Teaching is a hard job. So, time-saving teaching strategies are indispensable to teachers’ success.
I have been a teacher for over 18 years, both abroad and in the US. So I know and hang out with lots of fellow teachers.
One of the top issues we all agree upon is that— paper grading, lesson planning, and materials development are too time consuming. This compromises teachers’ work-life balance. That is to say, it renders the job dreadful, difficult, overwhelming, and unattractive. As a result, about 8% of K-12 teachers leave the profession annually.
Consequently, anyone who wants to last in the teaching game has got to play it well. Work smart. Protect his/her sanity. And manage his/her workload wisely. But how? Keep on reading…
Here are 9 teaching strategies that can get you there.
1- “Don’t do for students what they can do for themselves.”
This is a Caleb Gattegno’s quote. He is the inventor of the Silent Way. His teaching strategies have improved my view of teaching and learning. I have, therefore, come to understand teachers should provide students with the opportunity to actively contribute to their own learning process.
In most cases, students should come up with and own classroom rules. The class should read, interpret, and clarify instructions. They should distribute and collect class materials and resources. Students should help keep the classroom space organized and clean.
Likewise, students can research information, under your guidance, to the best of their ability, to generate class content and solve math and science problems. Controlling every aspect of your teaching and classroom will wear you out if you do it alone.
2- Recycle your teaching materials well.
If you want to last long in the teaching business, you need to develop a repertoire of teaching strategies, activities, and ideas (videos, handouts, projects, articles, exercises, quizzes, lesson plans). Making and keeping a few copies here and there won’t take you far. You will lose them anyway. Rather, it’s better to create course folders, preferably in the cloud (Google Drive, LiveBinder ) to store your activities and resources.
Don’t forget to store any new interesting materials or ideas that comes your way. You might not use them immediately, but they will eventually come in handy.
Once you have a repertoire, it will be easier for you to find, modify, and adapt materials for lesson planning purposes.
3- Use Open Educational Resources(OER).
There are hundreds of lesson plans on any subject you can think of out there. OER allows you to search for and access ready- to-use materials, ideas, videos, and lesson plans. You can also get materials from OER to populate your repertoire. In other words, you should not reinvent the wheel.
Make sure to use the materials wisely, respecting all the restrictions or guidelines. Also, be generous. Pay it forward. Upload and share some of your best materials or lesson plans on OER websites.
For example, here is a list of OERs: OER Commons, Khan Academy, ORBIT , OER4Schools, #PrimaryAndSecondaryEducation, and TeacherTube. I hope they will lighten your burden.
4- Collaborate with fellow teachers and steal their best ideas.
You know what they say: “two heads are better than one.” Similarly, two teachers are also stronger and better than one.
The thing is, you can learn from any teacher, regardless of what he or she teaches. It’s even better to collaborate with colleagues that teach the same class or subject that you do. You can learn more about how to effectively do this on Edutopia.
My job as a Learning Specialist and Instructional Coach has allowed me to steal ideas from lots of teachers. And guess what? I have, therefore, become a better coach.
5- Use students as researchers, give them a reason to use technology productively.
Giving students the opportunity to research knowledge and to bring content into your class, depending on what subject or the level you teach, will reduce Direct Instructions (DI) and therefore alleviates your burden.
Start by teaching students to use search engines. You can also scaffold the process by referring students to academic sources that you trust. Your role then will be to add rigor to and to facilitate the learning process.
You will need to provide students with clear directions and instructions (guidelines, rubrics, and clear expectations). These teaching strategies might work well in Social Studies and Science classes and in any other content-based classes.
6- Use peer grading or correction, share some of your power with learners.
Even the US Supreme Court might have your back on this one. No joke!
Don’t be a sage on a stage. You aren’t the only one that can differentiate between correct and incorrect information. Letting students evaluate their peers’ work might help them process information. To be on the safe side, go over the answers with your class. Do an accuracy check before students proceed with the grading. This way, you help everyone process the content and they help you grade some classwork.
The caveat is, before using peer grading you need to make sure it’s appropriate for the type of subject you teach and for your students’ level. The process might be chaotic at the beginning, but you and your students will get better at it. Keep practicing.
7- Make technology work for you.
Leverage technology to provide practice and independent work opportunities to students. Create online activities, quizzes, discussions, and projects that students can complete individually, in pairs, and in small groups, at home and in the classroom.
Use YouTube videos and create personalized videos to present and explain your content. You won’t need to recreate the videos every class term. Don’t forget to give students a purpose (grades, audience, publication) to complete the tasks at hand.
Another tip is to use educational games for practice purposes as much as you can. Yes, they help students learn.
8- Minimize your talking time.
Start your lessons with guiding questions. Let your students speak. Create space to let them challenge each other’s ideas and assumptions. Generate discussion opportunities and let students go at it. Ask follow up questions, when necessary, to guide the process and make students think critically. This will add rigor to the class.
But keep quiet as much as you can. Silence might be uncomfortable for you. Get used to it. For it’s necessary for students’ brains to process information. Jordan Catapano wrote a posttitled: Classroom Management: Silence is the Sound of Thinking. I learned a lot from it.Check it out. You might learn something new about silence in the classroom.
9- Teach your students how to learn and think.
Exposing students to content is one thing; however, helping them to learn is a different ball game. Focus more on your topic’s or content’s best teaching modality. Discuss appropriate learning strategies with your students. Learning how to learn your subject is what students need the most.
You can’t totally regulate your students’ learning but they can, if they know how to. For example, students can’t study math the way they study social studies. Therefore, they should approach each subject with a different set of strategies.
It’s also critical to always encourage students to reflect on their learning process, regardless of what you are teaching.
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