Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Selecting Essay Topic on FTCE

October 16th, 2018 | Comments Off on Selecting Essay Topic on FTCE | Certification Prep, Literacy Certification, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses, Writing Certification

 

Many teacher licensing exams, such as the Florida FTCE, have a writing test that gives you an option to choose your prompt. Both prompts will lend themselves to excellent essays. The trick is to choose the one that fits your skills and experience. Here are some points to consider.

 

  1. Match your selection with your knowledge. When you read the prompts, you will likely have one of three reactions: “Yes, Yes, Yes!! I know this one!” Or “No! No way! Can. Not.” or “Hmmm…looks about the same.” If you have a “Yes!” choose it and be done. If you have a “No,” obviously you know what to do there. If you have a “Hmmm…,” don’t overthink it. Continue to the other strategies for selecting your topic.
  2. Consider the grading criteria. Your score on some areas such as conventions or organization will not be particularly impacted by your selection; however, your score on focus, ideas, and word choice could be doomed with the wrong choice.
    Support Because your essay needs focused support to develop the topic, try to jot down a thesis statement. Can you come up with two or three points that you’re able to support adequately? Do you have some anecdotal evidence or some research to work in?
    Word Choice List your key vocabulary. Make sure you have the domain specific vocabulary you’ll need. For example, if your topic is reading levels and you can’t remember the words instructional, frustration, and independent, you’re going to be in trouble. Look at the other topic.
  1. Evaluate the purpose. The FTCE gives you a choice of a topic to explain or a topic to defend with a position. Identify which prompt tends to expository and which lends toward a position. What’s your preference? Would you prefer to write an expository essay supported by facts or a position paper supported by reasons?
  2. Commit If you’ve followed steps 1-3, by this point, either one option is the obvious right choice for you, or it probably doesn’t make much difference. Today’s world offers more options than any human can accommodate. As a result, we flip through movies, shows, songs, posts, etc. We struggle with commitment. Don’t be non-committal on the FTCE essay. Commit. Commit quickly and completely. You’ve got your topic. Now write.

One early prep strategy: anticipate essay questions. What are the topics you’ve addressed multiple times through your courses? Think tech, school choice, teacher’s rights/responsibilities, student needs. Write out strong essays on viable topics. Develop some stock answers that you can massage on test day.

One last minute test strategy: On test day, as you answer multiple choice questions, note the academic vocabulary in the questions. Those words may become very precious when you write the essay.

 

Countdown to Teacher Licensure Exam

October 1st, 2018 | Comments Off on Countdown to Teacher Licensure Exam | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

As you approach your teacher licensure exam, you can take specific actions that will ensure you are confidently prepared to test. You want to show up on your state’s annual pass rate report in the pass column rather than in the fail column.

You have been anticipating this exam since your first education course your freshman year of college. Now, you find that the time has come to reserve your exam day and make your final preparations. What’s your plan?

Determine the required tests. Exam requirements vary wildly from state-to-state. Ideally, six months before you want to test, you’ll set aside a two-hour block to read every word of your state’s education department website that relates to specifications for certification.

Review the entire set of test objectives and descriptive statements. You can find the test objectives on the website of the test provider for your state.

Try some practice questions. The test provider, your state education department, and/or your university will have a few sample questions on their websites. Again, set aside a block of time—this time to test. Review your results. Determine where you stand.

Review your coursework. Every reputable education course has some content which appears on teacher licensure tests. Commonly, instructors flag the content that aligns to the stated test objectives. Review the content flagged in your coursework.

Feel overwhelmed. And, yes, that is a required step. If you do not find yourself overwhelmed with the enormity of preparing for a licensure exam, you have underestimated the gravity of the task ahead of you. Some licensure tests have pass rates in the 50% range. Absorb that thought and rush to your next step.

Take a test prep course. PrepForward, for example, states, Our courses have been proven to boost performance on licensing exams. Our pass rates are near perfect.” We recommend that you get the prep course several months in advance to allow yourself to benefit from all features of the course. In addition to lessons, you’ll find scores of sample questions with in-depth explanations. Instructors are available. Using all features of the course works provides substantial benefit. If you’re down to your last weeks and days, while it’s not your best option, it may be time to cram. Prep courses provide you with a succinct one-stop source for coaching.

Acquire physical and mental stamina. Check the time allotted for your test. Use your test prep course to practice sustaining a mentally-demanding activity for the allotted test time. During that time, be conscious of your restroom breaks, avoid eating, avoid diversions such as checking phone messages. Maintain focused attention on your one task.

Every year, thousands of candidates follow these or similar steps to pass their teacher licensure exams. Get started today on making sure your next career step is a positive one.

 

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.

Effective Teachers Deliver

April 19th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Deliver | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

Instructional delivery is the method that a teacher uses to transport the students from the known to the unknown. Complex analyses have been conducted to determine the best teacher practices to maximize student learning. Instructional delivery is a point of profound vulnerability for beginning teachers; because, even if you excel in all other areas of the profession, failure to deliver a lesson that educates your students means that you have not done your job.

Let’s consider three potential pitfalls.

Technology: Every 21st Century classroom has been impacted by technology. You are in a position to determine tech’s role for your students. You may go old school—producing your own lessons from scratch and requiring tech-free responses from your students. You may go with a high tech, inquiry-based method where students have freedom to research questions posed by the teacher. More likely, your classroom will be a balance of tech and tech-free learning.

A bit of caution:

  • If you found the worksheet on the internet, your students can find the answer key.
  • If you want your students to generate original projects, the YouTube video you downloaded last night is probably not an appropriate way to model your expectation. You need to display more creativity and originality than you expect from your students.
  • Tech can be a time sucker. Avoid spending three hours looking for the perfect 2-minute hook to capture your students’ attention.

Practice: A rigorous lesson in any field requires practice and reinforcement. Arduous lessons must be supported with arduous practice. Watch out for the review game that eats up half of the class period with activity that is unrelated to your lesson objective. Factor in how long it will take to pass out devices, wait for them to boot up, and get all students on the right page, etc. Some days, a simple tic tac toe game with rapid fire questions will bring you closer to your goal.

Provide scaffolding as needed. If your final objective is for students to write a cause and effect essay on an event in history, consider that students will first need to know the facts of history. Consider using a Venn diagram in which you provide the main points and require the students just to sort the points between causes and effects. In your practice, provide all the information in matching, sorting, or multiple-choice questions. Move to fill-in-the-blank, then ease on over to short answer. After you’ve modeled the task a few times, hand over ownership for the learning to the students. Guide them gently from known to unknown, being careful not to introduce new activities or projects with new content.

Cumulative review plus some opportunities for students to acquire the learning without punishment are known to be components of an effective delivery.

Grit: As a new teacher, capitalize on your idealism. You may be surrounded by teachers who have become jaded. The battles that wage war in the lives of your students may leave them with no energy to focus on a lesson on misplaced modifiers or conditional probability. For you, however, disillusionment and fatigue are not an option. Your personal life is a non-factor during the school day. Every day, you must be the hardest working person in the classroom; and as a new teacher, you may be the hardest working person on the property. It’s your story to tell.

Structuring the pace, content, activities, and methods of your delivery day after day will be a colossal task, but it will be rewarded. Your student will benefit, and you will grow as a professional who can do one of the most important tasks on earth.

Delivery will be the core of your visible success as a teacher. Your knowledge, planning, organizational strategies, and overall professional behavior will feed into your successful delivery; but they cannot compensate for failed delivery in the classroom. If delivery is an area where you struggle, don’t despair. Research, scrutinize your lessons, find a mentor. You can become a teacher with an unforgettable delivery.

Effective Teachers Plan

April 9th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teachers Plan | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

When we say “plan,” our mind naturally turns to lesson “plans” in which we state our objective, outline the content, and plan an activity or assessment. Certainly, planning lessons is vital to effective teaching. However, if all we have done is plan the lesson, we’ve failed to plan. Consider some other aspects of planning.

Plan for your physical needs: You need food, water, rest, and a clear mind. You may have days in which you teach back-to-back classes for 4-5 hours. After that, you may go straight to coaching, tutoring, or professional development. You’ll need to healthy, sustaining nutrition. While seasoned teachers may be able to munch on a candy bar and drink a soda during class, don’t try it your first year. Students tend to resent watching their teachers do what is forbidden to them.

Plan your classroom environment: Oh, the power of an effective seating chart! Strategically grouping students with consideration of their behavior and learning can make the difference between a room where the students can actively learn and a room where the teacher throws up helpless hands in surrender.

Plan for the trouble spots: By the second week of school, you’ll be keenly aware of the place where learning breaks down. Is it in transitions? Is it when you lose your at-risk student in the content? Do you run out of stuff to do at the end of class? Plan specifically for a way to conquer the trouble spot.

Plan with colleagues: Value the insight of other teachers. You may be privileged to collaborate vertically across grade levels in a content area such as science. You may be able to collaborate within your grade level and find out how other teachers have organized their time and space and how students are performing for other teachers. Listen, learn, and don’t be afraid to contribute to the conversation,

Plan your communication: The very essence of teaching is that you to convey students from the known to the unknown. This conveyance happens much more smoothly when the teacher is personally equipped with accurate knowledge and skills. Study ahead so that when you stand before the class, you won’t make mistakes on the facts or practice problems. Plan the specific questions you will ask students in discussion which can guide further instruction rather distract. Don’t be satisfied just to know the text or task, go on to plan the most effective means to communicate so that the students can master the lesson.

If you’re thinking, “All this planning sounds like it will take hours,” you’re right; but, you’re not just teaching these students for this moment. You’re immortalizing the lesson. You’re establishing your reputation. You’re creating life long learners. It’s worth it!

Essentials for Effective New Teachers

April 9th, 2018 | Comments Off on Essentials for Effective New Teachers | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Are you new to teaching? New to the grade level? New to the school system? New to the curriculum? New can mean a lot of things in the world of education. Just ask teachers with twenty years of experience how their first year with Common Core State Standards went, and you’re likely to hear the word new. When new is the word you use to describe your teaching situation, work on some essentials for success.

Articles in this series: