Monday, April 24, 2017

10 Things Teachers Should Never Do

All people make mistakes. Teachers are no different. Here are some teaching mistakes I've made and learned from or have seen other teachers make.

  1. Punish the whole class for the mistakes of a few:  It may seem like the entire class was acting up, but that is rarely the case. Punishing the whole class will cause you to lose the support of the students who were making good choices and likely won’t eliminate future misbehavior.
  2. Avoid getting help when it's needed: Most teachers don’t have a perfect classroom, and if they do it certainly get there immediately and without work. If you sense a problem area in your classroom and don’t know how to fix it, ask for help. Have a conversation. Other teachers and administrators can observe your class and offer suggestions for improvement. 
  3. Assign a project prior to creating the rubric: Trust me on this. Your students won’t learn what they should, and it’ll be a grading nightmare.
  4. Plan a lesson that isn’t aligned to the learning objective: When planning, always keep in mind what you want the students to understand or be able to do by the end of the lesson. It can be easy to get lost in planning a fun and engaging lesson, but if it’s not meeting the objective then your students won’t benefit from it like they should.
  5. Grade every assignment: You’ll drive yourself crazy. Choose only the most important assignments to grade. I learned to aim for two or three assignments per week.
  6. Delay or skip parent/guardian contact: It can be intimidating and uncomfortable to have certain conversations. Calling a student’s home about misbehavior or an unfortunate event isn’t the most fun thing ever. However, parents and guardians need to know what’s going on with their child. They are usually a huge asset and can offer helpful insight and work with you to reduce and eliminate problems. (And be sure to call about the good stuff, too.)
  7. Not making time for themselves: You’re a person with a life outside of teaching. There will always be things you need to do as a teacher, but you have to take care of yourself. Make time to do the things you love and spend time with your friends and family.
  8. Not having a backup plan: Sometimes your lesson will run short. Sometimes students will find concepts easy and speed on through. Class time is limited and precious, so always have some sort of backup plan to enhance the lesson or build a positive learning environment.
  9. Be inconsistent with rules and consequences: Letting rules slip and allowing students to get away with misbehavior is all too easy to do. It only takes a few times of doing this to completely sabotage your classroom management plan. You’ll save yourself from lots of frustration by enforcing the class rules and consequences every time with every student. (Need ideas for effective classroom rules and consequences?)
  10. Not being open to learning new things: Find new strategies. Try new teaching methods. Read up on best practices. Observe other teachers and learn from them. Strive to be the best teacher you can be for your students.
What are some other things teachers should never do? Add your ideas in the comments section. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

10 Things the Best Teachers Do

When I think about the qualities of the most effective teachers I know, either from my own education or from colleagues I've had the pleasure of working with, these are ten things they all have in common.
  1. Be fair and consistent
  2. Communicate regularly with parents and guardians
  3. Have rules and enforce them
  4. Differentiate to meet the needs of all students
  5. Care
  6. Make the most of every class period
  7. Be willing to learn from others and try new teaching strategies
  8. Have a routine that students can count on
  9. Connect learning to real life
  10. Make time for themselves

What are some other things the best teachers do? Add your ideas to the comments section.

Read the 10 Things Teachers Should Never Do.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Odd One Out: A Strategy to Get Students Thinking Critically in Any Subject

Example Odd One Out Problem
Have you ever played the game Two Truths and a Lie? It is generally used as a simple and fun icebreaker activity where each person gives three statements about him or herself and others guess which one of the three is a lie. “Odd One Out” is a lot like that except it can be used as a way for students to think critically about a topic. I first learned about this strategy at a science team meeting several years ago. I am not sure of its official name, but Odd One Out seems appropriate. Odd One Out problems consist of a circle divided into four equal parts. Each quarter lists a word or phrase from a related topic. One quarter’s topic does not quite fit with the others though.

How to Make and Solve an Odd One Out Problem

To make an Odd One Out problem, choose four words or ideas from a related topic and arrange them in the four quarters of a circle. One of those parts should be just a little different than the others. Take the topic of colors, as seen in the example above. All four parts contain a color, but one doesn’t quite fit. Know which one?

Once you identify the odd one out, circle or shade that quarter. Then explain your answer. An explanation might sound like this, “Red, yellow, and blue are primary colors. Orange is the odd one out because it is a secondary color, meaning it is the result of two primary colors mixing.”

When I assign Odd One Out problems to students, I require them to write a sentence explaining why their chosen quarter does not fit. Their explanation is the most important part of the problem because it shows whether or not they truly understand the topic. Also, in some cases, an Odd One Out problem can have more than one correct answer causing the explanation to become even more valuable. This can promote student discussion and build even stronger critical thinking skills.

Odd One Out Problems with Multiple Correct Answers

Consider this example with actors. What answer would you choose?

Who is the odd one out? Is there more than one correct answer?

You probably picked Jennifer Lawrence because she is the only female listed. But can there be another correct answer? If you know a little more about these actors, you might realize all but one of them are American. Therefore, the Australian Chris Hemsworth could also be a correct answer. In fact, there are a number of correct answers to this problem. Knowing more about a topic can lead to a greater variety and depth of answers.

Answers that Are Not Really Answers

Sometimes, you might have students whose explanations cannot be considered correct. For example, in the above problem about actors, you might have a student with an answer like this, “Clint Eastwood is the odd one out because he’s the only one whose name begins with a vowel.” Yes, technically this is correct. However, it has nothing to do with the topic of these actors. To avoid getting answers like this, remind students that their answers have to do with the topic at hand.

Use Odd One Out Problems in All Subject Areas

One of the awesome things about Odd One Out problems is how versatile they are. They can be relatively easy to solve or provide quite a challenge. Students can use their understanding of a topic to make their own problems to test their classmates. They can be used for a ton of different ages, ability levels, and subject areas.  Look at the examples below from each of the core subjects for ideas to start using Odd One Out problems in your classroom.

Example of a Completed Odd One Out Problem Set

The Elements, Compounds, and Mixtures worksheet below is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store along with a number of other science related Odd One Out worksheets

Example Odd One Out Problem Set