TEACHING TACTICS

Imagine that you were told to schedule three hours of entertainment for 20 people. You couldn’t even begin without knowing something about them. How old are they? Are they boys or girls or men or women? Do they share common interests, or are they strangers?

Even with your learning objectives written, you are still not ready to go ahead with your activities. You first must know your audience to devise the best way to get your lesson across. What abilities do your students have? Can they reliably ferret information from their text, or do most find such work too difficult? Unless your class has been grouped according to ability, you will find that the answer to both these questions is yes. If you move slowly enough for your lower students, you may lose control of your better ones as their attention wanders. Of course, going fast enough enough for them will leave the others behind. Individualized instruction supposedly addresses this problem, but in practice it is very difficult to achieve in a class of 25 or 30 students. You can divide the class into groups, but then your time is also divided. The better group moves faster than the slower, creating idle time. There is no complete solution to this problem, so you will have to learn to accommodate some level of discontent in this regard.

How much prerequisite information and skills do they have? If you are about to teach a unit on cloud formation, do they know about temperature change with altitude? Are they aware of the heat released by condensing water vapor? Do they even have the arithmetic skills necessary to do problems related to the temperature changes in rising air? It is quite possible, even likely, that you will have to include learning objectives in your lesson that go beyond the definition of the original unit.

How motivated are your students to learn the material? If the motivation is low, you may have to add activities or rewards which would otherwise be unnecessary. Perhaps you’ll have to reduce or eliminate long periods of individual seat work requiring self discipline, attentiveness and perseverance.

Got to Question/Answer Sessions

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Individual Seat Work

The first time my principal came in to evaluate me was when my class was busy at work answering questions on a worksheet. I was scurrying from one raised hand to the next doing what I thought all good teachers should do, help their students. Later that day, the one comment my principal had that …

Question/Answer Sessions

Most kids, unless unduly shy, want you to call on them. Even in large classes where their chances of recognition are slim, they still put their hands up. Question and answer sessions should be fun. You should make every effort to offer positive feedback even if their answer is wrong. To an observer, it seems …

Class Discussion

Opinion vs. facts Ignorance is worthless Written product Class discussion is distinctly different from question/answer sessions. Question/answer sessions are best suited to reviewing concrete information – questions for which there are discrete answers. Discussions, on the other hand, may be used when there is no clear answer. “What effect did the McCarthy era have on …

Group Activities

The arguments in favor of a lesson plan calling for two or more students working together can be persuasive. In a large class, there just isn’t much opportunity for a given student to contribute to a discussion for more than a few seconds. In a group, there can be an almost constant exchange of ideas. …

Lecture

A lecture can be the telling of an edge-of-the-seat, white knuckle story or the delivery of a dreary monologue. In either case, there is no guarantee that learning has taken place. Even if all eyes are on you, many students could be reveling in their own daydreams behind those glassy stares. While a lecture may …

Video Presentations

I can still remember the first time I saw a movie in school. I was in the sixth grade, and such luxuries were new to my school. I was absolutely agog. But those were the days when television was in its infancy. Now kids receive much or most of their information about the world through …

In Class Studying

Huh? Do what? The blank stare Do something, anything Today’s kids study in front of the TV set or with music in their ear. Many don’t have their own rooms, so they must study with family distractions in the kitchen or living room. Some will even do their homework in the school hallways or on …

Homework

While the admonition to study the day’s lesson may work with high school or college students, it will be largely ignored by young teens unless a quiz is threatened for the next day. Written homework is much preferred, since it gives you a way to know if it was done. Even if you only want …

Extra Credit

In judgment of sincerity Ideas Harder and longer Not at the last minute The value of extra credit cannot be overemphasized. At the very least, it’s an activity to make up for that forgotten homework assignment or botched quiz. We all have our bad days, and a teenager’s life is so complicated that he deserves …

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