Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

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.

PrepForward runs workshop for education leaders from Kazakhstan

October 25th, 2019 | Comments Off on PrepForward runs workshop for education leaders from Kazakhstan | Teacher's Lounge Blog

Ten delegates from Kazakhstan’s Center for Pedagogical Measurements came to the US for a weeklong workshop to learn about the US educational system. The group oversees the support, training, evaluating, and testing of teachers in Kazakhstan. PrepForward assembled a team of three experts, including Dr. Vicki Bartolini, Wheaton College Professor of Education, Dr. David Bloomfield, CUNY Professor of Educational Leadership and Law, and Mary Stephens, CEO of PrepForward.

This article provides more detail on the topics covered during the workshop – www.wheatoncollege.edu/news/educator-exchange.

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.

Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year

August 1st, 2019 | Comments Off on Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s at that point in the summer when teachers are checking out sales on school and classroom supplies and finishing professional development sessions in preparation for the new year. Whether you’ve taught for decades in the same grade or classroom or you have moved to a different school or subject area, it can be overwhelming to think about 2019-2020.

Here are three simple ways to make a substantial difference in your classroom climate, maintain your sanity, and ensure student success. Focusing on behavior at the outset of the school year leads to a more productive year for everyone – you, the administration, the students, and their parents.

  1. Evaluate your expectations for behavior management and adjust, as necessary, for the grade level. Let your students (and parents) know exactly what behaviors are appropriate and which ones are not with a clear set of guidelines that you can discuss with them. This allows each family to be invested in the process, and explicitly defines right and wrong and what happens when rules are broken.
  2. Emphasize relationships with your students. This is one of the best behavior management tools you can utilize. When students realize that you really care about them, they are more eager to learn and cooperate. Get to know your students on a personal level, what interests them, and their past school experiences. On the flip side, let students and parents know more about you, too. In addition, start building a favorable relationship with parents from the first day of school so that you have a connection before problems have a chance to develop.
  3. Establish classroom procedures that support your efforts for behavior management and prevent off-task behavior before it begins. Determine exact routines for everything from entering the room to homework to end-of-day actions. Teach the routines to students and emphasize them heavily during the first few weeks of school.

While it does take extra time and effort to launch a composed, positive classroom, you will have a more successful, enjoyable, and productive year.

Are Teachers Adequately Prepared to Teach Exceptional Children?

June 11th, 2019 | Comments Off on Are Teachers Adequately Prepared to Teach Exceptional Children? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Inclusion Course - Teaching Students with Disabilities

It is a rare elementary classroom, including those in the private sector, where all 15-30 students are of average capability. While the majority do fall within standard parameters, there are those who are both above and below that spectrum, whether due to learning disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia, autism spectrum disorders, emotional issues, or extraordinary intelligence that exceeds that of their peers.

Educators need to have the appropriate training and experience to handle the wide variety of learning abilities in the classroom to effectively reach all students in ways that work best for their requirements. This is a challenge that much of today’s teaching population faces and where many teachers fall short.

A report compiled by Understood.org and the National Center for Learning Disabilities reveals that just 30% of general education teachers strongly believe that they are adequately prepared to teach students with learning disabilities. Also, 1/3 of study participants have not had any professional development instruction on meeting the needs of students with disabilities in the classroom.

Many people believe that this problem stems from teacher education programs that lack a special education course requirement or, if such a class is offered, it does not provide enough “hands-on” work for teachers to feel comfortable teaching students with disabilities. Only ten states have specific teacher education courses for students that have mild to moderate learning disabilities (National Center for Learning Disabilities).

Since there is a lack of requisite options in most teacher education programs across the country, the burden to seek out adequate training lies with educators rather than with school districts and the schools themselves. A course like Prepforward’s “Preparing Teachers for Inclusive Classrooms” goes a long way to help teachers know what to expect and how to prepare for the exceptional child or children who may be part of their classes.

This online course focuses on the challenges that these students pose to an inclusive classroom environment and how the teacher can adapt strategies for meeting the individual needs of these students that include lesson planning, classroom management, and technical support tools as resources.

While many general educators feel that they are unprepared to work with children with disabilities, most want to learn more about how they can help all the students in their classrooms. With additional preparation through online and on-ground coursework and in-services, teachers can ease frustrations about meeting the needs of every student in their care.

MTEL Comm & Lit – Passing the Summary Exercise with Fidelity

April 25th, 2019 | Comments Off on MTEL Comm & Lit – Passing the Summary Exercise with Fidelity | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

Passing the Summary Exercise: Fidelity

Communication and Literacy Skills Test

On the MTEL Communication and Literacy Skills Test, candidates are asked to complete a summary exercise.  In this article, I will share the most common errors I see and tips for making a solid score on the fidelity performance characteristic. 

A summary with fidelity gives a fair picture of the original. Common synonyms of fidelity are trustworthiness, dependability, and faithfulness. Your ability to give a representation that is loyal to the original will be evaluated in this trait. How can you do that?

You succinctly restate the main ideas and supporting details in your own words, omitting less relevant material so that your summary is considerably shorter than the original.

Steps to follow:

  • Understand the task. This summary is a “true” summary. Your task is to recap the original, preserving the content, tone, order, relationships, emphasis, and point of view. You accurately retell the article in your own words. Summarizing is a skill we practice from childhood. We use summary techniques to answer questions such as “What did you do at school today?” and “What’s that book about?” We don’t retell every event or every detail; we tell the most important ideas in our own words.
  • Read the original. Read with understanding, highlighting the main ideas and supporting points and formulating in your mind the overarching message.
  • Retell the original. In your words, retell the article, omitting the support and examples that may add interest but are not critical to the main idea. The power of your summary rests in your ability to discern what to include, what to leave out, and how to package the key details and ideas.
  • Check word choice, grammar, and mechanics. More about that in a later blog, but clean writing using precise vocabulary is always an asset.


Errors to avoid

  • Avoid starting with an author/title/main idea statement. This is not your seventh-grade book report. Instead, begin your summary with your rewording of the first main idea from the original. The original does not begin with a statement such as, “Ryan Heimbach’s article, ‘Deception,’ emphasizes…” When you give an accurate representation of the original, you should not begin with this type statement.
  • Avoid tagging the author. Tagging the author is a common strategy for a summary. I would caution you to use this strategy sparingly if at all. A “true” summary reflects only the content of the original. The original does not say, “In his article, Heimbach stated…” Statements like this burn words without adding content.
  • Avoid spinning. It is not your job to argue, interpret, analyze, or “give your spin” on the text. You merely give a concise picture. That’s why the test evaluators use the term, fidelity—be fair to the intent of the original.
  • Avoid mismatching relationships. If the original article says, “Parental involvement was shown to improve student productivity,” you cannot distort the relationship between ideas by saying, “Student productivity was shown to improve parental involvement.” Using words and ideas from the original is not enough. The relationship between the ideas has to be accurate. Ideas have to stay in context.
  • Avoid considering your audience. Your responsibility is to preserve the message. It’s not your responsibility to communicate in a way that appeals to a particular audience.
  • Avoid shifting verb tenses unnecessarily. Note the tense of the original. You will most likely write in present tense, or what is sometimes called “historic present.” Think about describing a piece of art. For example, “In American Gothic, a farmer is standing beside a woman who is thought to be his daughter or wife.” We describe art using present tense verbs; do the same for your summary. If the article you are assigned to summarize is written in past or future tense, your summary would follow suit.
  • Avoid introducing new ideas. No points for original ideas; in fact, you’ll lose fidelity points if you distort the original with your ideas.

On the MTEL CLST, a summary with fidelity gives a true picture of the original. It doesn’t talk at length about a minor point and then rush over a major point. It gives a brief accurate representation which reflects your ability to discern and synthesize.