Teaching requires more than a college degree and some patience. Responding to student needs and getting your class involved in the learning process will set them up for success. The following skill sets are critical to being a successful teacher.
Scaffolding refers to a teaching strategy in which teachers lay the foundation for what will be taught and add information piece by piece. The point here is to challenge the student just enough to bring them to the next level of understanding without overwhelming them with superfluous information or exceptions to the rule. For example, when teaching multiplication start by showing what it means to have seven groups of three before trying to demonstrate multiple digit multiplication strategies.
Good teachers recognize that all students learn differently. The term differentiation refers to adjusting lessons to reach all students. Respond to the multiple levels of learning in your classroom by offering opportunities for both remediation and enhancement. A simple way to do this is by meeting with a different small group of students for fifteen minutes each day. Do this while the rest of your class works on an independent task like journal writing or partner work. In these small group sessions, meet with students of similar skill levels and focus your instruction on the skills they might be missing or on providing a challenge for your high achievers.
Present information in multiple formats
Never present a new topic in only one way. While some very bright students may learn something new on the first try, the majority of your students will need to see it a few ways to get it right. A good rule of thumb is to provide information using as many of the five senses as possible. At the very least, students should see, hear and touch the new skill. For example, when teaching the definition of the word oscillate, write the word and the definition on the board next to an illustration for a visual representation. Have students copy down the definition for reinforcement. Next, have students speak the word as part of a sentence so they can hear its proper use. Finally, have students use their hands to demonstrate what it means for something to oscillate so they get a tactile sense of the definition.
Modeling in the classroom means that you show students exactly what you want them to accomplish. The popular teaching mantra for modeling is "I do, we do, you do." In other words, show students how to do something by modeling the skill first. Next, try it all together through a guided practice. Finally, allow students to try the skill on their own. For example, show students how to properly light a bunsen burner. Then have student volunteers come up and help you recreate the steps to involve the class. Finally, circulate the room while students try lighting bunsen burners on their own.
Involve your students
Encourage students to relate their new skills to their own lives. Have them ask questions about a new topic that interests them. Let them choose the books they would like to read. Give them options for big assignments. Guide them in using the internet to answer their own questions. The power of choice is a crucial way to engage your students, and engagement is the key to student success.
Set them up for success
Always be crystal clear on your expectations for student assignments. If students know what they are supposed to learn, what they are supposed to do, and how they are supposed to do it, you are giving them all the tools for success. Write down your expectations in a rubric so students know exactly how they will be graded on each assignment. Make yourself available after school or between classes to answer questions and offer extra help. And always follow through on your word. If you say you will grade papers by Friday, grade the papers by Friday. You cannot expect students to be accountable if you are inconsistent.
- "The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher;" Harry K. Wong; 2009
- "How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed Ability Classrooms;" Carol Ann Tomlinson; 2004.
- "The Art of Teaching Reading;" Lucy Calkins; 2000
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of rex pe