All teachers want their students to succeed. The first step is building a trusting relationship with students in which they believe that you want them to succeed and that you believe they can succeed. Teachers must also find the motivators for every student that will drive each of them to want to succeed.
Most teachers begin the year by discussing their expectations for classroom behavior, homework assignments and what they will be learning in the upcoming year. This is a good time to discuss what “success” means and how it will be measured. Grades are only one way to measure success. And there will be different ways that grades will be earned—assignments, quizzes and tests and classroom participation. Other forms of showing a commitment to success is the personal growth each student will have during the year. This will be measured by noting how well each student works with other students, how respectful each student is when communicating with adults and other students, and how able each student is in remaining focused and engaged. The goal is to improve, and improvement is success. As their teacher, your goal is to teach the required subject matter in a way that is engaging and learnable for all your students. Our goal is to provide information and strategies that may help you throughout the year meet your goals.
Professional golfers are known for their “pre-shot routine.” They follow a unique routine every time they remove a club from their bag. They have a set performance they repeat countless times throughout their golf career. Why do they do this? It helps them get rid of the mental clutter that can interfere with making a good shot. Freeing their mind makes getting the ball into the hole much more likely. People who are the best at what they do in any industry are able to focus on their goals. Everyone, including your students, benefits from using well-established routines that promote focus and engagement. Without a set schedule for students to follow, students will be disruptive or get distracted. Creating daily practices and routines will help students stay on track. For example, helping students develop checklists so they are prepared when they come to class, i.e. having their work, their school supplies and books at the ready. Classroom procedures that are clearly understood regarding talking, going to the restroom, asking questions, etc. should be discussed.
Maintain High Expectations and Confidence
The benefits of having high expectations have been known for decades, going back to Harvard Professor Robert Rosenthal. Rosenthal found that when teachers expected students to dramatically increase their IQ, students did. The benefits of high expectations are not limited to students. Teachers who held themselves accountable for the learning of their students were more likely to see gains in student achievement.
It’s important to realize that having high expectations is more than just grading tough or having challenging curriculum. Having high expectations is about students learning challenging material and doing quality work, certainly. But that can mean moving to a more project-based curriculum rather than giving students more facts to memorize. It can also mean that instead of giving students an F for poor quality work, you make them redo it until it meets the quality that you expect. (Association of American Educators, 2012). CE Credits Online has a course entitled, “Project-Based Learning for All Classrooms” that teaches how to incorporate project-based teaching into your curriculum.
Having high standards does not mean being inflexible. The standards set should be those necessary to achieve the goals, and flexibility should be allowed when there are many ways to achieve those goals. Differentiating instruction and assessment means maintaining high standards and expectations and working to have all or most students succeed at meeting them. Providing many avenues to achieve your objectives is an extremely important way to develop engagement and self confidence in your students.
Maintaining confidence in your students’ ability to meet your expectations is also vital. The Pygmalion Effect, also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy, is an expression of how teachers’ intentions can impact students. When teachers have confidence in their students they influence student performance positively, whereas, negative expectations influence performance negatively. Every student needs to know their teacher believes in them and their capabilities.
Keep Yourself Up to Date
Teaching is complex, and the hard work is endless, therefore, it is understandable that teachers tend to teach the same lessons year after year. Staying up to date on changes in research, curriculum, assessments, and economic realities that affect the teaching and learning environment is important. Teachers can stay up to date by taking professional development courses and searching through online blogs and articles to learn something new to teach their students. Engaging regularly in professional development courses inspires enhanced teaching and learning in the classroom. This will not only make for a better teacher but will also help students succeed. Keeping up with technology is also necessary to help students succeed. The internet is an invaluable tool that is not going anywhere anytime soon. Teachers can take full advantage of the educational technology found online by reading educational blogs and newsletters, accessing podcasts, and following webinars and relevant social media pages. Some of these can even be assigned as homework for students. Incorporating technology in the classroom is a great way to get students engaged, especially as social media and the internet envelops students in the 21st century. If you would like to learn more about how you can use interactive whiteboards in your classroom, you might consider taking one or more of the CE Credits Online Interactive Whiteboard courses. Using these interactive whiteboards and smart phones in your teaching encourages engagement.
Ignacio Estrada, director for grants administration at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation said, “If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” Differentiation requires some extra preparation during lesson planning, expertise and dedication on the part of the teacher, but the rewards are tremendous. Students learn at a different rate, and many have different styles of learning. Understanding the different rates and styles of learning will help you design your lesson plans and implement them in ways that will support all your students.
CE Credits Online offers a course, Differentiating Instruction in the 21st Century Classroom, that expands on ways you can differentiate your lessons and the benefits of doing so. Also, an excellent resource called “Quizalize” can save you hours of precious time by automatically grouping your students for you so that you can easily identify individual and whole class gaps.
Inform Students on How to Succeed
Students need to know in advance what is required of them to succeed in your classroom and beyond. Handing out a syllabus that clearly defines student expectations, explaining your objectives for what students are about to learn before each assignment, and handing out rubrics for big projects are just a few of the ways you can clearly inform your students on how to succeed. Just like when teaching a child math, you must teach them problem-solving strategies that will help them solve long procedural equations. From assignments to studying, there are strategies that lead to the effective execution of tasks that students are asked to perform through school and beyond. If they are adequately taught and guided on how to use these strategies independently they will be successful in and out of the classroom.
Effective Inquiry and Feedback
Posing thought-provoking questions that inspire students to think for themselves is an important teaching strategy. This will inspire students to ask their own questions. Students will gain a deeper understanding of concepts if they feel they are able to ask questions and explore their individual ideas, leading to improvements in problem-solving and life skills.
When asking questions, it is important to check for understanding before moving on to the next lesson. Take a look at this article, 21 Ways to Check for Student Understanding, for more on this teaching strategy.
How a teacher responds to student answers to their questions can affect the classroom environment. Instead of responding with the usual, “yes”, “okay”, or “right”, give variation with responses that are more enthusiastic. When a student gives a wrong answer, how should the teacher respond? Feedback is important for a student to learn and grow, so a teacher shouldn’t pass by the student and move to the next in search for the right answer right away. They should try asking them how they arrived at that answer or ask the student to tell them more about their response. They may start thinking out loud and come to find the right answer, or realize they are going in the wrong direction. It’s important to give students genuine feedback without discouraging students to answer. When they feel they are in a safe space to ask questions and comment, teachers will see great improvements in their students’ capabilities that will ensure their classroom success.
There are many ways to help students succeed in the classroom and beyond. We hope you find these strategies benefit your classroom and your teaching. If you would like to take a course on interactive whiteboards, or differentiating instruction, please go to our course page. Visit us on our Facebook page and tell us how you use strategies in your classroom to help your students succeed.
CE Credits Online has been providing online professional development courses to teachers in NYC, LAUSD, and across the country for almost 20 years.