4.06.2009

Serial Success: 6 Strategies for School

This is the first installment of a new series of teaching tips that I've written during my high school, community college, and university experience. I'm sure some of these tips would help out teachers in online colleges as well. These are just ideas, not proven successful tips, but hopefully they will inspire you to create your own or to just look at things through a different perspective. [Day 2 of 31DBBB Challenge: Write a List Post]

1. Have a detailed class and homework schedule.
While this is seen more in the college arena, I think it is something that definitely should be adapted to high school. If nothing else, it prepares students for college (that is part of our job I'm assuming?) I had a teacher in high school who gave a monthly calendar. For each day it showed what section we would be covering and the corresponding homework assignments. She graded homework folders at the end of a chapter or month. This was convenient for students who wanted to work ahead, who fell behind, or who were absent. We always knew what was expected. If something happened in class that messed up our schedule, we just adjusted accordingly. Students crave structure and want to know what's going on. So tell them.

2. Require students to take notes.
I love to give handouts (especially if teaching by powerpoint). It is incredibly simpler for students to fill in the blanks or show the work instead of racing to scribble down everything you write. Students appreciate it, class runs smoother, and it's helpful for substitutes as well. It's a type of formative assessment. It makes creating study guides so easy it's almost a sin. Almost. Studies show that students who do the work, learn. So make them do work!

3. Give short quizzes based on notes.
These make great bell-ringers and require very little thought. Take 2-3 short examples, definitions, theorems, etc from the previous days notes and give a quiz. Allow students to use their notes. This is a great way to prepare students for connecting new concepts to prior knowledge. It's an easy grade for those who take notes and another incentive to actually complete the notes. Easy to grade, formative and self-assessing, it helps improve students' grades. Success!

4. Go over ALL homework questions.
For clarity, I mean all parts of the assignment that students did not understand, not every single problem assigned. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was for me as a paying student in college to have professors who would only answer a few questions before moving on to new material. Obviously they have much less time to work with students than we do in the high school, but still. My view is don't assign what you can't/won't explain. You assign homework for a purpose, so explain it. Don't leave them hanging! If they have questions on every single problem, obviously, you have missed something. Don't blame the students for not learning if you aren't teaching. Is it more important to rush through a predetermined amount of material or for students to have a solid understanding of all material covered?

5. Grade homework as it's turned in.
Another college pet peeve- professors who rarely, if ever, return graded homework. I saw this mostly in the education program. Here we are, future teachers learning about how important self-assessment is and how to be consistent with our grading, and our own teachers don't model it. Even if you just grade it based on completion, at least students have something to show for their hard work and you don't have mountains of paperwork covering your desk. Students need to know how they're doing and they want to know now, not at the end of the semester. How can they correct mistakes they don't know they're making?


6. Give study guides for tests.
This is incredibly important for your first year students (which you will have every year, right?). Students have no idea what to expect from you and therefore, no idea what to study. It's also very helpful if you give page numbers of the material covered as well as how many points each problem is worth. Plus, students are more likely to take a study guide home to study rather than their book or notes. Simplicity, people.

Stay tuned for six more!

2 comments:

  1. Even in Year 3 in Primary school, most of these are still applicable! I do try to get out the marking ASAP!

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