and what will flourish with more of the same.

Licensure Tests: Prepare or Procrastinate?

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

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.

Preparing Yourself for Teacher Exams

May 9th, 2018 | Comments Off on Preparing Yourself for Teacher Exams | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog

In addition to developing a deep understanding of the content included on teacher exams, you also need to prepare yourself emotionally and physically to test. Technology and social media have beckoned us into a world of living in the instant. In sharp contrast to tweets and snaps, teacher exams require that you sustain mental focus on one task while sitting in one chair staring at one screen for up to four hours. When did you last sit for four hours, much less sit and focus on one demanding task?
If you are not in the habit of sitting for a long session focused on a single challenging endeavor, you’ll want to follow some strategies to prepare yourself for your test day.

Prepare Emotionally.

Assess your anxiety level. A measure of anxiety is to be expected and may even provide a boost while you’re testing and preparing. Too much anxiety can paralyze. As you prepare, take time to think through the root cause of your anxiety. Do you lack confidence in your critical knowledge of the test objectives? Does the multiple choice or the open response seem more foreboding? Do you think about the logistics of waking up, getting to the test, and navigating the test site? What piece of the testing threatens your night’s sleep? Identify your stressors, and set about to resolve them.

Develop mental stamina. You’ll need to focus on the exam every minute for up to four hours. There are no commercial breaks and no ninth-inning stretches. One of the best ways to prepare is to read a challenging book or to study for the exam for four uninterrupted hours. No phone. No flipping to a social media site. No breaks.

Know the test. One of the best strategies for easing emotional distress is to be fully informed. Study the test website. Know the standards and objectives. Understand the types of questions and test features such as flag for review. You’ll want to make use of all of the information and helps that are provided by the testing site.

Prepare Physically.

Train your body. We snack at home, snack in class, snack at the movies, snack in study groups in the library. We carry around liters of water and make frequent trips to the bathroom. Unfortunately, snacking and sipping won’t be smiled upon at your test.

Be time sensitive. Work on developing an inner awareness of the passage of time so that you can avoid frequently checking the clock to make sure you’re on track.

Choose practical clothing. The normal strategy is to layer. You can add or take off to make sure your body is at its best temperature to be mentally sharp.

Simulate Test Day

After you register for your test, try simulating your test day. Plan your sleep, wake up time, meals, transportation, and arrival. Follow your plan as nearly as possible and station yourself at a library or quiet study area. Sit for four hours and engage in a mentally-demanding task. Avoid snacks and other distractions. When you finish, evaluate your experiment. Did you feel fatigued? Did you stay mentally sharp? Do you need to make changes, plan another simulation, or rest assured that you’re ready?
In the midst of your eons of preparation for this one very important test, remember that emotional and physical preparation will help you to perform at your best.

How to Prepare for MTEL Exams

February 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on How to Prepare for MTEL Exams | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

teachers taking examThe MTEL exam was designed to ensure that educators have the academic preparedness to succeed in a school community. You’ll need both academic proficiency and professional communication skills. Qualifying scores on the required tests indicate that you are knowledgeable in your respective areas of expertise and able to communicate clearly with students and their parents or guardians. Understandably, passing such all-encompassing tests is a challenge that requires teacher candidates to prepare thoroughly. Here is some advice on how best to prepare.

Understand the Process

Familiarize yourself with the state requirements and gather relevant material in your subject area. Look at the MTEL Test Information Guide and Test Objectives for information on each kind test. You’ll find samples of “weak” and “strong” essay answers, multiple choice practice tests, and thorough question analyses. With these resources, you should have a better understanding of the expectations for passing each test.

Establish a Timeline

Think ahead before you register for your test. You don’t want to make the mistake of registering for the Communication and Literacy Skills exam and the content test on the same day. You’ll need time to study for each one separately. Also, plan to take the MTEL CLST well in advance of your application for admission to a program. You’ll be notified of your score six weeks after taking your test, and you’ll want to allow time to retake the test if necessary.

Begin Smart, Purposeful Preparation

The right MTEL prep courses can help you establish your plan of action. Consider taking a practice test which offers a realistic picture of where you stand and where you need improvement. The best trial tests are timed, adhere closely to the test objectives stated on the MTEL website, and follow the correct format. Taking a rigorous trial test in an environment you simulate to duplicate the actual testing site can make you more prepared on test day. Part of the challenge of the MTEL is dealing with the anxiety. A couple timed tests, and you’ll be much more relaxed with required test pace. Then, don’t ignore your test results. Tackle your weak spots. Refer back to specific college courses, follow a prep course, or conduct your own research to learn more about the objectives you need to master.

If you follow these rules, you’ll be in a good position to pass the MTEL and get started with your career. Good luck!

 

 

Why Use Online Teaching Certification Preparation?

January 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on Why Use Online Teaching Certification Preparation? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Online teacher certification prep

One of the minimum requirements for becoming a teacher is a bachelor’s degree. Many teachers choose to pursue an even higher level of education, but a bachelor’s is the bare minimum for teaching students from kindergarten to grade 12. If you’re a full-time student, a bachelor’s degree will take four years to get. If you’re a part-time student, it could take six years to graduate. During that time, you’ll have to juggle more than just assignments. If you have a job, you’ll have to balance work and school. Older students may have families to take care of in addition to pursuing their degree. Many students are taking some of their teacher certification preparation courses online to avoid some of the issues traditional courses might present.

Accessible Anywhere

Online programs are more flexible than traditional programs. Your lessons are accessible anywhere you can access the internet. You don’t have to drive across town at an inconvenient time if you take an online course. And, you don’t have to leave the house to go to class when the weather is bad.

Flexible Lessons

Lessons can be completed on your own time. If you have a job, you can focus on working without being worried you’ll miss something. Taking care of your kids can come first and you can listen to your professor’s next lecture after the little ones go to bed. Slower learners can take the time they need to understand their lessons without the fear of falling behind. And, fast learners can zip through their classes at a comfortable pace.

Enriched Material

The basic content doesn’t change just because you’re learning online. You’ll still be taught the skills you need to succeed as a teacher. Also, online courses can accommodate different learning styles so you don’t feel forced to learn in the traditional one-size fits all format.

You may even learn some additional lessons along the way. Online preparation is a completely different experience. It may teach you to learn and study in ways you’ve never thought of before, which can be applied to teaching your own classes someday. Online teacher certification courses can give you the education you need while being flexible enough to fit into a busy life.

Passing the Composition Exercise: Usage

December 18th, 2017 | Comments Off on Passing the Composition Exercise: Usage | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Writing Certification

PrepForward provides online preparation courses to candidates practicing compositions for state teacher tests, including the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills exam in MA. In this series, I’ll share the most common errors I see and tips for making a solid score on each performance characteristic.

“Careful and precise”—that’s the expectation for usage on the MTEL exams composition essay. To achieve a top score, candidates can demonstrate mastery of two different but related word choice skills: selection of academic language and maintenance of error-free usage.

Usage – Language

Your use of academic language and domain-specific vocabulary are assessed under the characteristic Usage. While writing to the audience is rated under the Appropriateness criteria, audience must also be considered with word choice. If your composition is to be directed toward educators, which it likely is, it should incorporate educator-ese —those words you hear at professional development conferences: assessment, learning gap, pedagogical, curriculum-centered, and so on.

Tips:
Build your vocabulary. Read scholarly journals. Make a mental or physical list of domain-specific vocabulary. Become comfortable using the words in speech or writing.
Remember word choice. As you’re concentrating on development, unity, and appropriateness, don’t forget that usage is just as important as any other point. Assessors will read your composition looking specifically at your word choice. Make sure they find what they are looking for.
Skim the test passages. If you have time and you know you need more precise words, skim back through the test passages looking for a few interesting words. Replace general vocabulary in your composition with exact, vivid language.

Usage – Grammar

Writing must be free of grammatical errors. Watch out for these trouble spots.

Pronoun/antecedent agreement Sample error: Everyone in the test group met their goals. NO! Everyone is singular; it takes a singular pronoun such as his, her, or its. If you want to avoid the awkward his/her, try switching the antecedent to a plural. (Correction: Students in the test group met their goals.)
Troublesome words Do I mean affect or effect, continual or continuous? Ideally, you can recall the definition and choose the correct word. If not, substitute a different word.
Pronoun reference Sample error: In the standards, it says students should master two-digit addition. NO! What does it refer to? Revise to avoid a pronoun reference error. (Correction: The standards indicate that students should master two-digit addition.)
Subject/verb agreement Sample error: The first two characters in the novel is Gretchen and Beatrice. NO! Use a plural verb with a plural subject. (Correction: The first two characters in the novel are Gretchen and Beatrice.)
Modifiers Sample error: While evaluating test results, students were found to be well prepared in math. NO! The students aren’t evaluating the test results. (Correction: While evaluating test results, teachers found that the students were well prepared in math.)
Parallelism Sample error: The student demonstrated skill in vocabulary, mechanics, and he could decode. NO! Compound parts, or parts with similar meanings, should be written with similar grammatical structure. (Correction: The student demonstrated skill in vocabulary, mechanics, and decoding.)

Before submitting your exam, read aloud or mouth your composition. If a sentence or phrase sounds awkward, stop and smooth it out. In the process, you’ll sharpen your writing and earn a solid score reflecting your “careful and precise” usage of language and grammar.