Sometimes, it can be difficult to get students to participate in class. Being a middle school teacher, I see it year after year and day after day: students feeling self conscious and apprehensive when asked to participate in class discussions or answer questions. Students participate for one of two reasons: they are either intrinsically motivated or extrinsically motivated. For the students who are intrinsically motivated to participate in class (motivated by internal factors such as wanting to do well or participating merely because they enjoy the experience), there is little you need to get their hands raised–their intrinsic motivation is enough on its own. The students who struggle are the ones who need extrinsic motivation–motivation by external factors, such as rewards etc. Below are some fun ways I boost participation in my classroom by taking advantage of extrinsic motivators.
I have already talked about how to lessen the amount of prep work you have to do when absent (check out that post here), but what about when your students are gone? I used to think it was much more work dealing with students being absent than when I took a day off (whether it be a sick day or professional development); that was before I came up with these ways to avoid the frustration. Here are some tips and tricks for making your classroom more self sufficient for absent students as well as making your life easier.
Much like with parenting, teachers are often the caring and supportive adult in students’ lives. However, we are also the judge, jury and executioner! It can be a tough role to juggle. In order to help strike that balanced chord of showing that you are there to support your students, building community should be your first step. Here are some approaches that I use in my classroom to help build community.
I don’t know about you, but I have strong mixed feelings about using technology. On the one hand, technology is something that my students have a deep connection to–it’s how they understand life. On the other hand, I sometimes feel that for all the good it brings, I secretly fear that it is going to ruin our society. Technology is such an integral part of our world today, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if it were to disappear suddenly. Districts across the nation are touting their integration of “21st century learning” (whatever that means), and teachers are being pushed into bringing as much technology into their classroom as possible. Sure, technology can be great; however, when you are relying on it and it suddenly stops working, it can be crippling and very frustrating in a classroom setting (especially when 68 eyes are on you… waiting for you to ‘fix’ the unforeseen problem). Is it unbelievably frustrating when the technology you are using suddenly stops working? Yes. Does it have to be? No. Here are some ways that I have learned to help make the integration of technology into my classroom easier, fun and a bit more seamless.
Sometimes when you are spending 12-14 hours a day in your classroom, the last thing you want to do is volunteer for something else that will keep you at school more. However, I honestly believe that the more you get involved in your school community, the more you will enjoy being there. I mean, hey, if you are going to spend every waking hour at work, you might as well include some extras that you will have fun doing (that is, besides grading papers…). Here are some ways that I get involved in my school community:
I think many of us have fond memories of our classrooms from our elementary years. The special reading nooks, the fancy floor rugs upon which we would sit as we happily listened to stories or discussed our classroom plans for the day during morning “meetings”, the colorful and thoughtful decor that conveyed a sense of creativity in our teacher as well as their personality. These days, it is very easy to look online and find so many wonderful ideas for primary classrooms, but it can be more difficult to find the same level of excitement for decorating a secondary classroom. Why is this? Why do secondary teachers not get as excited about their classroom “theme” or decor? Perhaps we feel that our students will not appreciate it. Maybe we are afraid that they will roll their eyes or poke-fun at our attempt? Although this may be true on the outside, I honestly feel that they do appreciate it– even if they don’t express it to you directly. Here are my ideas for things to consider when decorating your secondary classroom (some are more focused on fun and some are more focused on practicality):
I may be biased on this one, but, I really believe that Science is the great ‘connector’ of all subjects. In this new era of common core, we will need to be creative on how we integrate all of the subjects as we teach. I believe that science is the answer as well as the easiest common thread in which to sew together our educational blanket, so to speak.
I think many people can be intimidated when it comes to Science. They might have flashbacks to dissecting a frog in Biology, or calculating moles in Chemistry… that is not science. Science is much more than those memories. However, I think those negative memories can become all-encompassing and people may begin distancing themselves more and more from science due to feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by it. Don’t let science scare you away from incorporating it into your own curriculum. Remember, any subject can be connected to science; it has a place in every classroom. Let’s examine some ways to bring science into your classroom where you are teaching something that you feel more comfortable with:
Mistakes are a very, very important part of the learning process. However, I notice more and more that my students are afraid to make any kind of mistake. It appears to me that they are fearful of looking foolish in front of their peers (and even me, if we are working one-on-one). We know that teenagers can be extremely self conscious and do not want to ‘lose face’ in front of others. However, I find it valuable to teach them that there is no shame in being wrong or in making errors. In fact, I try to instill in them that these ‘faults’ are valuable and should be celebrated in the classroom.
I was having lunch with a friend recently (she is in her 3rd year of teaching) and she talked about the difficulty of dealing with students who “already know everything.” I think this is something that almost every teacher has faced at some point and subsequently asked themselves: “How do you teach a child who already knows the material?” The following are my thoughts on this common classroom issue:
I just recently got back from a conference. I love going to conferences. I mean, I REALLY love going to them. I think most teachers have a strong affinity for learning. After all, we have chosen to stay in school for the rest of our lives! I love learning. I love sitting in classrooms, I love listening to other people who are considered experts in their field, I love hearing new ideas that inspire me and make me want to try new things! If you have not been to an educational conference (or any conference for that matter), I would highly suggest it. That being said, it can be a bit overwhelming. So, here are some friendly tips on properly preparing for attending a conference.