Category: Teaching Strategies

Here’s How to Motivate Summer School Students

When you have to compete with a warm sun, sandy beaches, and playful friends, motivating students in summer school can be a daunting challenge. The best first step, right after introducing yourself, is to understand why students are with you rather than with friends or playing online games. Their reasons could be to try something new, make up for a class they failed, get ahead of classes they must take, or something else. Their answers to this question will guide you in how you teach the class. Once you know their reasons, be honest with them on how you will help them meet their goals. In general terms, you want them to know you’ll do your best to make their summer experience worthwhile, get them through the material, and help them pass the required exams with the grades they need. I’ve talked about best practices for teaching. Let’s today cover how to get students through the summer learning experience:

Make the class interesting

There are a lot of ways to teach a topic that satisfies curriculum demands. For example, you can fill in worksheets, watch videos, complete group projects, or work independently. Pick an approach that is 1) different from how you teach during the school year, and 2) fits your student group.

While you’re changing the approach, also change the setting. Teach class in a park, in a museum’s group learning room, at a restaurant over a meal, in someone’s home, or in the school auditorium. Here’s the logic behind that: Students react well to change. Do you remember the Hawthorne Effect Study? Done in the 1930’s (and redone in different ways many times afterwards), researchers examined how different aspects of the work environment (i.e., lighting, the timing of breaks, and the length of the workday) affected employee productivity. What they found wasn’t what they expected. The biggest impact on productivity came from simply paying attention to the workers and their environment. Let your summer school students experience this motivator. Change their learning ecosystem and watch how much harder they work simply because you care enough to pay attention.


Tips for incentivizing your teachers team while working remotely

This is a how-to article from an Ask a Tech Teacher contributor describing clever ways to make remote teaching work. A recommended read if your remote program isn’t working as you’d hoped:

Tips for incentivizing your teachers team while working remotely

The challenges involved in working remotely are many and varied, yet arguably the most significant obstacle managers face when trying to steward teams from afar is keeping them engaged and motivated.

This is all the more significant in an educational context, because teams of teachers are in turn responsible for looking after large groups of students who need to be ushered through the twists and turns of remote learning with aplomb.

Providing the right incentives in the right way is a solution that can help overcome remote working burn-out and general disgruntlement brought about by the current climate. The following tips should help you to come up with an effective strategy to ultimately bolster job satisfaction and improve performance.

Image Source: Pixabay

Implement an incentive program

To start off with, it is worth formalizing your approach to incentivizing teachers in a remote working scenario through a program which has been developed specifically for this purpose.

While this will require a little work upfront to set the wheels in motion, once everything is in place it will become perpetually beneficial and continue to pay dividends as time passes.

You can get some program ideas from here to give you a little initial guidance. It covers everything from programs focused on rewarding the most loyal team members for their long service, to programs that encourage teamwork and collaboration between individuals and groups alike.

Most importantly, the program you select needs to be viable for those working remotely; it is no good offering perks like a gym membership to someone who will be unable to make use of it for the foreseeable future. If in doubt, implement an incentive program on a trial basis and ask for feedback from the teachers who participate to see if it can be improved or scrapped, depending on its impact.

Give them all the tools they need

There is nothing more frustrating for a remote worker than to find that the hardware, software or network connection they are using to fulfil their duties is not up to scratch. This is all the more relevant to educators, who will need to be leading lessons, seminars and one-on-one study sessions on a daily basis.

If they know that every day will be an uphill struggle as they fight to get the better of the inadequate technology that they have at their disposal at home, it is easy to see how they will become dispirited, and thus have less reason to pour their all into their job.

On the other hand, if you ensure that they have all of the tools they need to thrive while working remotely, not just scrape by, then everything else will click into place and become so much easier.

It is a good start to give them a suitably modern laptop that can cope with the rigor of running Zoom meetings, wrangling Teams catch-ups and interfacing with the cloud-powered educational resources that are vital to remote learning at the moment. However, you can also incentivize their engagement by covering the other costs that they will be accruing during this time, such as paying for a faster and more stable internet service.

This is all about demonstrating that you appreciate and understand the hurdles that teachers’ teams will need to leap over whenever they are working remotely, and moreover are prepared to do something to support them in this process.

Seek their input & provide recognition for achievements

It is difficult to know what problems remote workers are dealing with, let alone take steps to mitigate or rectify them. So rather than relying on guesswork or trial and error, it is clearly a good call to actively ask teaching teams to tell you what is causing them strife, or suggest what steps could be taken to incentivize their work even further.

There are a few ways to go about receiving this feedback, and while it might seem efficient to just call a meeting with everyone participating and get it all out of the way at once, it is necessary to remember that not all employees will feel comfortable contributing in this context.

The more successful approach involves ensuring that regular contact is kept between managers and team members on a one-on-one basis. Even if checking in frequently does not throw up problems to solve every time, teachers will value the opportunity to have this interaction and will also feel like their work is making a difference if you highlight any successes they have had or milestones they have passed.

A combination of an open door policy for feedback and a proactive approach to recognizing the hard work remote teams are putting in will go a long way to boosting morale even in the most trying of times.

Furthermore, you can use the suggestions to tweak the things that are creating friction, rather than leaving them unaltered and continuing to wear away at an employee’s psyche.

Mix things up with online learning resources & special events

One of the unique struggles for teachers when working remotely is keeping their own students interested in the courses they are participating in, and it is certainly the case that maximizing engagement is far harder outside of a bricks and mortar classroom environment.

Keeping the schedule varied and adding special events to go with the wealth of resources that are at the fingertips of teachers and students alike should serve to satisfy the needs of all parties.

From webinars with mixed groups to stop things getting stale, to full blown online events that include special guest speakers, who are recognized experts in their fields, there are lots of ways that teams of teachers can be supported and incentivized through the appropriate use of these functions.

Another benefit of doing this is that it will give teachers some much needed breathing room during their packed schedule. Being in charge of virtual lessons for extended periods is so intense that it can be very draining, so anything that can alleviate this will be welcomed.

Make sure they do not feel under pressure to get involved in everything

Last but not least, you need to be sensitive to the fact that if teachers are working remotely and spend entire days interacting with students and colleagues in a virtual environment, they may not want to stick around even longer for post-work get-togethers and the myriad other events and happenings that are quickly becoming the norm across lots of industries.

Preserving the work-life balance is harder than ever if you do not need to leave the house to fulfil your professional role, so if team members know that they can log off, close their laptop and switch their brains off in the evening, rather than feeling obligated to stay involved in some extracurricular activity or other, they will be in a better mental state when they start work the next day.

There is no doubting that managing remote teams of teachers is a bit of a high wire act, and one which will inevitably involve the odd wobble and misstep from time to time. Being willing and able to adapt to new challenges and make changes is the best way to ensure everyone can cope.


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Teaching During #CoronaVirus–An Old Strategy That’s Perfect

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Back to School Tips

back to schoolIt’s hard to imagine school is back in a few weeks. I’ve collected a series of back-to-school tips that are suited for in-person or remote learning. Pick those that work for you:


13 Teaching Strategies to Shake up Your Remote Teaching

As we struggle with adapting our classes to remote learning, I know lots of teachers who are realizing that their normal approach isn’t suited for remote teaching. They need to come up with a transformative tool that will reach students more comprehensively, more rigorously, more granularly online. Here are thirteen accepted pedagogical teaching strategies with proven records of success. Read through them then think how they might be applied to solve the problems you’re having with online teaching. For more information, click the link:

Depth of Knowledge (DoK)

DoK is not a taxonomy (like Bloom’s). Rather, it itemizes ways students interact with knowledge.

Frayer Model

Frayer Model uses a graphical organizer that asks students to describe words by much more than a memorized definition. 

Growth Mindset

In a Growth Mindset, people believe ability can be developed through dedication and hard work. The cerebral and physical traits they were born with are just the starting point. Students are responsible for setting the patterns and strategies that allow them to succeed, by evaluating what they can do at any given point and making a plan for learning everything else.

Habits of Mind

In the face of mounting evidence, education experts accepted a prescriptive fact: student success  is not measured by milestones like ‘took a foreign language in fifth grade’ or ‘passed Algebra in high school’ but by how s/he thinks.  Habits of Mind lists sixteen of these.


Orton-Gillingham is not a packaged curriculum, rather a prescriptive program designed for each individual student. The O-G teacher incorporates phonology and phonological awareness, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax and semantics into a personalized methodology 

Project-based Learning (PBL)

John Dewey suggested the education focus be switched to students when he introduced “learning by doing”, today referred to as Project-based Learning (PBL).


Teaching During #CoronaVirus–An Old Strategy That’s Perfect

A problem with online teaching is that students have to sit through a long lecture-sort of presentation–if you’re trying to replicate your classroom teaching. Some good advice I see over and over regarding teaching online is DON’T try to replicate your physical classroom. Instead, teach using online’s strengths. A good way to do that is with a flipped classroom. Chris Landry, an eighth-grade science teacher at Memorial Middle School, said he’s been able to continue teaching students amid the closures through videos and has even provided them with fun activities to do at home. What made it easier? Flipped Classrooms:

“…adjusting to the new way of teaching was easier than expected because he was using a “flipped classroom” while schools were in session.

For a thorough overview of flipped classrooms, take a look at this infographic from Cool Infographics:


How Online Learning Can Improve Your Teaching

Online learning has become not only a common alternative to physical classes, but a well-regarded change maker in the education ecosystem. Not only does it eliminate the noise of who’s wearing what, disruptive students, and classes cancelled due to snow days, it is becoming the surest and easiest way to treat all students equally. The gregarious students no longer take over the class and the quiet ones are not ignored in their silence. The popular kid gets no more recognition than the wallflower.

If you teach online, you know what I mean. The ease with which it differentiates for student needs, focuses on what’s important (which rarely is a due date), and provides much-needed flexibility has changed the way many of us teach our physical classes. See if any of these traits sound familiar:

Model a Good Instructor

Good online instructors are what we always wished teaching would be. Here’s what Bobby Hobgood, online teacher since 1998, says about what he’s learned about teaching through the online modality:

“…the instructional design and instruction of my courses reflect a Community of Inquiry approach whereby engagement is fostered through thoughtful attention given to how I manifest myself throughout the course (teaching presence), how students engage in the content of the course (cognitive presence) and how, together, we interact to form a dynamic learning community (social presence).”

Ignore Innocent Mistakes

We all know the type of “innocent mistakes” students make in class. They use the wrong word or giggle at the wrong time which distracts everyone from the goals of the class. That doesn’t happen in online courses. Since most input is done prior to submittal, students have time to provide measured responses that they’ve edited to say what they want.


What is Constructivism and How Does it Fit Your Class?

constructivismConstructivism is a student-centered philosophy that emphasizes hands-on learning and active participation in lessons. Constructivists believe that learning is an active process so the most effective way to learn is through discovery. With hands-on activities, learners actively create their own subjective representation of objective reality. Because new information is blended into prior knowledge, the result is – of course – subjective, heavily dependent upon the personal lens of each learner. That, in turn, is dependent upon their society, culture, past knowledge, personal experiences, and more.

Learning is constructed, not acquired, and is based on the fullness of a person’s individual lifetime of learning. It is continuously tested as new ideas are added, either causing long-held beliefs to evolve or be replaced.

Constructivism is not a pedagogy or a theory. It is a mindset — a way of thinking used to guide learners.