Teacher’s Lounge Blog

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

Coronavirus and Teacher Preparedness

March 18th, 2020 | Comments Off on Coronavirus and Teacher Preparedness | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect teachers across the United States. It also appears that the situation will likely get worse before it gets better. Soon, all school districts will undoubtedly close temporarily rather than just a select few. This includes colleges and universities. What does this mean for prospective educators? What if the semester ends abruptly rather than continuing classes in virtual settings?

Uncertain times can certainly be stressful but current teachers and those seeking a degree do not just have to sit back and wait for things to improve. Make the best of a trying situation. If your community mandates a quarantine, there are things you can do that not only pass the time but help you better prepare yourself for a future in education or provide an unexpected opportunity for professional development.

Online learning environments have the best of both worlds. You get the skills and information you need and want without being stuck in a classroom during set times of the day.

Do you suffer from insomnia? Complete your lessons in the middle of the night. Have a toddler or infant? Work on classes while they play or nap. The flexibility of a self-paced environment offered in online courses is not only welcome, but also beneficial for your entire family.

PrepForward is proud to provide current educators and future teachers the necessary competencies for teaching virtual learners as well as those in traditional classroom settings. Use this “coronavirus downtime” to your advantage and enroll today in one of our classes.

Our distance learning courses are valuable for teachers already in the classroom for certification renewal, obtaining additional licensure, increasing salary opportunities, preparing for annual teacher evaluations, and reinforcing key concepts and skills. For prospective educators who are not yet in a classroom setting, our courses supplement and enhance college courses, help you better prepare for licensing exams, and add valuable expertise that you can highlight on your resume.

Our range of courses include elementary and advanced mathematics, reading comprehension and foundations of reading, writing and language arts and elementary inclusion. For more information about the courses we offer, please contact us. We will be happy to answer your questions about teacher prep or professional development.

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.

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.

What is Contributing to Our Nation’s Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-Poverty Schools?

July 11th, 2019 | Comments Off on What is Contributing to Our Nation’s Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-Poverty Schools? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Teacher shortages are felt in both urban and rural districts across the U.S., but according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the impact is unevenly distributed along socioeconomic lines. Schools that are in high-poverty areas have a bigger problem with attracting certified teachers with experience in the subject(s) they teach. This problem undermines teacher effectiveness, threatens the students’ ability to learn, and leads to greater teacher turnover.

The study is the first in a series that examines the causes, consequences, and possible solutions in the volatile teacher labor market. Not only is the deficit real, it is worse than originally thought.

When the economy recovered after the recession and school budgets increased, districts started looking for teachers again. However, they found that it was more challenging to fill those positions than they had expected. The effects have been long-reaching and continue today. Of particular concern is finding qualified teachers in special education, science, and mathematics.

Many reports from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) indicate that the teacher shortage is not only alarming but that there are just not enough educators in specialty fields with the current wages offered. While there are many highly qualified teachers scattered throughout the country, not all educators have the certification, experience, and education requirements to meet those guidelines.

The EPI report indicates that there is an unequal distribution of highly qualified educators in schools for low-income students, and the problem is more severe than previously believed. California is especially hard-hit, according to a 2017 report from LPI where 2/3 of principals in poverty-stricken schools hired less than qualified teachers or simply left positions unfilled because they were unable to hire teachers with the required skills.

Of the open teacher positions in Illinois in 2017, 90% were in school districts with less than adequate funding. Low-income districts had 81% of the vacancies, and 74% were in majority-minority school districts.

Schools with high-poverty levels are more likely than schools in traditional districts to have educators with fewer credentials and less experience, as well as lacking significant knowledge in the subject matter they teach. These teachers are more apt to leave the education field, as well.

The relationship between having strong credentials and remaining in a school or district weakens in high poverty schools (EPI study). Richard Ingersoll reports that half of teacher attrition occurs in 25% of public schools in mostly high-poverty rural and urban locations.

There are no indications that the teacher shortage issue is lessening, particularly in impoverished schools and districts. The problem will only get better when leaders understand that this lack of credentialed teachers is due to increased job stress, the teacher pay gap, and demoralization, as well as a lack of training, mentoring, and suitable professional development programs. EPI plans to investigate these challenges and possible solutions in future studies.

To find an equitable resolution to the teacher shortage crisis, it is necessary to recognize why it is occurring and the unique nature of the teacher labor market. Only then will there be a solution that benefits the districts, schools, teachers, and students.

 

 

 

Is Positive Reinforcement an Effective Strategy for Students with Learning Disabilities?

July 2nd, 2019 | Comments Off on Is Positive Reinforcement an Effective Strategy for Students with Learning Disabilities? | Inclusive Teaching, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Although any child can exhibit behavior issues in the classroom, individuals with learning disabilities often have more conduct problems than their peers. Knowing that he has a learning disability sometimes causes a child to “act out” at home, in class, or other situations. Positive reinforcement is often used to help these students reach desired behaviors. Does it work?

Positive reinforcement, rather than negative reinforcement, can motivate students to stop acting in unacceptable ways. As part of an individually designed behavior intervention plan, positive reinforcement can be used to make specific changes to the environment to alter unwanted behavior. Where negative reinforcement usually involves some punitive discipline, positive reinforcement is a group of techniques that adults can use to aid students with behavior or academic issues to increase favorable behaviors.

Positive reinforcers aid students in learning behaviors necessary to have both social and academic success and increase targeted behaviors. While they are like a reward system, they are not just given one time as a “good job” type of prize. Positive reinforcement increases wanted behaviors over a specific period.

Positive Reinforcement Examples

Any consequence, reward, or action that increases the desired behavior for a particular student can be a positive reinforcer. It is important to get to know the child, as this provides clues as to what will work for the individual. What may be a great reinforcer for one child may not be a motivator for another. Privileges and rewards like free time, a snack, school supplies, books, gold stars, a note from the teacher, etc., can all be effective positive reinforcers depending on the child and his interests.

When Positive Reinforcement Doesn’t Work

Sometimes positive reinforcement doesn’t work to change student’s behavior. In these cases, other options may be necessary. It is important to note that if positive reinforcement doesn’t work, then negative reinforcement like taking away privileges or a coveted object like a cell phone may get better results.

 

PrepForward offers a course on teaching students with disabilities. For each disability, the course includes approaches for lesson planning, effective teaching, classroom management, assessment, strategies for outside the classroom, and technical support tools.