Advice from Veteran Teachers

You Have Questions, We Have Answers

teacher listening
You Have Questions, We Have Answers. Photo Courtesy of 4fr/Getty Images

When you are a new teacher just starting out you have a lot of questions. You will also notice after you have been teaching for awhile that you still will have a lot of questions.

Teaching is a job that requires you to continue to learn and grow. There is always going to be a new teaching strategy to try out, or a new tech tool that's out on the market that promises to make your job easier. While it's important to stay up-to-date on all the latest in the education world, some of the best tips and advice come from veteran teachers.

These individuals have seen it all and have more experience in the field than anyone. They know how to increase students participation and motivation, how to have a successful field trip, and how to deal with reluctant readers.

You have questions, we have answers. Here are some of your most common teaching questions, answered by the ones who know best—veteran teachers. 

Question:

Getting my students to participate in class is like trying to pull an elephant out of the water. It's easy to just "pick names" with Popsicle sticks, but I want more. I want my students to want to participate. What are some different ways that I can increase student participation in my classroom?

Answer:

First of all, you need to find out what motivates your students. Try giving your students a quick survey to see what their likes and dislikes are. If you find that the majority of your students like sports, try and correlate as many lessons and activities that relate to sports.

Next, try using a cooperative learning strategy like the Jigsaw technique where all students must work together in order to complete a given task. Cooperative learning groups are a great way to change up the way students learn, and they are fun because students get to use their social skills.

Question:

One of the biggest challenges I face as a teacher is figuring out how to motivate my students.

I have tried motivating with incentives but after doing much research about the topic I would like to try something else. What are some ways that I can motivate my students without using any incentives?

Answer:

You can start by utilizing any technology that you have access to. We live in an increasingly technological world and children love to play on tablets and smartphones and computers. There have been several studies that have found that technology has positive effects on student motivation. Students have reported that learning is more fun though technology and it even that it makes them feel smarter. So get those tablets out and give them a try.

Another tip would be to try and mix it up a little. You can keep learning fresh by changing your daily routine, the way students do their seat work, or by varying the way that you teach. Children get bored easily so by mixing it up you will, in turn, increase their motivation.

Question:

A fun and educational way to wrap up the end of the school year is to take my students out of the classroom and on a field trip. However, in the past they have not been successful. What are some ways that I can ensure I will have a successful field trip with my students?

Answer:

The first step to having a successful field trip is to prepare everything that you can ahead of time. Call the location where you are headed and find out all of the information that you can, from where students are able to have lunch to how much it will cost for any extra volunteers. Make yourself a checklist, get your class list ready, make any photocopies of permission slips, and of course, get the principal's permission. 

Second, send a note home asking for parent volunteers. If you have a lot of volunteers then make it a lottery and choose just a few.

Third, go over all of the rules with your students. Explain to them that the rules that you have in the classroom may not be relevant outside of the classroom, so it is that they understand the "new" rules for behavior on the bus and at the trip.

Lastly, Make a list of what children go with the what parent volunteer. Give each volunteer a copy of the children they are in charge of, as well as a copy of the class rules when on a field trip. And, of course, make sure that you stick to rules during the trip and do not waiver. 

Question:

As a teacher, I am busy all the time from grading papers to researching new teaching strategies to use in my classroom. What are some teacher hacks that have been found to be effective?

Answer:

One of the best and easiest teacher hacks is to assign every student in your classroom a number. This number will essentially be equivalent to the students' name. They will use it for everything, from lining up, to writing it on their papers. You will use this "number" when you need a head count, when you are at the playground or on a field trip, it can easily help you figure out anyone is missing.  If your students forget to put their name on their homework, it will already have their number on it. This number hack is by the far the number one teacher hack that is used in classrooms.

Another great teacher-tested hack is plan a week in advance. By this, I mean know what you will be teaching for one whole week and have all the materials ready to go for that week. If you are planned a week in advance, not only will it save you time, but it will be easy for the substitute if you were to have an unexpected absence. An easy way to keep all of your lessons and activities organized is to buy one of those plastic five drawer towers and label each drawer for every day of the week.  Then, all you have to do is place your materials for the day in the drawer, and you are good to go.

Question:

There are a few reluctant readers in my classroom and I am always looking for some new ways to hook them on reading. While it is a difficult task, it is also an essential one. What are some effective ways to get these struggling students to find a love for reading?

Answer:

There is no magic answer on how to deal with these students.

However, there are a few strategies that you can try and employ. First, you need to find the right books. Find out what the child is interested in, then help them choose books around that. A great way to teach reluctant readers how to pick books that will interest them is to use the “I PICK” method.

  • I - I chose the book
  • P - Purpose - Why do I want to read this book?
  • I - Interest - Does this book interest me?
  • C - Comprehend - Do I understand what I am reading?
  • K - Know - Do I know most of the words that I am reading?

Another effective method is to have students read with technology. There are a lot of great apps out on the market that will help entice reluctant readers. The Storia app is a great free app where students can download books and read them right on their tablet or smartphone. Technology seems to have a way to turn even the most reluctant of readers into lovers of reading.