New teachers quickly realize that one size doesn’t fit all in the classroom. Students are wonderfully different in the way they learn, listen, and absorb. While teaching to the majority sounds good superficially, let’s look at the math:
A majority is 51%
That means 49% may not get what you put out there.
The popularity of personalized learning makes it abundantly clear that those numbers just aren’t good enough anymore.
Luckily, there are lots of options. Over the past months, I’ve cataloged many of those for you in short articles that provide an overview, pedagogic characteristics, and educational applications. If you’re wondering what you can change about your teaching so that you reach more students this year, check out some of these amazing options:
Every teacher knows that students do better with positive reinforcement. As tempting as “punishment” might sound when referring to that student who has scrambled your last nerve, to explain consequences of actions in positive terms goes much further toward student success not only in school but in the ongoing effort to build life-long learners.
“Positive reinforcement, whether it be with your family, when following laws, or with students, can best be defined as the logical consequences of doing what’s right.” –Jacqui Murray
As an education pedagogy, pursuing a classroom management system that revolves around positive reinforcement is called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support, or PBIS. The importance of using tools that prevent disruptive behavior and support students is explained by NEA Past President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:
The most effective tool teachers have to handle problem behavior is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs help teachers recognize the significance of classroom management and preventive school discipline to maximize student success. PBIS strategies are critical to providing all young people with the best learning environment.
Committed teachers can accomplish this in a variety of ways including supportive words, prizes, special activities, certificates, badges, and modeling proper behavior. Here are four online options that support the goal of recognizing students in a positive way:
The first thing most teachers think about when discussing gamified learning is the online math games kids play. Maybe Vocabulary.com and its spelling games come to mind next. But those webtools exemplify where the gamification of education started. Their approach is good but way down the SAMR pyramid to what can be done today, easily, in classrooms.
Let me step back a moment to explain the SAMR Model as it applies to the use of technology in education. It is used to discuss the implementation of technology in the classroom by organizing tech-in-education tools into four categories or types of usage:
- Substitution: Technology is a direct replacement for something, e.g. ebooks in place of print books or online math drills in place of worksheets.
- Augmentation: Technology not only replaces a traditional tool but adds functionality, e.g. using Google Earth to explore the setting of a story rather than a map
- Modification: Technology allows for a significant change, e.g. using screencasts to explain a process.
- Redefinition: Technology allows for the creation of completely new ways of learning that were previously not possible. e.g. using virtual meeting tools (like Google Hangouts) to include housebound students in a class.
The SAMR Model directly relates to the evolution of games in education, from simply substituting online drills for worksheets to creating new ways to learn that students love. The gamification of learning became popular at first because students exhibited great aptitude and tolerance for learning new material when gameplaying, but the reason that popularity lasted is even more simple: Applying the characteristics of gameplaying to learning works! The most well-known example is the viral popularity of Minecraft and the way it has been applied to every academic corner of learning.
Here are some general ideas of how you can gamify learning in your class, on a budget and without extensive retraining:
For the past decade, schools have invested millions of dollars in technology. It started with a push for desktop computers which soon expanded to iPads and the wonderful apps (like art programs) that made tablets essential tools. Quickly after iPads, schools fell in love with Chromebooks and their amazing ability to allow students to collaborate and share, not to mention their ease of maintenance. Today’s focus is to give every student a digital device, much as kids used to be provided tablets and pencils.
The next game changer, according to education experts, will be digital textbooks. This is driven in large part by the affordability and portability of digital devices like Chromebooks, tablets, and laptops. Why lug around half a dozen heavy books in a backpack that too often is left behind on a sports field or at the library? Why spend a year studying information in a print textbook that doesn’t match the thinking or values of the school and its students? It’s no wonder proponents of digital books are pushing for change.
But there’s another side to the story of print vs. digital, one that is at the core of why 2015 e-book sales dropped in the United States and the UK. Let’s take a clear-eyed look at the pluses on each side of this argument. Then, when it’s time for your school to make that call, you’ll be ready.
One of the strategies I grew to appreciate in my several decades of teaching was starting my class with a warm-up. A tangible transition between the previous class (or recess) and mine seemed to orient students to my topic and make the entire class go more smoothly. For me, because I taught what is called specials or pull-outs (I taught technology), I did this at the beginning of a class period. When you do this at the beginning of the day, it’s called not a warm-up but a morning meeting.
What is a Morning Meeting
Morning meetings are a time when students and teacher gather together, usually in a circle, for an organized start-of-day activity. They can be as quick as fifteen minutes or as long as thirty. You determine this based on what students need to start their day as lifelong learners. Some days are quick; others, not so much. That’s OK. In fact, it’s good to be flexible with the schedule and responsive to student needs. They learn faster when you’re listening to them and come to believe they are worthy. As such, they begin to believe in themselves.
Goals of a Morning Meeting
The broad purpose of a morning meeting is to transition students between home and school, to greet them as you would a guest in your house. It’s an informal way to re-acquaint everyone with each other and with the classroom ecosystem. Think of it on par with a family dinner, where parents and children come together in a relaxed environment to do something everyone enjoys. You start by welcoming students, reviewing the day’s activities, discussing changes in the classroom, meeting new students, celebrating the accomplishments of classmates, and anything else that benefits from a whole-group meeting.
Each year, the world produces more than 300 million tons of paper. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper typically found in a school or office environments such as copier paper, computer printouts, and notepads, comprise the largest category. Mitigating the use of paper has long been a goal for schools. Every year, a prodigious number of lesson plans center around dwindling rainforests, the shrinking world forests, and the ever-growing waste associated with paper.
Now, beyond the moral and ethical persuasiveness of a paperless classroom, there is compelling evidence that the time is right to eliminate paper from the classroom:
- the high cost of printing: Yale University noted that “Every 2.5 minutes, a ream of paper was ordered.” No surprise that schools who go paperless experience huge savings in the cost of buying and repairing printers as well as the investment in all the fancy printing papers required for newsletters, class projects, announcements, and more. Who would argue about investing these vast savings in faculty salaries, student services, or reduced tuitions?
- reduced waste: Most of those tons of paper end up in the trash. We want them to be recycled but studies show that despite best efforts, about half of used paper isn’t. Schools who replace paper with a digital distribution of newsletters, announcements, homework, and anything else possible may not increase recycling but do dramatically reduce the amount of paper they use. The results? Among schools who push digital over paper, most report that only about 5% of their usual amount of paper ends up in the trash. Who wouldn’t love that number?
- saves time: Every teacher knows how much time they spend copying, stapling, sorting, and then searching for lost documents. An increasingly-popular alternative is to upload a document to the computer, server, or cloud and push it out electronically. No copying, stapling, sorting, or losing templates. No last-minute “I forgot to print this”. Yes, digital files do get lost but that’s a story for another time.
- increased organization: All those permission slips, AUPs, and exams can be curated into a digital file folder that is backed up automatically and never lost (“never” being a fungible sort of word). Teachers no longer find themselves frantically searching for misfiled records or the approvals required before a field trip. Instead, they access the digital file folder. If it’s not there, most of the time, a universal search on the school server will find the document. Anecdotal experiences (no studies yet on this topic) indicate that teachers who file digitally rather than in paper file folders lose fewer documents.
- security: Digital files aren’t lost to floods or fires. Even if the server crashes or corrupts, every school I know has backups. No data is lost; just the equipment.
Three years ago, I wrote about going paperless in your classroom but much has changed. Today, replacing paper with a digital distribution is common. Newsletters go home via email. Homework is posted to classroom websites. Student portfolios are rarely manila file folders. In fact, many education experts predict that the printer will soon disappear as a critical tool in the classroom.
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are edited and/or written by members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, by tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Ask a Tech Teacher offers a variety of classes throughout the year. All are online, hands-on, with an authentic use of tools you’ll want for your classroom.
To find out more, email email@example.com
By request; delivered digitally to your school or District
The 21st Century lesson blends technology with teaching to build a collaborative, differentiated, and shared learning environment. In this course, you will use a suite of digital tools to make that possible while addressing overarching concepts like digital citizenship, internet search and research, authentic assessment, digital publishing, and immersive keyboarding. You will actively collaborate, share knowledge, provide constructive feedback to classmates, publish digitally, and differentiate for unique needs. Classmates will become the core of your ongoing Personal Learning Network.
Assessment is project-based so be prepared to be fully-involved and an eager risk-taker.
Price includes course registration and all necessary materials
Curriculum Companions (K-5 only) follow a tech professional as s/he teaches each lesson in the SL K-5 curriculum textbooks. Presented via video (10-15 minutes each), you can see how another teacher uses the curriculum and access additional resources like vocabulary and how-to videos. It’s your mentor, your sidekick, your best friend in the tech ed field.
32 webinars per grade (192 webinars in all), 9 months
If you own any or all of K-5 Structured Learning technology curriculum (6th edition), you have free access to the six grade-levels
- comprehensive tech vocabulary
- how-to skills used in lessons
- shared resources
Back to School night is a time-honored ritual where teachers and parents meet, with or without children, and preview the upcoming school year. Teachers share information about their teaching style and methodology, how they grade, what students can do to thrive, and how parents can connect to classroom activities. It’s a way of easing everyone back into the education journey after a long summer break and is arguably one of the most impactful days in the school year.
But Back to School night has changed over the years in large part because families have changed. Consider this list of reasons why from Edutopia:
- Increased pace of life
- Greater economic demands
- Alterations in family composition and stability
- Breakdown of neighborhoods and extended families
- Weakening of community institutions
The most important goal of Back to School Night — establishing the parent-teacher partnership — is a lot more complicated to reach than it used to be.
I get a lot of questions from readers about what tech ed resources I use in my classroom so I’m going to take a few days this summer to review them with you. Some are from members of the Ask a Tech Teacher crew. Others, from tech teachers who work with the same publisher I do. All of them, I’ve found well-suited to the task of scaling and differentiating tech skills for age groups, scaffolding learning year-to-year, taking into account the perspectives and norms of all stakeholders, with appropriate metrics to know learning is organic and granular.
Today: Lesson Plans
There are lots of bundles of lesson plans available–by theme, by software, by topic, by standard. Let me review a few:
- bundles of 5 lesson plans–Themed; great when you want to cover a software program, a tool, a grade, or a standard. Each calls out the higher order thinking skill engaged. Pick the one that fits your need. They’re affordable, focused, and often completed in just a few class sessions.
- bundle of bundles–Buy three bundles of five lessons to cover a wide-range of needs.
- STEM Lesson Plans
- Coding Lesson Plans
- By Grade Level
- 30 K-5 Common Core-aligned lessons–5 per grade level
- 110 lesson plans–integrate tech into different grades, subjects, by difficulty level, and call out higher-order thinking skills. These cover everything and are discounted this month. Check them out. They could be exactly what you need.
- singles–for as low as $.99 each. Genius Hour, Google Apps, Khan Academy, Robotics, STEM, Coding, and more.
- Holiday projects–16 lesson plans that theme to holidays and keep students in the spirit while learning new tools.