Teaching strategies that help you become a more effective teacher
“This is boring, Miss. Can’t we do something fun?” As a teacher who prided herself on being a “fun” person, I always dreaded hearing such a comment from students. Being “boring” unearthed a deep fear in me that I was the epitome of ineptness. Therefore, I decided to incorporate a series of “fun” learning activities including mummifying chickens for my 7th grade social studies unit on ancient Egypt. However, I soon realized my fun learning activities were simply fun activities. In our advanced technological age, I was irritated with the fact that I had to compete with the short attention spans of my students as well as their sense of entitlement to be entertained. Frustratingly, after observing my teaching neighbor, I found that the same students who were bored in my class were extremely engaged and enthralled with reading the book “The Outsiders”. Why were these students more excited to read than participate in one of my fun activities?
The lesson I learned was that I needed to change my instructional mindset. Learning in and of itself is engaging and the act of learning should not be downplayed as a cheap amusement or “activity”. In addition, children of all ages seem to be intelligent enough to make the distinction between engaged learning and activities. They are quick to value that “fun” isn’t as important as learning. Therefore, great teaching is centered on writing lessons that are academically rigorous and challenge students’ thinking as opposed to a compilation of activities. This doesn’t mean that lessons should be void of engaging activities however it does mean that these activities should encourage higher level critical thinking.
Therefore, I decided to keep some of my instructional activities but incorporate a more academic component. I had students mummify their chickens in addition to writing a two to three page diary entry as an Egyptian priest documenting the steps of mummification and how it impacted the afterlife of the soul. As the years passed and I became a more seasoned teacher, I found students were engaged (and extremely well behaved) because they were synthesizing their knowledge in a way that challenged their metacognitive skills and helped them created an original writing piece reviewing content.
Teacher’s Tips: How can I be a more rigorous and engaging teacher?
What strategies do you use to promote rigorous and engaging lessons?
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
For at least three years, my greatest challenge as a teacher was being myself. As I was surrounded by several nationally awarded master teachers, I thought that if I imitated what they did in the classroom that I would be a natural success. That was an incorrect assessment. Of my colleagues, I wasn’t the attitudinal and sassy math teacher nor was I the gentle, soft spoken reading teacher who could calm even the most barbaric class. I was me--fun, creative, and nice with the ability to establish a positive rapport with the toughest parent and student. By the end of my third year of teaching, I realized that a part of my classroom management problems stemmed from the fact that students viewed me as “a fake” desperately trying to channel my authority from the teaching style of my other colleagues. So how did I become authentic? I made the decision to be me.
The summer before my next school year, I bought a more professional wardrobe that reflected my personal style. Once school began, I created “Academic Game Fridays” whereby students would earn fun ways to review content via homework completion and class behavioral points. After direct instruction, I also offered a five minute “Joy Factor” which were anecdotes I shared about my (appropriate) high school college experiences which included choosing classes, extracurricular activities, and college tours. Most importantly, I used humor to my advantage and adapted a classroom management style that not only fit my personality but was taken seriously by my students.
The end result? I had minimal behavioral issues, students learned, and I had such an enjoyable teaching experience that I looped with the same group of students the following year. This allowed me to make two years’ worth of instructional and behavioral impacts with students. The most gratifying effect was that my countless telling of “Joy Factors” led several of my students to attend my college Alma Mater. I believe great things happen to a teacher when they decide to become authentic.
Teacher’s Tips: How can I be authentic* as a teacher?
Share: How do you practice being "authentic" as a classroom teacher?
*Authentic Teaching is different than being an authentic teacher. Authentic teaching is an educational philosophy of instruction while the act of being authentic is considered to be one's true self. More posts to follow on authentic instruction.
As an educator who wants to pursue the noble path of sharing knowledge for knowledge’s sake, I would like to blog “Teacher Tips” bi-weekly. As many teachers are not used to sharing best practices, the goal of this blog is to offer teachers simple ways to improve their practice. The tips are delivered via anecdotes titled “The Situation”, “The Solution” and “The Effects” which explain a legitimate teaching problem I had as a teacher, the solution I used to solve the problem, and the impact the changes made on my teaching. Following these anecdotes, I will provide “Teaching Tips” which are action based-solution oriented tips that you can employ in your classroom to enhance your teaching. I shall also provide links to research to further your education of the practice. To broaden the conversation, I’ll also put the tip on my Twitter page and educators such as yourselves can comment on how you’ve used the strategy, whether it works, offer a different strategy, or how you have modified the strategy for your classroom.
Happy reading and learning!
*These views represent my views alone and are not representative of my current clients, colleagues, or employers.
I am an education coach and consultant as well as an executive functioning coach for children struggling with ADD/ADHD. You can also check out this blog at aquinaseducationcoaching.wordpress.com and