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7 Effective Teaching Strategies For The Classroom

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The classroom is a dynamic environment, bringing together students from different backgrounds with various abilities and personalities. Being an effective teacher therefore requires the implementation of creative and innovative teaching strategies in order to meet students’ individual needs.

Whether you’ve been teaching two months or twenty years, it can be difficult to know which teaching strategies will work best with your students. As a teacher there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, so here is a range of effective teaching strategies you can use to inspire your classroom practice.

1. Visualization

Bring dull academic concepts to life with visual and practical learning experiences, helping your students to understand how their schooling applies in the real-world.

Examples include using the interactive whiteboard to display photos, audio clips and videos, as well as encouraging your students to get out of their seats with classroom experiments and local field trips.

2. Cooperative learning

Encourage students of mixed abilities to work together by promoting small group or whole class activities.

Through verbally expressing their ideas and responding to others your students will develop their self-confidence, as well as enhance their communication and critical thinking skills which are vital throughout life.

Solving mathematical puzzlesconducting scientific experiments and acting out short drama sketches are just a few examples of how cooperative learning can be incorporated into classroom lessons.

3. Inquiry-based instruction

Pose thought-provoking questions which inspire your students to think for themselves and become more independent learners.

Encouraging students to ask questions and investigate their own ideas helps improve their problem-solving skills as well as gain a deeper understanding of academic concepts. Both of which are important life skills.

Inquiries can be science or math-based such as ‘why does my shadow change size?’ or ‘is the sum of two odd numbers always an even number?’. However, they can also be subjective and encourage students to express their unique views, e.g. ‘do poems have to rhyme?’ or ‘should all students wear uniform?’.

4. Differentiation

Differentiate your teaching by allocating tasks based on students’ abilities, to ensure no one gets left behind.

Assigning classroom activities according to students’ unique learning needs means individuals with higher academic capabilities are stretched and those who are struggling get the appropriate support.

This can involve handing out worksheets that vary in complexity to different groups of students, or setting up a range of work stations around the classroom which contain an assortment of tasks for students to choose from.

Moreover, using an educational tool such as Quizalize can save you hours of time because it automatically groups your students for you, so you can easily identify individual and whole class learning gaps (click here to find out more).

5. Technology in the classroom

Incorporating technology into your teaching is a great way to actively engage your students, especially as digital media surrounds young people in the 21st century.

Interactive whiteboards or mobile devices can be used to display images and videos, which helps students visualize new academic concepts. Learning can become more interactive when technology is used as students can physically engage during lessons as well as instantly research their ideas, which develops autonomy.

Mobile devices, such as iPads and/or tablets, can be used in the classroom for students to record resultstake photos/videos  or simply as a behaviour management technique. Plus, incorporating educational programmes such as Quizalize into your lesson plans is also a great way to make formative assessments fun and engaging.

6. Behaviour management

Implementing an effective behaviour management strategy is crucial to gain your students respect and ensure students have an equal chance of reaching their full potential.

Noisy, disruptive classrooms do no encourage a productive learning environment, therefore developing an atmosphere of mutual respect through a combination of discipline and reward can be beneficial for both you and your students.

Examples include fun and interactive reward charts for younger students, where individuals move up or down based on behaviour with the top student receiving a prize at the end of the week. ‘Golden time’ can also work for students of all ages, with a choice of various activities such as games or no homework in reward for their hard work.

7. Professional development

Engaging in regular professional development programmes is a great way to enhance teaching and learning in your classroom.

With educational policies constantly changing it is extremely useful to attend events where you can gain inspiration from other teachers and academics. It’s also a great excuse to get out of the classroom and work alongside other teachers just like you!

Sessions can include learning about new educational technologiesonline safety training, advice on how to use your teaching assistant(s) and much more.

Being an effective teacher is a challenge because every student is unique, however, by using a combination of teaching strategies you can address students’ varying learning styles and academic capabilities as well as make your classroom a dynamic and motivational environment for students.

posted Aug 30 in General by Jorani

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The start of a school year means a new seating chart for each classroom—full of students that the teacher likely hasn’t met. Without knowing the students, how does a teacher know where to assign their seats?

This question comes up each summer as teachers strive to create the best learning environment possible. From my experience in the classroom, I’ve found that seating chart choices can be critical to how students engage with one another and the teacher. 

Today, the influx of digital tools and new instructional models means that the traditional classroom settings of “quiet students, talking teacher” may no longer apply. Already, some teachers are letting go of tradition and allowing flexible seating in classrooms to give students freedom to choose where they want to sit. For others, placing students into assigned groups for cooperative learning can produce the optimal learning environment.

As each teacher develops their own style of seating students, their process involves weighing several factors to create their ideal classroom arrangement. But how does a teacher know what’s best for their classroom and which student dependencies should factor into these decisions?

Prep and Plan

The seating chart is an underrated tool that can help turn a good learning environment into a great one.

The lead times for seating chart planning range from the moment the teacher receives the class roll to the first day of class. Some teachers wait until getting to know the students before assigning seats, with open seating in earlier weeks and a solid chart after seeing how students interact, focus, and learn. This reactive approach can work better for teachers who enjoy flexibility and adaptability.

Others take a proactive approach, often by asking previous teachers of those students for their feedback. While this warrants extra legwork at the beginning, polling fellow teachers about their previous students can sometimes help identify when seat placements are beneficial to how an individual student engages in class. 

Consider Preferences

Options for seating arrangement type vary, from row-and-column grids to two-person tables to stadium seating. Some draw inspiration from their favorite popular hangout spots, like Starbucks. (But others warn against turning flexible furniture design into a fad.)

For more traditional layouts—whether in rows or in the form of a semi-circle arrangement—past research suggests that students who sit toward the center tend to participate more in classroom discussions. 

Although a fixed seating chart does make it easier to remember students’ names, a teacher might decide to change up the layout regularly for a variable learning experience, some as often as every day and others about once a month. That’s not to say that change is necessary for everyone. As long as a classroom is functioning harmoniously, a fixed seating chart can remain unchanged throughout the year. If something doesn’t work, then the teacher can adjust until an arrangement sticks.

Other Factors and Dependencies

There’s more to a seating chart than telling a student where to sit, as many other considerations must be taken into account. Learning disabilities, academic performance, and vision problems could necessitate students being placed in the front of the classroom to ensure better learning and higher engagement.

Social considerations and partner compatibility are important to consider because some students work well with others, even if their socialization can be distracting. It’s common for friends to ask to sit together and not unusual for a teacher to separate them to avoid over-socialization. What they might later learn is that the friends complement and challenge each other in a positive way. Being open and malleable as a teacher creates opportunities for students to learn from each other collaboratively.

Clustering students into groups can also lead to learning environments that foster student collaboration. Previous studies conducted by psychologist and John Hopkins research director, Robert Slavin, points to positive outcomes from cooperative learning, in the form of students learning more, enjoying school and the subject, and feeling more successful.

Create a Culture, not a Classroom

It is integral for teachers to find a layout that suits their preference and instructional style, in ways that make them most engaging and effective. But it is also important to create an environment where students can support each other. 

Grouping high level and low level learners together is useful in facilitating peer coaching, and heterogeneous groups can help each other in the learning process. In my experience, this method has been the most effective way to encourage a positive exchange for collective learning in a classroom community.

The seating chart is an underrated tool that can help turn a good learning environment into a great one. While there is no clear model for where to place students, if done correctly, a well-thought-out seating chart fosters an effective classroom environment that allows students to maximize their learning potential.

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Art inquiry is a powerful way to engage students with diverse learning needs, improve critical thinking and social-emotional skills and make learning relevant to students’ lives.

Yet many teachers shy away from teaching with art, which causes their students to miss out on these potentially transformative learning experiences. Teaching with art creates opportunities for novelty in the classroom, which stimulates students’ minds, activating different ways of thinking and learning.

In my work with teachers, I always emphasize that teaching with works of art doesn’t require specialized knowledge in the field of art. It does require the willingness to look at your curriculum through a creative lens in order to find new and unexpected connections to the content you teach. If you are looking for a way to enliven your curriculum, the 5 steps below will help you leverage the power of art to improve your teaching practice and your students’ learning.

1. Choose a Work of Art

Because art tells the story of human history, there is no curriculum topic that can’t be supported by works of art. With your curriculum in mind, explore museum websites. A great place to start is The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website, metmuseum.org, where you can download high-resolution images of thousands of works of art from their encyclopedic collection. Brooklynmuseum.org and moma.org are also excellent resources for art images. When selecting works of art to teach from, consider these three questions:

  • Does this artwork spark my interest?
  • How does it relate to my students’ lives?
  • How does it relate to our curriculum?

If the work of art you choose satisfies all three of these criteria, you have the foundation for a successful art inquiry experience.

2. Think Thematically

Use a theme or essential question to support connections between the work of art, your students’ lives and your curriculum. Effective themes and essential questions are intellectually engaging and universal; they provide an entry point into challenging content by supporting personal connections between students’ experiences and academic content. For example, a middle school teacher used the theme “Friend or Foe?” to support her students’ study of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

In the classroom, she showed her class portraits in which the artist and the subject had a complicated relationship. Exploring the theme through the paintings while making connections to their own lives deepened her students’ understanding of a central theme in the novel.

3. Develop Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions inspire critical and creative thinking. By engaging your students in open-ended inquiry with works of art, you affirm their unique ways of seeing the world while teaching them to value the diverse viewpoints of their classmates. To ensure that your questions are open-ended, challenge yourself to think of multiple responses to each question.

If you can come up with at least three possible responses, the question is open-ended. If you are expecting one ‘correct’ answer, the question is closed. Try rephrasing the question to make it open-ended. Your questions should also encourage close looking by requiring students to use visual evidence to support their ideas. This will ensure that the conversation remains grounded in the work of art.

 

4. Use the Pyramid of Inquiry to sequence your questions

The Pyramid of Inquiry is a flexible framework that can be used with any work of art to facilitate inquiry experiences that develop critical thinking skills. The foundation of the Pyramid is observation: students begin by looking closely through an open-ended prompt such as, ‘what do you notice?’ or a multimodal approach such as sketching the object. Observation is the critical first step in the inquiry process because the information gathered in this phase will support the development of inferences and interpretations that are grounded in visual evidence. The next level of the Pyramid is evidence-based inference.

This could be prompted by a question along the lines of ‘what’s going on in this painting’ or a movement activity that asks students to take the pose of a character in a painting and infer how the character feels, using evidence from the artwork to support their ideas. At this point, you will introduce relevant contextual information about the work of art. Once students have absorbed this information, the conversation builds to the interpretation phase, where students synthesize this new information with their previous ideas about the work of art.

Interpretation can involve a big question such as ‘what do you think is the message of this work of art?’ or an art-making activity that asks students to express the meaning of the artwork in a creative way.

5. Expand learning beyond the classroom

Whenever possible, bring students to a museum or gallery to explore works of art in person. These kinds of experiences yield powerful results for student learning (Greene, Kisida & Bowen, 2014), and seeing a work of art in person is a vastly different experience than viewing it on a screen. Reach out to the museum’s education department before you visit; they exist to support teachers and students and offer a wealth of resources to support your teaching. If museums and art galleries are not abundant where you teach, seek out local artists. They can be a rich source of information for your students and are often happy to take time to speak with young people about their work.

Finally, a word of encouragement: if you are new to art, don’t be intimidated! Use art inquiry as an opportunity to model creative risk-taking with your students. You will be rewarded with the gift of seeing works of art, and your students, with fresh eyes.

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