For many students (as well as parents and teachers), it’s time to go back to school! Whether you enjoy going back is up to you or not! Students get to see their friends again and talk all about their summer vacations. Parents get to go shopping for supplies, and may even have some time to themselves once their kids are off. Teachers get to re-teach everything from the previous year since the students forgot everything over the summer!
Seriously, though, going back to school brings all kinds of changes: new students, new policies, updated teaching methods, new curriculum, revamping lesson plans, and updated educational standards.
Let’s change the way we teach!
There’s a quote I’ve seen, though I’ve forgotten who originated it, but it says if students don’t learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn. The education website, We Are Teachers, has a short but helpful article suggesting five differentiated methods to use this year. Let’s check them out!
- Try doing a service project with your class! – Service learning is an excellent way to help your students get involved with the local community, and help them develop interpersonal, teamwork, and communication skills. They could make emergency first-aid kits, repaint an old building or section of one, clean up trash in the city park, or any other thing that can benefit everyone in the community.
- Give your students more choices. – Too often students have little to no choice about what goes on inside their classroom. From the classroom policies to the activities, students are often told what to do by their teachers. Sometimes the chosen activity doesn’t benefit every student – as all students learn differently. Instead, the article mentions having the students complete a “must-do” activity (typically directly related to the lesson), and then a choice of one or two “can-do” activities for further understanding.
- Find ways to access multiple intelligences. – If you’re familiar with Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, then it’s important to incorporate those into your activities! That doesn’t mean you need to create many separate activities, just use one activity in different ways. The article gives a perfect example of this!
For example, if you’re reviewing a timeline of the American Civil War for an upcoming test, give each student an index card with a major event (e.g., Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, etc.), and while playing Civil War-era music, ask students to line up in front of the class to put the events in order. This single activity activates brain stimulation for six different learning styles:
- Visual-spatial learners use a mental image of the lineup as a mnemonic device.
- Kinesthetic learners get to move around and create a life-size timeline.
- Interpersonal learners communicate with each other to decide where to stand in line.
- Musical-rhythm learners benefit from the background music.
- Logical-mathematical learners thrive on creating a chronological line.
- Verbal-linguistic learners review notes and textbook during the activity.
- Ask your students what they need. – Usually the simplest thing to do, is just ask them. I know some students will be reluctant to directly tell what they need or want, but with a positive atmosphere and plenty of encouragement, perhaps they will be more open. This doesn’t just apply to how they learn, but students can also have input in creating effective lesson plans (it’s for them in the end), classroom behavior guidelines, and even activities.
- Use a red card/yellow card/green card system to check for understanding. – It’s hard to tell if students truly understand the material. Paper-and-pencil tests don’t accurately reflect learning styles. Students sometimes won’t come out and say they don’t understand. Learning some concepts takes more time than learning others. So, give a students three cards: one red, one yellow, and one green. Tell your students that if they don’t understand, flash a red card; if they somewhat understand, flash a yellow card; if they fully understand, flash a green card. Not only does this help students who cannot communicate well an opportunity to demonstrate understanding, but helps them feel more comfortable, too.
Find out and use what works for you!
These are but five strategies you can use as you kick-off the new school year (or second semester depending on where you’re at).
In closing, as new (and sometimes recurring) challenges arise, don’t back away from them. Take them head-on! Don’t be afraid to experiment a little and have fun!