As busy as we are as teachers, it is sometimes easy to forget the little things that can have a profound impact on our teaching effectiveness and the successes of our students.
Here is a list of 10 teaching actions that can make teaching more effectual and rewarding.
1. Greet students at the door.
This can be tough, given the number of responsibilities associated with preparing for a class session. However, the payoff for this trivial action is well worth the minimal effort required. It shows students that we care, sets the stage for a safe learning environment, and minimizes behavioral issues.
2. Let them talk freely.
Human beings are social. We need time to connect with others. Allowing students a few minutes at the beginning of every class to “Just Talk” actually gets them ready to focus on the learning tasks awaiting them. It also gives teachers a chance to interact with individual students and observe student interactions that may provide insights that guide instruction.
3. Jot a note.
Try to get in the habit of leaving a brief written message of encouragement, celebration, or information on a sticky note for individual students. “You worked tenaciously on your group project today - Keep up the great effort” or, “Insightful ideas shared today in discussion” or, “I thought you might like this article” can go along way toward establishing positive student roles in the classroom.
4. Provide a purpose.
Revealing the reason(s) for a learning activity allows teachers and students to understand its importance. Students will realize why they are participating in an activity, what they are intended to learn, and how the new knowledge or ability will impact their lives. Not only that, revealing the purpose allows students to set goals and assess their own efforts and learning.
5. Engage each individual.
Whole group discussions are valuable for presenting the purpose, instructions and expectations, and establishing individual student roles in the learning community. But, whole group instruction can be a waste of time. It is simple for a student to act like he/she is listening and think about other things. To promote individual engagement, have students talk with a peer to answer questions posed, clarify instructions and expectations, and synthesize the purpose. Don’t let them hide in whole group. Keep them talking, listening, and thinking.
6. Read aloud each day.
The act of reading aloud to students is priceless. A brief read aloud can serve as a model of fluent reading, present ideas to be explored further in a lesson, draw students to new genres or authors, clarify information, build background knowledge of a topic, or engage students. Any text can be used including quotes, riddles, poems, blogs, or lyrics. The list goes on and on and depends on the purpose of its intended use.
7. Read for fun.
Students pursue their interests. We want reading to be one of those interests. So, why not link the two? Providing time for students to read about topics of personal interest affords opportunities to practice reading and the thinking that goes along with the act. Teachers can enhance the learning opportunity by reading as well or conferencing with individuals to support strategic reading behaviors.
8. Offer or accept alternatives.
Choices can entice and engage our most reluctant students. If the purposes of a learning activity are clear to the teacher and the students, a wide number of pathways might be taken to achieve the learning goals. If possible, offer alternative processes or product ideas to students to engage them and support their achievement of the intended learning goals. Or, encourage disinterested students to come up with their own ideas for meeting the intended learning goals. Then, affirm student ideas or encourage their further consideration until a suitable idea is presented.
9. Wrap it up.
Conclude every learning experience with a brief opportunity for students to reflect on or synthesize their new understanding. This can be achieved through activities such as peer discussions, personal learning journal entries, or a note to the teacher.
This shows students that we care about them, that we enjoy being in their presence. It also shows them that we are approachable and enhances classroom communication.
This post was written by Ronald Schendel, a professor and co-author of the book "25 Essential Language Arts Strategies to Help Striving Readers Succeed."
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