Teaching Tips

 Creating an Inviting and Culturally Inclusive Learning Environment:

1.  In lessons use names from different cultures and ethnicities in examples (Langseth) – An example of this is using a name such as Miguel Gonzales in a math word problem.  Using names and places from different countries, and ethnic backgrounds insures that all children feel comfortable and included in the curriculum.

2.  “Teacher must not make assumptions about learning styles based on gender or ethnicity, instead address the full spectrum of learning style preferences recognizing that they may all be present within the same class.”(Cho, Forde 10) – A teacher should present multiple learning styles and assume that they will be present in the classroom regardless of gender or ethnicity.  All students should be considered equal.

3.  Knowledge Construction (Slavin 119) - Helping students understand how knowledge is influenced by racial, ethnic, and social economic status.  An example would be having a social studies class write about the colonization of the Americas from the perspective of the indigenous people.

4. Self-knowledge (Williams) - Teachers must understand and analyze their own beliefs and prejudices when dealing with students.  They must understand their student’s backgrounds and their own prejudices and beliefs regarding these backgrounds.

5.  Current and relevant bulletin boards (Montgomery 6) - Use current events, newspaper articles, and research to create bulletin boards.  Try to link current units and lessons by creating relevant bulletin boards.  An example is to use tangrams in math to show links to Chinese math and American Indian pictographs.

6.  Have school cafeterias serve ethnic dishes (NPR Radio) - Schools in the Minneapolis area have included ethnic dishes in their lunch menus.  They are specifically including Hmong rice and beef dish, as well as a Mexican dish.  This is due to their large Hmong and Mexican student populations.

7.  Use different assessment methods to relate to different students learning styles and cultural backgrounds (Cho, Forde 10) – This includes: portfolios, group projects, individual projects, tests, oral presentations, journals, reflections, experimental and applied student work. 

8. Prejudice reduction- developing positive relationships between students of different backgrounds (Slavin 119).  For example having students work in groups with others from different backgrounds than their own.

9. Body language and eye contact (Rallis) – Different cultural groups interpret eye contact and body languages in different ways.  Don’t assume that students will understand or interpret these subtle signals in the way that you expect.  For example some Native American cultures will consider eye contact a challenge while the Maori people of New Zealand consider looking away a sign of weakness and deception. 

10.  Families (Vang) – Families are not always a mom, dad and siblings, consider alternate family groups when dealing with students and their parents.  For example, the Hmong people have elders that hold considerably more influence than parents.

11.  The value of education (Rallis) – In some cultures emphasis is not placed on education; community and family are much more important. Teachers need to be aware that students maybe receiving mixed messaged regarding school and its importance.

12.  Get to know you activities at the beginning of the school year (Langseth) - Have student participate in “get to know you activities” at the beginning of the school year.  This helps to create a class community and lets the students get to know each other and their backgrounds.

13.  Integrated lessons (Glisczinski) - Chose themes such as diversity when planning curriculum and lessons.

14.  Modeling behavior (Slavin159) - By setting examples in the classroom, teachers can model the multicultural sensitive behaviors expected of the children. 

15.  Tracking (Williams) - Tracking students can be harmful.  It sets the children up early in life and can keep them from excelling.  Often socioeconomic status has a negative impact in the tracking of students and keeps the student from bettering their lives and financial situation.

  Working with Students with Disabilities:

 1.  Both speak and write instructions for students on the board (Rallis) - by writing and speaking directions you are meeting the needs of visual and auditory learners.  It also ensures that students who need longer processing times, or those with memory issues can access the information as often as needed.

2.  Have an agenda written on the board-(Mikulich) putting up the schedule for both the week and the day allows students to focus and prepare for the work ahead.  It also helps the students organize their work for the week.  Students who were absent can immediately see what they missed and what work needs to be completed and turned in.

3.  Allow for stretch breaks-(Mikulich) - students with ADHD and other disorders absolutely can not sit still for 50 minutes at a time.  Quick movement breaks must be provided so they can continue to concentrate and learn.

4.  Provide multiple activities during a class period (Hughes) some students with disabilities need to switch activities during a class in order to maintain their attention and control.  Classes need to be broken into periods of lecture mixed with activities.

5.  Speak clearly and slowly while facing the class (Hughes) - Speaking clearly and slowly while facing the class ensures that all students can see your face and understand your words.

6. Make sure that you read all information about your students that is available to you (Langseth) – Make sure that you are familiar with your students’ IEP’s and 504 plans so that you know how to best accommodate their needs.

7. Provide color coding options (Hughes) – Using color coding to highlight and organize important information.  This helps students pick out the most important information and focus their attention.

8.  Teach and model memory techniques (Hughes) - Teaching and modeling memory techniques such as verbal rehearsal, mnemonics, and visual imagery will enhance the memory abilities of all students, but particularly those with memory issues.  These techniques also help organize information into manageable bits.

9.  Provide alternative assessments and evaluations (Hughes) - Provide alternative assessments such as oral presentations, videotaped projects, research projects, and oral tests.  By providing alternative testing methods students can use a method that build on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.  It sets them up for success rather than failure.

10.  Dual grading (Hughes) - When grading written assignments separate the grade into areas such as content, form, and style.  This ensures that a student can be successful in an area even though another area may be difficult for them.

11.  Peer tutoring (Slavin 448) – Have students volunteer to be a special education student’s buddy.  The non-special education student will be well trained to help the students with daily classroom activities including peer tutoring, interpreting assignments and delivering cues and prompts.

12. Have the students keep a planner tracking all of the assignments and/or daily tasks (Holt T19) – Have a list of daily tasks for the student to complete every day, also have students write down assignments daily.  When the assignment or task is completed have the student highlight the assignment.

13. Use first person language when referring to the students (Hughes) – for example don’t refer to a student as “the ADHD student”, instead refer to them as “the student with ADHD”.  Put the person first, not the disability.

14.  Use proximity control in making sure the student with the disability is by you (Rallis) – this doesn’t embarrass the student, but at the same time lets them know that you are watching them. 

15.  Arrange classroom to make sure it is accessible for students with disabilities, also known as universal design (Rallis) – this would include making sure rows are wide enough between rows and throughout the room and making sure students are seated somewhere that is convenient.

  Technology Enhanced Learning:

 1.  Use already prepared lessons-(Rallis) always search for lessons that have already been prepared.  This is a huge timesaver, and allows for variation in lesson styles.  The internet is an excellent source for lesson plans and activities.  I have a fondness for National Geographic.com.

2.  Do not read PowerPoint verbatim- (Rallis) reading from the slides is boring and defeats their purpose.  They are best used as outlines to help the students follow the lesson. 

3. Use PowerPoint or overheads (Rallis).  By using PowerPoint or overheads you can uncover items one at a time instead of showing all information at once which can be distracting.

4. Use a PowerPoint slide to show objectives (Rallis).  By having a slide up showing the objective of the day students can look at it to refocus themselves to what they should be learning during the day.

5. Use a laser pointer (Rallis).  If a student isn’t paying attention you can shine the laser pointer on the desk in front of them to get their attention and you won’t be distracting from the class.

6. Using technology to accommodate different learning styles (Slavin 107).  For example by using a computer program such as geometry sketchpad students can visualize mathematical formulas both visually and kinesthetically.

7. Using the computer lab (Hencz).  By going to the computer lab instead of always staying in the classroom gives the students the opportunity to use technology and allows the student to have an out of the traditional classroom experience.

8. Show videos to enhance understanding (Hencz).  By showing a video in your classroom it can enhance a topic that you read about and bring a visual.

9.  Put schedule for the day on voicemail (Glisczinski). For example put the schedule on your voicemail everyday including assignments and tests so parents and students can call in and check assignments.

10.  Use Webquests (Rallis). By using a Webquest is allows students to search the web in a structured way and it also gets students really involved in a topic that somehow is connected to the objectives in the class and the real world. Usually role taking occurs in a Webquest.

11.  Post a class web site (Luehr). Posting a class web site would be very beneficial to the students because a class syllabus would be put on the web site and this would save on paper. This would allow students to check on how much an assignment is worth and what the future schedule is. The web site would help a lot in students staying organized.

12.  Take photos to help learn names (Rallis). Using a camera to take pictures of students holding their nametags can help a teacher learn names and faces in the first week.

13.  Use Homer font for presenting on PowerPoint (Rallis). Homer font is a serif font and has feet on the letters so it is easier to see from a distance.

14.  Use CPS for in-class questioning (Glisczinski). A CPS is a small remote that allows each student to respond confidentially. Their answers are publicly displayed in-front of the class but no one knows who answered what.

15.  Provide a CD/tape player and play music at the beginning of class (Rallis). Playing music at the beginning of class can relax the students, set the atmosphere, and allow students to express themselves (Allow students to share their own music).

Direct/Teacher Centered Instructional Methods:

 1.  Put the most important information of a lesson at the beginning or the end (Rallis). It has been discovered through research that people best remember the information given at the beginning of a lesson and at the end.

2.  Always ask students to point out what the muddiest points of the last lesson were (Rallis).  This ensures that you clarify any points that may not have been covered adequately.  If there is a general consensus that an area was not completely understood, then you may need to rethink your approach to teaching that point.

3.  Allow for wait time after asking a question (Glisczinski). Always allow time for students to think about a question.  Do not rush and answer it for them because you are uncomfortable with silence.  They need time to think and gather their thoughts.

4. Prepare questions for class ahead of time (Glisczinski).  Have prepared questions ready to lead discussions in class.  This ensures that the class discussions are led in the direction that you want them to go.  It also ensures that all of the material that has been prepared has been covered adequately.

5. PowerPoint should be brief and conscience (Rallis).  You don’t want to put all of the information on a PowerPoint slide, but just the main points.  You also do not want to read directly off the slide.  This rule applies to overheads and boards also.

6. Drill concepts to make sure that students get it (Rallis).  Review concepts in a variety of ways.  You could talk about it verbally, write it down, give them hand outs, read in book and use hands on activity to practice it.

7. Have more prepared than you think that you will get through
 (Glisczinski).  You need to keep in mind that all classes are going to move at different rates.  You need to have enough planned so that students are doing something through out the entire hour and you don’t run out of stuff for them to do.

8. Do what I ask my students to do (Rallis).  Do every activity before you have you have your class do them.  This helps you with time management because you will know how long something is going to take and you can then plan accordingly.

9. Don’t give too much information to soon if it will confuse students who get a head of you (Rallis).  For example when showing an overhead do not allow the entire thing to show because some students will copy the entire thing and not listen to you while you are explaining it.

10. Don’t start tell you have everyone’s attention (Rallis).  Have a way of getting the students attention at the beginning of the lesson (Langseth).  Do something out of the ordinary to focus everyone’s attention to you.

11. Bring students up to date on any skills they might need to the lesson (Slavin 222). This could be the review of what they learned in previous days.  It is a way of opening up their mental filing cabinets.   

12. When looking for understanding ask why (Rallis).  You are looking to see if the students can expand on it.  This will tell you how much they understand the concept.  

13. Find a “kernel” of something in a student’s response to expand on (Rallis).  This requires the teacher to listen well and guide the students to understand a concept.  This also helps you to get rid of any misunderstandings.

14. Lessons should be logically organized (Slavin 228).  This is important so that they run smoothly, and students will be able to understand better.

15.   Choral responses are a good way to get away from the traditional raising of hands and calling on one person (Slavin 235).  Students who are more shy don’t like being called on but will be more likely to get involved when the teacher uses choral responses.

 Learner Centered Instructional Methods:

 1. Remove yourself from class discussions, do not always lead and participate in student discussions (Glisczinski).  Guide the discussion in the beginning, and then let it go where the students take it.  This also allows the students to speak and debate each other rather than the teacher.

2. Create a variety of classroom centers, do not have only one main focal point in the classroom and then make students face it (Glisczinski).  This does not allow for student interaction.  Circles and groups are much better suited to learner centered activities.

3. Discovery learning allows students to discover ideas and concepts on their own (Slavin 261).  This can be done through students being engaged in activities, experiments, group work, or labs.

4. Using different instructional methods to meet students needs with a focus on content, processes, and learning profiles (Brown 52). 

5. In math classes, a good way to get students engaged is playing interactive games like Math Basketball or Math Baseball (Maijala).  This is a good activity particularly for kinesthetic learners. 

6. Know your students so you can pick activities that will enhance their learning (Brown 52).  Doing examples and/or activities that relate to the students lives and their interests will help them be interested and engaged in learning.

7. When doing group work, it is helpful to give the students’ instructions for the activity before they get in their groups (Langseth).  This will lesson the chance of the students becoming distracted during class.  Also, it is beneficial to only give one instruction at a time so the students don’t get confused.

8. All instructions need to be very clear, concise, and descriptive (Wong 250).  This will help students move quickly into groups and be productive.

9. Cooperative groups should be heterogeneous in terms of ability, sex, ethnicity, and other personal characteristics (Wong 251).  This will allow students to work with numerous different students and not just their friends all the time.  This will be good for the students to be out of their comfort zones and work with people different then themselves.

10. Assign jobs to a group and have the number of jobs equal the number of people in the group (Wong 252).  This will allow each individual student to have a role to play in their group.  They will feel important and needed in their group as well as they will each have something to contribute.

11. Let the students know that if they have a question ask their group members before asking the teacher (Wong 259).  If no one knows the answer, have the group members come up with a specific question to ask the teacher.

12. When sharing, have students share what another group member said so they are not always sharing their own ideas (Rallis).  This will encourage students to listen carefully to their other classmates and make sure they understand the ideas of their other classmates.

13. When you assign groups, keep a list of whose in each group (Rallis).  This will help you when students forget what group they are in or when they aren’t in the right group.

14. Involving students in the class by asking for volunteers to do problems on the overhead in front of the class is very beneficial (Maijala).  This allows peers to see there other peers up in front of the class.  When students actually teach a concept to someone else, this is the highest level of understanding!

15. Have group rules, responsibilities, and evaluation (Wong 253).  This holds students responsible to working cooperatively the entire time.

 Assessment Methods:

1.  Have students check in with each other for the answers to questions- Helen Rallis, by allowing students to discuss answers together, they are better able to form complete ideas.  This also takes the spotlight off of an individual and lets them make sure they are comfortable with an answer. 

2.  Never give negative remarks while assessing (Grindy). If negative remarks are heard the students will believe that they like seeing the students in the hot seat and relish their failure.

3.  While testing announce students to raise their hands if they have a question and you will be right their to help them (Grindy). This makes students realize that the teacher wants the students to succeed and the teacher will do everything they can to help the student so that they can excel.

4.  Testing to the ability level that you taught (Nyback) – The teacher wants to set the students up for success. The teacher wants to challenge the students on the test but not overwhelm them with an impossible test.

5.  Assessing in the same environment that the students were taught in (Grindy). This means that if the teacher taught a lab skill then while assessing the skill the teacher should set up a mini lab. The teacher can’t assess a lab skill using multiple choice.

6.  Use Rubrics (Williams)-This allows the students to know exactly what they are expected to do. If they get a lower grade the teacher can point out exactly why they lost points.

7.  Assess using different methods (Williams). Use lots of things like essay, oral, multiple choice, portfolios, and group work. This allows students who may not have been good at one assess method to excel in another.

8.  Objectives and assessment should match (Wong & Wong 233). This allows students exactly what is going to be on the test and it structures the test so that the teacher does not test on something that was not taught.

9.  Return assessments in timely manner (Nyback). This allows the student to know what they need to work on or change before the next assessment.

10.  Test for understanding (Williams). When a student understands something it will follow through with them. If just testing for knowledge the students will remember it for the test and forget it later.

11.  Assessments must be valid and reliable (Williams). The assessments must be valid meaning they test for understanding and what was taught but also they must be repeatable.

12.  Assessment should never stop (Williams). This is because as teachers we should always be checking for understanding to make sure the teacher is getting through to the students.

13.  After the assessment allow students to recycle assessments for better grades (Rallis). This sets up the students for success. Also it motivates students to do their best work because they will keep redoing it and redoing it until they get it better.

14.  Provide a review session (Hencze). This will allow students to ask questions and remind students what is on the test. This could prevent any misconceptions on the test.

15.  Tell students to never hurry or rush through assessment pieces (Grindy). This will prevent students from feeling like a test or an assignment is a race. The students will slow down and know that the teacher will let them have more time if they need it. It promotes students to do their best work.

Classroom Management:

1.  Seating arrangements (Hencz).  By using a seating arrangement you will know who is absent. You can control who sits by whom and you have a seating chart for substitutes.  It also helps to use a photo with the seating arrangement.

2.  Start class with a “Do Now” activity- (Langseth).provide an activity that the students begin once they enter class and sit down.  It can be written on the board or be sitting in their desks.  This focuses the students and occupies their time while the other students enter class.  It will help cut down on inappropriate behaviors that occur when students are left to occupy themselves while they wait for class to begin.

3.  Use proximity control- (Rallis). Proximity control is an excellent method for controlling the classroom.  By continually moving around the classroom you maintain a presence everywhere.  If necessary you can move and stand next to students who are exhibiting behavior issues.  Students will usually cease and inappropriate behaviors when the teacher moves and stands near them.

4.  Maintain eye contact with the students- (Rallis). Maintaining eye contact reinforces your control of the classroom.  It also shows the students you are paying attention to them and their behavior.  Do not expect eye contact to be returned by all students.  This is a culturally significant issue for some people.  It can be seen as a challenge.

5.  Move students every 2 weeks-(Mikulich). Rearrange the students’ seats every few weeks to ensure they do not get stuck in the front or back of the room the entire year.  This also helps develop a classroom community by allowing students to get to know each other.

6.  Watch and observe everything- (Williams) Always scan the classroom looking for behavior issues and other problems.  Make sure you observe the feet as well as the upper body.  Watch for looks and glares, particularly between girls; as well as note passing and other hand movements.  As the teacher, you are responsible for everything going on in your classroom and you need to be observant.

7.  Know students’ names within a few days of the beginning of class- (Rallis). It is always important to know your students’ names.  Yelling “hey you” is not exactly positive, and does not help correct behavior issues.  The students need to feel a connection to you and your class.  Knowing their names is a good way to start developing this connection.

8.  Call on a student next to one who is off task- (Rallis). By calling on a student who is sitting next to a student that is off task, you can refocus without having to speak directly to the student.  This avoids conflict and embarrassment on the part of the student.

9. Use a speaking item- (Rallis). Use a squishy ball or other safe object as a speaking tool.  When a student is in possession of the object it is their turn to talk.  Their classmates must wait for the object to be in their possession in order to share their thoughts.  This helps maintain control during discussions and debates.  It also encourages respect and listening skills.

10. Room is arranged for productive work (Wong 88).  Desks are arranged in groups so that students can work collaboratively.  Classroom materials are organized into appropriate places

11. Have more than one center in the room (Helen Rallis).  You could do this by not having a front of the room.  You could use the overhead on one side of the room and then move to the other side of the room to use the chalkboard.

12. Classroom is prepared for activities or labs happening that day (Wong 92).  Have the materials set up for labs or activities before class.  This will allow transitions to go smoothly and allow students to stay focused.  Labs and activities will run more slowly and students should be able to accomplish more during the hour.

13. Desks do not have to be in traditional rows, but all chairs should face forward so that all eyes are focuses on you (Wong 95).  Cooperating teacher, Mr. Maijala has the desk arranged so they all face the center of the room.  He then teaches from the center.

14. Call on non-volunteers (Rallis).  This will make it so that the students are paying attention during class because they don’t know if they are going to be called on. 

15. The climate of the classroom is work-oriented, but relaxed and pleasant (Wong 86).  Mr. Maijala will play math basketball as an activity for review.  These different types of activities are all academically involved and keep students on task.  If they are always working on something, they will have less time to misbehave.

 Working with Parents /Guardians:

 1.  Make one positive call to a parent/guardian per week- (Glisczinski). By making one positive call a week you ensure that you do not focus only on the negative.  It also allows you to connect with parents and open the lines of communication.  

2.  Maintain a website- (Rallis). Maintain a website that keeps parents up to date with the activities in class.  It may also be set up to allow parents to access their student’s profile, grades, absences, and comments.  The site can also list the weekly agenda so parents know what their student should be doing for homework.

 3. Provide parents with addresses, email and telephone numbers in a letter at the beginning of the year and encourage them to contact the teacher at any time with any questions (Ludwig 60).  Make a parent letter that goes out the first week of school with students as well as at the end of grading periods encouraging parents to contact the teacher with any concern, question or just to talk.  This will make parents feel involved and comfortable with open lines of communication.

4. Prepare weekly progress reports of what took place in class, personalizing the bottom of the report with any relative information about the student (Ludwig 60).  For example at the bottom of the weekly progress report you can inform parents of any missing assignments or upcoming projects.

5. Use Friday as a day to send home all schoolwork from the week (Ludwig 60).  This will allow the parents to coordinate the progress report with the homework as well as update the parents on how well the student is doing.

6. “Send a letter home at the beginning of each month letting parents know what will be expected in the way of reports, projects and test for the month ahead” (Ludwig 60).  This will give the parents a heads-up on what the student should be working on.

7. Call parents and “invite” them to meeting and/or conferences to discuss both good and problem areas (Nybac).  This gives the parents a sense of involvement and shows that the teacher is looking forward to seeing them.

8. For hard to reach parents, teachers may still hold a meeting regarding the student as long as there are records of attempting to contact the parents without a response (NEA Today 10).  By doing this you have on record that you have made the effort to contact a parent as well as try to get them involved incase administration would ask.

9. Communicate to parents that their time in the classroom is welcomed (NEA Today 10). By having parents become involved in the classroom will give the teacher the extra help as well as make the parents feel more connected to what their child is learning.

10. Send home a survey to find out about the home environment of the student (Luehr).  By finding out information such as if the family has a computer at home or if parents have the time available to help students with work.  By doing this you will know if you can assign at home computer work or assign work that parents can help out with.

11. Hold parent workshops (NEA Teacher to Teacher Books 25).  Hold a workshop one night to give parents helpful techniques for working with their children and the school.

12. Invite parents to be on committees (NEA Teacher to Teacher Books 25). Ask parents to volunteer to be on dance, sports, student council and activity committees.  By doing this it will make them feel more involved and knowledgeable on what their students are involved in.

13. Plan a school-wide family day “get to know you” potluck (NEA Teacher to Teacher 27).  By having a party outside of the school and sponsored by the school, families will be able to see the teachers in a non-school related atmosphere and show that the teachers are people too.

14. Select a parent of the week (NEA Teacher to Teacher 30).  Select a parent of the week to come in a visit the school and be involved during that week.  This will give the parent a feeling of prestige.

15. “Bring an Adult Day” (NEA Teacher to Teacher 30).  Parents and family members are welcome to come into the classroom for the day.  This will allow the student to share what their important adult does as well as connect the family to the school.