Sage Advice: Tips for Teachers

What teaching trick do you use in the classroom to help your students succeed?

What teaching trick do you use in the classroom to help your students succeed?

Follow the 10/24/7 rule when teaching a new concept: repeat information ten minutes after you teach it initially, twenty-four hours later, and one week after first instruction. This helps students commit information to long-term memory.

Colleen Rogers

Spanish instructor
Thornridge High School
Dolton, Illinois

I remix old music to include lyrics about content in U.S. history. An example: My classes would sing, "Bye-bye, British oppression, good-bye" rather than, "Bye-bye, Miss American Pie" when learning about the American Revolution. (The new lyrics are benchmarked and consistent with the textbook.) We have fun singing, and my high school students, although they claim it's corny, talk about the song the most when they return to visit. It is amazing what they can remember about a topic from a song even years later. At the end of the year, students can bring in a blank tape, and I record a copy for them.

Mike Ward

History teacher
Clintondale High School
Clintondale, Michigan

I ask students to help me design tests and exams. It gives me a chance to review, it allows me to understand what the students think we have been learning for the most recent unit, and it empowers them.

Daniel J. McMahon

Principal, world literature teacher
DeMatha Catholic High School
Hyattsville, Maryland

I don't believe in tricks. We should spend time learning our trade, not the tricks of our trade.

Jeff Campbell

Sixth-grade resource-room teacher
Academy Middle School
Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Alternate fun activities with their least favorite ones.

Mary Jo Bell

Art teacher
East Carter County R-2 School
Ellsinore, Missouri

When the majority of my kindergartners can identify the weekly sight words, we march in a parade at the end of the week. We use instruments and march to lively band music. This makes the words and the word wall more meaningful to the students, and they work hard to get to have the parade each week.

Jennifer Sullivan

Kindergarten teacher
M. R. Reiter Elementary School
Morrisville, Pennsylvania

I use a digital timer and constantly time activities. Prior to assigning a task, I explain the expectations and ask random students to restate the task and the time limit. This keeps students engaged and on task. When the timer rings, I again ask random students for feedback and answers to the questions or task that was just completed. It is the same from day to day. The consistency helps keep student frustrations low. When students know what is expected, they are more successful.

Beth Pennington

Eighth-grade science teacher
Shepherdstown Middle School
Shepherdstown, West Virginia

When my students ask me a question about a basic concept I want them to own the answer to, I ask them questions in return. I guide them through their thinking with my questions to help them come to an understanding of the answer so they can remember the whole connection and learning, hopefully, for years to come!

Betsy Ablott

Investigation-station teacher
Arlington Science Focus School
Arlington, Virginia

I use screen capture using Camtasia Studio 4. I am an Adobe-certified instructor in Premiere Pro 2.0, which is used for video editing. Screen capture is a great way to record difficult procedures that come up regularly.

Richard Baim

Video-production specialist
Francis Tuttle Technology Center
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I try to greet students at the door. I inform them about what they have to do for the day or the week, and we work together. I move around constantly in class, motivating students to get on track and work hard.

Adolfo J. Gonzalez

Lincoln International Academy
Managua, Nicaragua

I just believe in them.

Jim Morgan

Third-grade teacher
Linwood Holton Elementary School
Richmond, Virginia

I let my students know that class participation counts toward their grade. I keep track of participation on my seating chart, using a different color each day. Students who are paying attention and who are on task tend to do better than those who aren’t.

Paul Koplitz

History teacher
Greenway High School
Coleraine, Minnesota

Incorporating games into instructional strategies is essential. Games are especially effective if students have to rely on each other for success. We play a Jeopardy-type game to study for science tests. Students in groups have to agree on the right answer before raising their collective group’s hands. This strategy forces students to share information and support one another, and the lower-performing students feel more confident answering questions.

Gina Bamberger

Third-grade teacher
Natoma Station Elementary School
Folsom, California

As a university librarian, I am keenly interested in personalizing library instruction. My favorite way of doing this is to give professors a stack of my business cards. These are handed out in class, and each student has to obtain my signature on the back within two weeks. Students make appointments, and I get to teach them about various library resources in a one-on-one setting. Some students have more skills than others, and this method offers everyone a private tutorial.

Christine Bagley

Librarian
Janet L. Robinson Curriculum Resource Center
Salve Regina University
Newport, Rhode Island

With each well-completed, handed-in-on-time assignment, students get a coupon. After collecting two coupons, they get a lollipop they can eat in my class or after school; five coupons earn them a game day with classroom-appropriate computer games; and ten coupons allow them to waive an assignment.

Robin Henrikson

Computer/keyboarding teacher
North Middle School
Rapid City, South Dakota

Teachers help students succeed by anticipating students’ questions and practicing effective questioning techniques. It is also helpful to occasionally record yourself on audio or video yourself to assess your teaching style.

Teresa Trimble Hail

District technology coordinator
Pulaski County Schools
Somerset, Kentucky

When I feel like I’m losing the class to daydreams, something will come up, and I’ll say, “I didn’t know that”—and, oh, does that ever wake the kids up. They can’t believe a teacher doesn’t know the answer to something, and they will work hard to find it. This is a great way to get them to search through the text, or search the Internet or the library.

Laurie A. Martin

Teacher
St. Maries Middle School
St. Maries, Idaho

I credit everything I’ve learned to one thing: my mistakes. I provide writing students with the freedom to choose topics that apply to their daily lives. I redirect them as they work in writing labs, and I provide a lot of contingent feedback when I grade. If they’re not satisfied, they may do it again. And again. I’ve been a journalist for twenty years, and now I’m a teacher, and that’s what my real-world editors once did for me. No rigidity, no multiple choice, no fear, no punishment, no one-shot deal. Just education.

Melissa Sgroi

Teacher/journalist
Dallas, Pennsylvania

Keeping students engaged while presenting new material can be a difficult task, but I find that relating material to their lives sparks a light inside of them that fuels a desire to learn.

Heather Fowler

High school English teacher
West Seneca West Senior High School
West Seneca, New York

I created a Web site to help my students succeed. They can practice in my online classroom 24/7. I have made more than a hundred quizzes in Quiz Lab, which is linked to my site. There are many links for practice, which are interactive games. Students have written me letters saying their grades are higher because they can practice at home online. Plus, it’s more fun than paper-and pencil-work.

Wendy Schmid Tetrault

Teacher
Belmont, New Hampshire

I teach ninth-grade at-risk students in a self-contained classroom. For the first ten minutes of class in the morning, I give them free time. They can talk all the drama out, and then, when I write their warm-ups on the board, they are ready to learn. The system is not flawless, but, like adults, they just need to vent, and then they can get down to work.

Rebecca Loiacono

Teacher
Birmingham High School
Lake Balboa, California
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Rebecca Ludwig (not verified)

Teaching in an urban school district

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Teaching in an urban school district
As a music teacher in the Baltimore City Public Schools, I find that the students here are predominately kinesthetic learners. Dalcroze eurhythmics has made this much easier. I find that I am constantly changing my ways of teaching to incorporate Dalcroze. My students learn best by moving and playing instruments. Gone are the days when the music teacher could sit behind the piano and the children would sit and sing, and enjoy doing it. I incorporate all other subjects into my teaching, so that I can support the learning that takes place in the school. I teach songs that teach math skills, the states and capitals, the planets in the solar system, and many other cross-curricular skills within the realms of music. I also teach melody, rhythm, form, etc. The "hook" for my students is competition. They love having a chart that shows individual successes, whether it is for completing a new belt in Recorder Karate, or my band students' practice times on the "1000 minutes" club. My students understand that it is okay to fail in my classroom. Mistakes are welcome, so that we can ALL learn from them. I point out my mistakes to them so that they realize that I, too, make hundreds of mistakes each day. I do not criticize students for mistakes, as long as they give me their best work. When I ask if it really IS their best work, oftentimes they will admit that they can do better and want a second chance. This allows for them to be in charge of their own realizations, and can fix the problem quickly.
I hope that this gives the reader some insight into teaching urban youth. I am finding that the students are no different from the rural or suburban students. Only the lifestyles (and problems) are different.

Mike Sandoval (not verified)

Teaching tricks

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I think it's a good idea to incorporate reflections into student writing as often as possible. While the focus of standardized writing is often the analysis of literary devices in the English classroom, the students should also be given the opportunity to evaluate the texts and relate them to their own experiences. Combining the analysis with reflection gives the students an opportunity to take ownership of the text and be able to realistically critique it.

Mike Sandoval
English Teacher
Rosemead HIgh School

Kimsan (not verified)

Teaching in an Urban School District

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Get to know the child's interest. For example, when they grow up what would they like to be? Then, teachers can bring books or magazines of high interest topics to the class and have them look at it or read it for 10 minutes a day. Later on, teachers can explaine to them that almost all jobs required reading, writing and math skills. Also explaine to them that people with education get pay more than those who didn't. Or tell them one of their strength to encourage them to elaborate on their strength.

Valerie Tuck (not verified)

Teaching in an Urban School District

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What advice would you give to a teacher teaching in an urban school district where so few of the students value education?

Anonymous (not verified)

Inappropriate picture

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I do not think that the picture of the magician holding a rabbit by its ears is an appropriate image. How about thinking in terms of humane education? What message is that image sending across? I find it disturbing and I'm sure the rabbit isn't too happy with it either.

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