1: Got problem students? Start there.
Don’t just listen to what other teachers have said. Sometimes you might have reports from previous teachers or judgment from parents. If you’re having problems with a student, try to learn more about them directly from the source! If you can’t communicate with the student, try communicating with the parent. This is the first step in helping them in the classroom. Don’t label, don’t judge, just try to find what is best for the student.
2: Teach to fascinations…
Whenever possible, educators should use interests, strengths, skills, areas of expertise, and gifts as tools for teaching. Can a passion for GPS be used to inspire more reading (operations manuals), new math skills (be a “human GPS”-calculate shortest route between two places), or fun social studies questions (“How would the world be different today if Christopher Columbus had GPS?”) .
When kids are interested, they stay focused!
Take a survey from the students and see what things they are interested in.
Ask questions like:
- What shows/movies do you like?
- What comics do you read?
- What band or singer is your favorite?
- What’s your dream job?
- If you didn’t have lots of homework, what would you do after school?
For younger students we ask questions about:
- What animal do you like?
- What’s your favorite color?
- What’s your favorite toy?
- What cartoon do you like?
Then we add these things to our lesson, or say things like, “Look! It’s an apple. It’s red! Oh! John’s favorite color is red! Right?” Once, I even went out and found stickers with dolphins because that was my student’s favorite animal.
3: Get them talking! No one likes long lectures!
In some classrooms, a handful of students dominate small-group conversations and whole-class discussions. While it is important for these verbal and outgoing students to have a voice in the classroom, it is equally important for other students to have opportunities to share and challenge ideas, ask and answer questions, and exchange thoughts.
To ensure that all students have opportunities to communicate, teachers need to put structures and activities in place that allow for interaction.
Teacher! Teacher, let me try!
Be sure that you’re not only calling on the student who always knows the answer. Give other students a try.
In one classroom, students were asked to “turn and talk” to each other at various points in the day. A high school history teacher used this strategy throughout the year to break up his lectures and to give students time to teach the material to each other. After giving mini-lectures of fifteen minutes, he asked students to turn to a partner and answer a specific question or re-explain a concept he had taught.
For instance, after giving a short lecture on the Presidency, he asked students to discuss, “What qualities do Americans seem to want in a President?; and “How has this list of desired qualities changed over time?”
Teachers can also provide opportunities for communication by giving all students “airtime” during whole-class discussion. One way to do this is to ask for physical whole-class responses to certain prompts. For instance, instead of asking, “Who can tell me a fraction that equals one half?”, the teacher might say, “Stand up if you think you can name a fraction that equals one half”.
This strategy not only gives all learners a chance to give an answer, but it allows for some teacher-sanctioned movement, something often welcomed by students. Whole-class physical responses are also appropriate for students who are not ready to speak, making it a perfect choice for the diverse, inclusive classroom.
4: Give choices
Choice may not only give students a feeling of control in their lives, but an opportunity to learn about themselves as workers and learners. Choice can be built into almost any part of the school day. Students can choose which assessments to complete, which role to take in a cooperative group, and how to receive personal assistance and supports.
Examples of choices that can be offered in classrooms include:
- Solve five of the ten problems assigned
- Work alone or with a small group
- Read quietly or with a friend
- Use a pencil, pen, or the computer
- Conduct your research in the library or in the resource room
- Take notes using words or pictures
For younger students, giving a choice is a great way to stop a lot of discipline behaviors due to power struggles. Letting them make simple choices can solve a lot of problems. Some examples of choices would be:
- Which chair to sit in
- Which book to read
- Which song to sing
- Which color crayon to use
How can we offer choice if there are so many students? Choose the students who are following rules, or show extra special behavior that you want to encourage.
- “Wow, Bobby helped clean up the chairs today. Which chair would you like to sit in?”
- “I really like how Lily was dancing and singing today, so excited! Can you choose our next song?”
Remember, with young children, the “illusion of choice” is usually enough to make them feel like they have power.
Do you want a snake, an eel, or a worm?
5: Help with organizing
While some students are ultra-organized, others need support to find materials, keep their desk areas neat, and remember to bring their assignments home at the end of the day. Consider implementing support strategies that all students might find useful. For instance, teachers can have all students copy down assignments, pack book bags, put materials away, and clean work spaces together.
Structuring this time daily will give all learners the opportunity to be organized and thoughtful about how they prepare to transition from school to home. Specific skills can even be taught during this time (e.g., creating to-do lists, prioritizing tasks).
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6: Support Transitions
Some students struggle with transitions. Some are uncomfortable changing from environment to environment, while others have problems moving from activity to activity. Changes can be extremely difficult causing stress and feelings of disorientation. Teachers can minimize problems students may have when transitioning by:
- Use a visual timer so students can manage time on their own throughout an activity.
- Giving reminders to the whole class before any transition.
- Providing the student or entire class with a transitional activity such as writing in a homework notebook or for younger students, singing a short song about “cleaning up”.
- Asking peers to help in supporting transition time. In elementary classrooms, teachers can ask all students to move from place to place with a partner. In middle and high school classrooms, students might choose a peer to walk with during passing time.
- Provide a transition aid (a toy, object, or picture).
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7: Create a comfortable classroom
Sometimes students are unsuccessful because they are uncomfortable or feel unsafe or even afraid in their educational environment. Providing an appropriate learning environment can be as central to a student’s success as any teaching strategy or educational tool. Students will be the most prepared to learn in places where they can relax and feel secure. Ideas for making the classroom more comfortable include:
- providing seating options (e.g., beanbag chairs, rocking chairs)
- reducing direct light when possible (e.g., using upward projecting light, providing a visor to a student who is especially sensitive)
- minimizing distracting noises (e.g., providing earplugs or headphones during certain activities like reading).
This may not be possible in public school settings, but if you work in a training center these are options you can try.
8: Take a break
Some students work best when they can pause between tasks and take a break of some kind (walk around, stretch, or simply stop working). Some learners will need walking breaks. Some students will need to walk up and down a hallway once or twice, others will be fine if allowed to wander around in the classroom. Another way is to include “learning brain breaks” where you combine the material with movement.
It’s true that all students learn by doing, so we hope these tips will help your students get more involved!
Article adapted from http://readingrockets.org/
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