At the end of the day, my aim as a teacher was to always try and go home with some energy and a positive attitude after a long exhausting day of work. Today as I travel across the country coaching teachers on how to effectively use project learning, my aim still remains the same.
It is important to recognize the underlying reasons for teacher frustration. Often it begins with a lack of student engagement that is devastating to the teacher and unproductive for the student.Teachers feel overwhelmed when they experience chaos in the classroom instead of a steady flow of learning. When students are excitedly engaged in their work and asking interesting and deep questions, the teacher experiences a joy that is less tiring than the irritation that comes along with student apathy.
Good news. Here are ten classroom strategies I created from my past and present experiences working in schools. It is important to note that the strategies are designed to create and manage a project learning environment. Given some time, the strategies will increase the level of productivity in the classroom. They are easy to implement and don’t forget to use them every day. They work!
1. Create an emotionally safe classroom. Try to have rules like “We do not let others down”, “We tell others to stop laughing at people”, “We never say shut up in class”. Apply the rules to your students as well as to yourself.
2. Create an intellectually safe classroom. Try to begin each lesson with a warm up activity that can be done by ninety five percent of the students without your help. It will give the students and teacher time to get ready for the next activity and to start the lesson in a successful way.
3. Cultivate and monitor student interaction. You should be aware of when students are deeply engaged or paying more attention in their tasks. Take notes and start to look for patterns. Do certain students interact in a unique way? Are students paying special attention to certain topics?
4. Create proper intermediate steps for students to learn concepts. The teacher is apt to receive answers from students when they scaffold projects so that each student is successful. Build up to the challenging questions. In advance of the lesson, write down five major questions for the topic. Then create a series of probing questions that increase in difficulty for each topic question.
5. Practice blog writing to help communicate with students. Use the last ten minutes of the lesson as a time to reflect, share and summarize the class lesson. Blogging improves student writing, communication and technology skills. It adds an exciting change to journal writing, which is common and sometimes not taken seriously by the students. Visit Kids Learn to Blog for more ideas about blogging.
6. In addition to correcting answers, create a culture of explanation. Give students the chance to make options and then evaluate their approach to their answer. Take a few minutes and give students the opportunity to explain their responses. When you plan a lesson, add a few minutes to each activity for students to answer and to also share the reason why they selected that particular answer. If the answer is not correct, the teacher should do the same – give the correct answer with an explanation why it is the correct response.
7. Teach self-awareness about knowledge. An requirement of effective learning is that processes and skills are obtainable for quick recall. It is also important to tell students the reasons why it is critical for them to be able to recall facts and information and to relate it to the current lesson.
8. Give credit often and consistently. To encourage frequent and fair informal assessments, place a graphic next to every question with space to enter the student’s name and response. Track the students you call on and the type of responses given.
9. Use questioning strategies. This will make every student think, answer and participate. Also allow time for students to determine their answers. A few seconds may seem like an eternity but a quiet moment to think about the correct answer will bring more thoughtful responses.
10. Practice using, on a regular basis, a lesson plan model that works for you. No matter how long we teach, it is never good practice to wing it. As a professional it is key to plan ahead and be prepared every day. Find a lesson plan model that enhances and supports your style of teaching.