Smart Advice From Veteran Teachers

Teacher in classroom
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When you're a new teacher just starting out, it's normal to have a lot of questions. However, you'll also realize after you have been teaching for a while that you still will have a lot of questions.

Teaching is a job that requires you to continually learn and grow. There is always going to be a new teaching strategy to try out or a new tech tool out on the market that promises to make your job easier. While it's important to stay up-to-date on the latest in the education world, some of the best tips and advice come from veteran teachers. These educators have seen it all and have more experience in the field than anyone. From their years in the classroom, they know how to increase students participation and motivation, how to have a successful field trip, and how to deal with reluctant readers.

Here are some of the most common teaching issues, answered and solved by the ones who know best -- veteran teachers. 

Dealing With Participation Issues

Getting your students to participate in class can be like trying to pull an elephant out of the water -- near impossible. It's easy to just randomly pick names out of a hat, but the majority of teachers want their students to want to participate. How can you organically increase student participation in your classroom?

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.

Getting the Masses Motivated

One of the biggest challenges all teachers face is figuring out how to motivate their students. Motivating with incentives is a popular technique, but research shows this may not be the most effective approach. What are some ways to motivate students without using any incentives?

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, even helping them to feel smarter and more accomplished. So get those tablets out and give them a try.

Another tip is to try and mix it up a little. Keep the learning curriculum 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 changing things up you will, in turn, boost their motivation.

Planning an Engaging Field Trip

A fun and educational way to wrap up the end of the school year is to take the students out of the classroom and on a field trip. However, these outings don't always run smoothly. What are some ways to ensure a successful field trip with your students?

The first step to having a successful field trip is to prepare everything possible 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're lucky enough to get 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 -- ensure that they understand the "new" rules for behavior on the bus and at the trip. Make sure that you stick to these rules during the trip and do not waiver. 

Lastly, make a student roster for the volunteer chaperones. Give each chaperone a list of the children they are in charge of, as well as a copy of the field trip class rules. 

The Best Teacher Hacks

Teachers are constantly busy, from grading papers to researching new teaching strategies to use in the classroom. What are some teacher hacks that have been found to be effective at streamlining the job?

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 on the playground or a field trip -- it can help you easily figure out if anyone is missing. If your students forget to put their name on their homework, it will already have their number on it. This is by the far the number one teacher hack that is used in classrooms.

Another great teacher-tested hack is planning a week in advance -- 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 out a week in advance, not only will it save you time, but it will be easy for a substitute if you are absent unexpectedly. A simple 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.

Managing Reluctant Readers

Reluctant readers -- every teacher has at least a few in their classroom. While finding new ways to hook them on reading 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?

Unfortunately, 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.