Teachers know better than anyone how much of a blur back-to-school season can be. Sometimes staying afloat means depending on past lesson plans and teaching methods; sometimes getting ahead means tweaking your processes once so they serve you better down the line. You may even be overlooking easy ways to simplify your approach to teaching that will benefit you and your students alike.
Here are four back-to-school teaching ideas for simpler, more effective lessons all around.
Try Self And Peer Reviews
Take a moment to reflect on how you assign, collect and grade assignments. First, you come up with the requirements and rubric. Then you present it to the class with a due date. Your students complete the project (whether it’s a paper, speech, art project, etc.) and hand it in. You engage in a formal grading session—often with a mountain of similar projects piling up around you. Finally, you hand it back, often weeks after the fact. Whew, that involves a lot of moving parts.
Consider the magic of self- and peer-assessed grading. By allowing students to choose (and defend) their own grade, and grade their team members after group projects, you’re essentially crowdsourcing an “on-the-ground” point of view. The benefits are two-fold: You’ll be freed up to work on other things besides repetitive grading, and your students will take accountability for their efforts. Of course, you’ll still have the final say, but this can smooth out the process.
Make Textbook Lessons Hands-On
Sometimes a lesson seems like a real winner in your head, but you can tell students are struggling to connect as deeply as you’d envisioned. Perhaps it’s time to take the written word or oral lecture and make it into a hands-on experience.
For language arts, you could ask students to create a three-dimensional art project based on a novel they’re reading. Each class member can prepare a traditional food from a certain country as part of your social studies curriculum. Reinforce a math lesson with physical counting objects so students can see an equation happen in front of their eyes. Any subject can come alive with the right hands-on activity.
Give Quizzes Electronically
You want to check that your students are understanding key concepts, but handing out pencils and paper for a short quiz every day feels repetitive (not to mention cumbersome). You can streamline assessments using a student response system. Suddenly, taking attendance, grading quizzes and conducting class votes is an immediate and centralized process—no more counting raised hands or grading twenty (or more) handwritten quizzes. All it takes is a simple PowerPoint slide and access to mobile or desktop devices to get your students involved.
Create Memory Tools
That which is easy for an adult brain to retain can be challenging for a classroom full of kiddos or adolescents. No matter what grade level you teach, using mnemonics can help make your concepts stick the first time so you don’t have to keep explaining processes or principles again and again. As Education World points out, teachers have used these memory devices for years, “but today’s educators are not just using tried and true memory tools, they are making their own as well.” So, branch out beyond the classics (like “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”) and craft your own clever devices.
From acronyms to imagery-word links, creating your own proprietary mnemonics will help your students remember key concepts and enjoy being “in the know” of something that only applies within the walls of your classroom. Remember: the best mnemonics have visual, auditory and written components that connect in a meaningful way to create an unforgettable memory tool.
This back to school season, try these four teaching ideas for simpler, more effective lessons. If you can save everyone time, hassle and repetition, you’ll have more time to focus on the actual content of your lessons.
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