Posts

The 3 Most Common Classroom Management Mistakes

Classroom Management: Ready, Set, Go!

Before I was lucky enough to become an elementary school teacher I was able to work for my local school district as a behavior analyst. I would often get called into schools to provide additional support for students who are struggling behaviorally. In most situations, I discovered that classroom management strategies we’re not being utilized or were not being enforced. This experience provided me the backbone of knowledge that I currently use for my own classroom practices. While my college program adequately prepared me with the knowledge to construct an effective classroom management plan, it was the the on the job experience that instilled the importance of maintaning and enforcing the plan.

For those that are new to teaching, here are three common classroom management mistakes that teachers frequently make related to classroom management. It is my hope that many new teachers can avoid these pitfalls.

Common Classroom Management Issues

1. Lack of Consistency

Students thrive on consistency in the classroom. If there aren’t any rules, it is difficult to encourage consistant behavior in the classroom.

While serving as a behavior analyst, when I walked into a classroom I would instantly look to see if there were 3 to 5 specific rules that were posted in the classroom. However, if the teacher didn’t consistently enforce the rules, it didn’t matter if the rules were posted. In a well-managed classroom, students should know if they have broken a rule and what the consequences are without needing to ask the teacher. In order to help the classroom maintain behavioral expectations, I utilize a “what if” chart. The chart is communicated to students using verbal and nonverbal cues that will serve as warnings to students if they misbehave. I often point to the chart and reference it throughout the year. As a result, the students actually help me be consistent with enforcing the classroom rules.

2. Lack of Praise

The greatest deficit that I saw as a classroom observer was the infrequent amount of praise that was provided by the teacher to the students. This is still something that many teachers that I observe struggle with on a regular basis. Teachers should be constantly ready to praise students academically and behaviorally in the classroom. Praise can be used as a tool to redirect, prompt, and reengage students. Offering praise is a far greater tool than using public humiliation to put fear into students in an attempt to make them comply. Everyone wants to be told they are doing a good job, especially students. Let’s give them what they want!

3. Excessive Teacher Direction

One reason that students become problematic in the classroom, is not due to poor classroom management of the teacher, but rather the student is not engaged in learning. This can happen for several different reasons. Perhaps the student is not receiving instruction on the appropriate level (high or low). Maybe the student is not being given an opportunity to learn about things they are interested in. Problematic behaviors of this nature are likely to occur when a teacher runs a classroom in a very teacher directed way. The more voice and choice a student can possess, the more they will be interested in their own education. In order for this to happen, teachers need to modify their classroom roll to be a quote “guide on the side” instead of a quote “sage on the stage.”

The Real Deal to Improve Learning

Because a child will struggle to learn when their behavior is out of control, classroom management skills are heavily needed in today’s classrooms. By being consistent, utilizing academic and behavioral praise, and running a student centered classroom that provides voice and choice, teachers will be equipped to successfully manage a classroom and help students be successful.

If you are struggling with bahavior issues in the classroom, you may also be intereted in this article entitled Behavior Interventions for Aggressive Students.

Strategies for Students with Special Needs

As the number of students requiring special education has increased, 47 states are currently experiencing a deficit of teachers to fulfill this need. It is imperative that an educator today be armed with the tools and strategies necessary to benefit all of their students, regardless of impairments or ability.

Use Assistive Technologies to Teach Various Skills

By capitalizing on the student’s strengths, assistive technology (AT), can help a variety of students with special needs. Whether the student has dyslexia, cognitive problems or physical impairments, here are a few examples of how AT can help in bypassing specific areas of difficulty:

  1. Talking calculators, spell-checkers and electronic dictionaries to assist students with dyslexia.

  2. Electronic worksheets assist students to digitally line-up words and numbers on their assignments.

  3. Personal FM listening devices help to transmit a speaker’s voice directly to the student’s ear.

  4. Variable speed recorders allow a student to hit record during a lesson and later go back to speed up or slow down the speaker’s voice.

  5. Alternative keyboards are programmable devices that are designed to reduce finger and wrist movement and allow the individual to customize the keyboard based on their own needs, such as with colors or words.

Introduce Different Learning Strategies

By implementing a variety of learning strategies in the classroom, educators give their students the tools they need to be successful in understanding concepts, interacting with their peers and developing ways in which they can thrive. Here are some examples of diversifying learning in the classroom environment:

  1. Pausing mid-lecture gives students an opportunity to reflect, marinate, discuss and apply ideas presented to them during the lecture. Additionally this gives students a moment to reboot their attention and focus, allowing them to release any pent up energy acquired during a lecture.

  2. If your students are able, get them up and moving around. Create different workstations around the classroom with a variety of tasks for the students can choose from, enabling them to be in control of the way in which they learn and their own experience of learning.

  3. Switch up the learning environment. A change of scenery using bold, bright colored or interactive decorations in the classroom or a relocation to an outside environment can re-energize a student’s focus and attention and help them to create new tools for learning success.

Provide a Positive Environment

According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, in order for a student to learn they must first feel safe, engaged, connected and supported. These “conditions for learning” are critical for the student’s experience on a personal level.

Additionally, creating a positive environment engages the student on a level where they feel respected and enthusiastic about learning. Here are a few tips to create an environment to help students thrive:

  1. Show your students they matter by actively listening.

  2. Say “please” and “thank you” even if their answer is incorrect.

  3. Create a zero tolerance policy for bullying or put-downs.

  4. Make eye contact.

  5. Greet students at the door, help them to feel welcome in your classroom.

  6. Give students at least 6-8 seconds before answering, allowing them time to process your question with their experiences and knowledge.

Develop Support Groups and Activities

Creating an environment in the classroom in which all of the students, regardless of their needs or impairments, feel respected, safe and cared for can certainly be a challenge.

Establishing ground rules for a culture of consideration and esteem from Day 1 can help to set the tone for students to comprehend that there may be a variety of needs, strengths and hardships within their peers and that there is a zero tolerance policy for behavior or words that will make anyone feel unsupported.

Additionally, grouping students desks or pods strategically can create a mini-environment to help students balance each other’s strengths, especially during group activities and discussions.

Maintain a Diverse and Welcoming Curriculum and Environment

Often times, depending on the individual student’s needs and regional location, one classroom can be their learning environment for 5 years or more. One of the most crucial aspect to building this environment is creating a space where the student feels safe and secure.

Creating a space that feels like home can also be a great way to establish familiarity and consistency for a student who thrives on repetition. Additionally, utilizing the space of the classroom to create areas of flexible seating so that students can move around to communicate and complete assignments can be a great way to diversify and encourage learning.

For more articles like this click here!

10 Amazing Sensory Spaces

The basic definition of sensory overload is when the brain has issues with responding to information that comes through the seven senses. This means that normal environmental conditions can be a little jarring. It’s a very common condition in many children with ADHD, autism, and other disorders.

For them, a regular classroom could be a little overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to set up sensory spaces.

Sensory spaces are areas where these children can get the stimulation they need but in a certain way. For example, heavy fluorescent lighting can be harmful, so in a sensory space, you would trade it for dimmer lights.

In this article, we’re going to go over that and much more so you can set up your own sensory room in your home or classroom.

1. Post a Schedule Up

Many children benefit by knowing what’s coming up in the schedule next. These visual cues are great for those with autism who suffer from sensory overload. They might not like surprises or sudden changes that come with not having a known schedule.

You can post the schedule up in increments of time, or you can put the entire day’s schedule up at once. Your choice will depend on what you think is best for your kids.

2. Lighting

It’s strange to think that something small as lighting can influence our emotions. Loud, fluorescent lighting can make children feel uncomfortable. They just shine too brightly in their faces.

There are many other ways you can create light in your sensory room without the use of them. One idea is streaming holiday lights across the room. Candles are also a very calming source of light. Lava lamps are visually stimulating because of the light they give off and the motion of the lava slowly moving up and down inside the glass.

Any of these options are a better idea than just flicking on the overhead lights. It’s all about influencing the child’s mood through lights, and you will find a very negative reaction with the fluorescents in most cases.

3. Whiteboard

There are many things that a child can do with a whiteboard. You could set up a section of it that just has a bunch of magnetic letters and numbers. The child could have fun spelling out words, and learn at the same time.

You could also just provide markers and let the child’s imagination run wild. Any of these activities not only stimulate creativity, but also help develop fine motor skills as well.

4. Crash Pad

You can buy a crash pad or make one all on your own. All you need is a zip-up duvet that you can fill with cushiony items like pillows and stuffed animals. The kids will enjoy jumping on them as well as throwing them around.

It’s kind of surprising what kind of stimulation this will provide. It will provide body awareness and is actually pretty soothing.

5. Therapeutic Smells

Like lights, certain smells can incite different moods. For example, a light scent of lavender can leave someone feeling very calm. At the same time, some smells can be overwhelming.

Instead of going with strong sprays, pick up a few candles, incense, or scented oils. These will leave a light fragrance behind.

The child could also benefit from playing with scented toys like playdough. The smell plus the stimulation from the texture of the playdough can be very beneficial to the child.

If the child really responds well to scents, put a little bit of essential oil on a cotton ball and let them have at it.

6. Deep Pressure Items

Some children respond well to high pressure, such as being wrapped tightly in a blanket like a sushi roll. You could also fill up an inflatable pool with stuffed animals, pillows or blankets. They could enjoy snuggling up in it.

You could provide a tunnel that children can not only play in, but grab a blanket and escape in it as well. Being able to get away like this is great for when sensory stimulus becomes too much.

7. Music and Calming Sounds

Music does a lot of interesting things with one’s brain activity. It can change the way we think and feel. This being said, you don’t want to crank the music up to its loudest volume.

There is nothing wrong with lightly playing Celtic music, or calming nature sounds from a stereo or even your phone. This will have a very positive impact on some children.

8. Lego-Wall

Who didn’t like legos when they were children? Letting the children build isn’t only fun, but also promotes creativity and fine motor skills.

When the child is focused on building with legos, they will feel calm and it also provides them with great organization skills. Just be careful not to step on any of them.

9. Swings

Some children with autism and other disorders feel comfort from being able to rock back and forth in a rocking chair or swing. Swings do this by stimulating the child’s vestibular system.

They aren’t too hard to install and most of them come with detailed instructions so you don’t risk putting them up wrongly.

10. Tactile Center

All you need to set up a tactile center is a few containers and sensory materials like rice or sand. The child can stick their hands in the containers and play with it and it’s actually very calming.

Not only is a tactile center calming, but it allows them to develop and work on their fine motor skills.

Sensory Spaces Ideas for Your Students

Sensory spaces are important because they allow children who suffer from sensory overload to escape into a place that is more comfortable. Having coping materials at hand like swings, tactile centers, and deep pressure items can make all the difference for a child who needs it.

To learn more about sensory items and how they can help a child at home or in the classroom, visit our blog.

Setting Goals in the Classroom: The Importance of Classroom Management

Creating a positive classroom environment in which students are enthusiastic about learning can be crucial to the student’s overall learning success. By establishing both personal goals for each student based on their own needs, learning style, strengths and abilities while also creating group and class goals can be a great motivating factor to make learning fun.

Effective classroom management by the educator helps students with a variety of strengths to focus and set measurable goals on a large and small scale. SMART is a great tool to use to help your students create their goals.

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant, Realistic, Rigorous and Results Focused

  • Timely and Trackable

Analyze Classroom Data

Meet with each student individually and look at their strengths and challenges as it relates to the other students within that environment.

Help the student to create goals for themself to attain long-term, as well as short term goals, breaking down the school year by weeks at a time to show them how they can progress and learn, week by week. Be sure to focus on their strengths, encouraging them to capitalize on the ways in which they seem to learn the best.

Create a Goal-Setting Tracker

While every student learns differently, they are also motivated differently. When establishing individual goals with each student, it is important to create individualized goal-trackers. Some students prefer bright colored charts with stickers or stars, depending on their age or maturity, while other students are digitally motivated and are excited by an online tracking system.

Celebrate Student Success

Depending on the personality of the student, celebrating their success can be done in a wide variety of ways. Regardless of what that celebration may entail, the most important thing to remember is that when a student meets their goal, they are recognized and praised accordingly.

Some students prefer individual attention by the educator, while others may want to seek recognition from their peers or family. Here are a few examples of ways in which you can celebrate a student and their goal-meeting:

  1. Hang up the accomplished goal-tracker sheet in the classroom for all of the peers to see and praise.

  2. Offer rewards such as one-on-one lunch in the classroom with the teacher, homework rewards or extra credit.

  3. Send a special note home or email their family with the student’s accomplishment as the sole subject.

Introduce Fun Classroom Traditions

One way to immediately create a fun and exciting environment of learning is to begin the first day of school with an activity that your group of students will do once a month, once a season, once a semester, or upon the completion of a group goal.

Here are some fun ideas that you can implement in the classroom to engage your students and get them excited to be in your classroom:

  1. Create a measuring wall to track the growth of each student as the year goes on.

  2. Film a video diary of each student on the first day of each month telling a little story or a joke. If the students are shy at first, you can create group diaries to help them to feel more comfortable.

  3. Make a time capsule the first week of school to be opened on the last week of school, where every student contributes and feels like they are a necessary part of the project.

  4. Build a birthday chart with the students as a group, making sure to celebrate those students with birthdays in the summer months before the end of the school year.

For more articles like this click here!

PBL: Making it Work For All Kids

PBL is Not a PBJ

Project-based learning (PBL) is anything but your standard way of instructing students. Students work on a project that focuses on solving an authentic real-world problem or question. Projects are usually multi-disciplinary and they allow the student to demonstrate their knowledge and skills gained from the project by publicly sharing a presentation or product for a real audience that could be their classmates, their school, or even post it online to share with the entire world. As you can see, this is a pretty exciting concept for both students and adults alike, however some students may struggle with making PBL work for them. The benefits are apparent, but there are some things you should know about in order to make it successful for all students.

Scaffold PBL

The definition of the word scaffold as a verb is to provide support. Without the proper support students will flounder with many aspects of PBL like staying focused for an extended amount of time on one project, identifying a question that they want to answer, and deciding who they are going to share their project with. In order to combat these potential problems, teachers should gradually release control of PBL to their students. First, teachers can do a PBL project as an entire class. They can walk students through the entire process and complete it together. Conducting this first step can take a lot of fear and uncertainty about PBL out from the beginning, but without giving students control over their learning, it’s not quite PBL just yet. Next, the teacher might assign groups of students to work through a question that the teacher comes up with. The teacher can allow for variation in how the group chooses to present their findings, but again full control over the project is not given. After each student has a class-wide and small group PBL experience under their belt, they are ready to try a project independently. At this stage teachers should still limit some sort of control, so it may be wise to either choose the topic for the student or to choose how they must demonstrate their understanding. After the 3rd scaffolded PBL experience, students will hopefully be able to fully guide themselves and the teacher can sit back and watch the magic happen.

Provide Voice & Choice

Allowing students to choose their topic and decide how to demonstrate their understanding is a critical component of PBL. However, giving students voice and choice in their projects can be a hard thing for teachers to do. They will be tempted to assign topics or questions for students to study. They may also want to tell their students to demonstrate their understanding in a particular way, however this limits the knowledge and experience that makes this type of learning meaningful for students. Teachers should allow students to make choices and demonstrate their creativity whenever possible. Once students are comfortable with the PBL process, teachers should empower their students by giving them control over their own learning. This control will stimulate engagement with their projects and will help PBL reach all students

Provide Reflection Opportunities

Providing feedback to students on their PBL experience is a crucial part in keeping students coming back for more. Students should give, receive, and use feedback especially from their peers to improve they’re understanding of PBL and the quality of the projects/products that they create. Students and teachers should always reflect on their learning and how effective their project management skills were during the PBL project. They should also reflect on their overall question and if their presentation was effective for the intended audience. Because the types of feedback that students can receive are endless, making sure that students receive good feedback will ensure that PBL is never viewed as a completed process by students. This will help students understand that PBL is an effective way to learn about any topic they have interest in and that this process can be used in any setting, even outside of school.

PBL Benefits Students

PBL is a great tool to help students develop deep content knowledge as well as 21st Century learning skills like critical thinking, creativity, and communication. However, all these benefits won’t occur if it’s not implemented effectively. Teachers should scaffold their support, ensure that students can employ voice and choice with their projects, and they should structure in plenty of time for feedback to ensure PBL success in the classroom. If teachers can do these things, PBL can serve as a catalyst for creating a group of students who are anxious to continue their learning no matter who they’re with or where they are.

Enjoy this article? Click here for more!

Making the Most of Tech in the Classroom

Choices, Choices, Choices

Make no mistake about it, technology can be an effective tool to increase student learning. More and more classrooms are being outfitted with devices to help gather data for the teacher and to allow students to learn in ways that they never thought possible. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Programs are becoming more commonplace and earbuds are becoming an essential back-to-school item. However, all schools are faced with the same daunting task of determining which devices to purchase. This is problematic as more and more new devices are released each year and technology as a whole continues to move forward at a rapid pace. Regardless of the device that is used, here are some ways to get the most out of the technology in your classroom.

Meet My Friend SAM R.

The most important thing that you can remember about technology is that it is just a tool. Technology ineffectively utilized will not change anything. What you do with the technology is more important than the actual technological device. No one understands this more than Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Dr. Puentedura created the SAMR model which provides guidance for educators on classroom technology integration. If tech is used to substitute a task, then don’t expect leaps and bounds in student learning and success. However, if tech is used to modify a task or redefine a task so that students can create something new, then educators might be starting to understand how to use technology in a positive way. When the harnessed in the right way, technology can help teachers be more effective than they ever thought possible.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Because how you use a device is more important than which device you use. Educators should invest in a variety of different devices that can do different things. Chrome books and iPads are an example of two very different devices. Allowing students the opportunity to create an iMovie project about a social studies topic might be a great way to allow them to demonstrate their understanding while using technology to create something new. Conversely, having students collaborate on a Google doc about a persuasive essay might be a great use of tech in the classroom. Putting all of your eggs in one basket could be sheer folly, especially if students are more talented with one particular device or program over another. Bottom line: make sure that you provide tech options for your students and don’t limit their choices to devices that the classroom teacher is only familiar with.

Rotate, Rotate, Rotate

The last way to get the most tech out of your tech in the classroom is to realize that you do not need an entire classroom set of devices. Technology is great when it is purposeful, allows for student choice, and is used in small doses. Teachers can utilize a smaller number of devices through a station rotation format. A station rotation consists of a teacher running several small groups within the classroom that are all working on different activities. One of the groups could be utilizing a tech device for the activity. Conducting a station rotation will allow a classroom teacher to understand that they do not need a 1:1 device initiative for their school. Starting with fewer devices in a station rotation format will also help teachers be purposeful in the technological activities that they have assigned their students as well.

Tech is Just a Tool

Technology can do some pretty amazing things. It can allow for students to travel the world on virtual field trips, connect to other classrooms that are halfway around the world, and allow students the ability to collaborate on projects anywhere and at anytime. However, technology should not be used just because it’s there. Educators have a responsibility to make their tech use count because tech is just a tool and it will never replace an effective educator who uses it with purpose.

For more articles like this, click here!

Building a Positive School Culture

What Makes a Good School?

When acquaintances find out that I am an elementary school principal, they invariably ask me about other schools in their own neighborhood and if I would recommend them. My answer to their question is always the same: a school is as good as its culture and the people that work within it. Well, what makes good school culture? Is it when the school principal knows every child’s name? Is it when the lunch room serves their famous peanut butter bars every Friday? Or is it a combination of things that help your school be great? Regardless of what you think makes a good school, here are some great ideas for educators to help improve the culture at your own school.

1. Share Your Story

The old adage,”No news is good news” does not apply to schools. If schools aren’t entirely focused on communicating to the community about the good things that are going on at the school, then the community will assume that nothing good is happening at the school. Schools can communicate their story through social media or some other parent communication platform like Class Dojo. The important thing to remember is to highlight events, school staff, and of course the students! As schools share their story, schools will build a positive culture that will impact everyone. From taking a picture of a student and a teacher who received a special recognition award, to writing a few sentences about the fall festival carnival that the school had the prior week—all “good news” should be shared to build positive school culture.

2. Show School Spirit

Another way to build school culture is to put an emphasis on showing school spirit at your school. Do you incentivize students to wear school colors? Does your school have a mascot that a student can dress up in? Does your school have a school song and do the students know the words? Does your school feature a central piece of artwork like a mosaic or mural that depicts your school motto or something that appeals to children? Does your school have kid-friendly decorations in the halls or does it look like a really old museum? The more a school appeals to its student body and instills a sense of pride about where they go to get their education, then the more a school will build on a strong tradition of success and strengthen school culture.

3. Make it Personal

The last way to build a strong school culture to allow teachers and students the ability to personalize their school to make it home. When was the last time you asked the faculty if they wanted to renovate or update the faculty lounge? Are students allowed to give input on the classroom and which flexible seating options might be available? Are students allowed to provide input on what types of pictures and games are put on the blacktop for students to participate in at recess? When students and teachers spend as much time as they do at school, we owe it to them to provide a place that makes them feel appreciated. At our school we renovated our teachers lounge. We got rid of the horrible and ugly furniture that was dark and looked like your grandma’s basement. Now it is bright colors with blankets and snacks. Teachers were allowed to provide input on the new teachers lounge and it strengthened the positive school culture at our school. When you allow teachers and students to personalize their school environment, then the school turns into “our school.”

Good Culture Takes Time

Positive school culture can be built in a myriad of different ways, but the most important thing that anyone can remember is that building a good culture takes time. Take a walk around your school and see how personalized it is. Go outside at recess to see if students are wearing school colors.I. Ask a random student if they know your school song by heart. If your school is in need of a culture makeover, then be patient and start the culture change today. Your school’s future students will thank you for it!

For more insightful articles like this click here.

How Blended is My Classroom?

What is Blended Learning?

Blended Learning is a buzzword in education nowadays as technology has steadily crept more and more into every facet or our lives — including our schools. Blended Learning occurs when a student learns partially online, within a brick and mortar building, and along an individualized learning pathway (www.blendedlearning.org). It’s no surprise that the desire for personalized and convenient learning pathways has lead the education sector to embrace a new way of providing instruction to match the needs of its learners.

Blended Learning Classrooms — The New Norm

Blended Learning has long been around in higher education and judging by the number of online degrees that have been recently awarded across the United States — it’s safe to say that it’s here to stay. However, educators in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, are left questioning, “How Blended is My Classroom?” Educators in these areas must determine if changes are occurring in their classrooms to meet the needs of today’s learners. Determining how successfully they have “blended” their learning environment and where they can make improvements is crucial to any learning institution’s success.

How “Blended” Am I?

If you’re looking for a way to determine areas for improvement to your blended classroom initiative, look no further. Take a moment to study the vertical alignment of an educator’s journey on the road to a blended learning classroom. Then, your next bet is to make some measurable goals to get you headed on your way.

Traditional Instruction or Non-Blended Learning Instruction

⬥ Teachers infrequently allow students to learn faster or slower than the teacher. All students get the same homework.
⬥ Teachers infrequently plan differentiated activities for students that address personal interests, learning styles, or abilities.
⬥ Teachers tell students where to work in the classroom and infrequently provide access to online resources so students can learn outside the classroom.
⬥ Teachers teach before they assess students and find out what they know or let students explore concepts on their own.

Beginning to Blend Instruction

⬥ Teachers occasionally opt students out of work based on assessment data and they conduct stations or centers.
⬥ Teachers administer surveys to gain information and plan activities that address different learning modalities. Teachers allow students to occasionally choose how to demonstrate their understanding.
⬥ Teachers allow students to work in different places within the classroom and they post assignments online occasionally.
⬥ Teachers assess students, collect data, and teach mini-lessons to students occasionally.

Moderately Blending Instruction

⬥ Teachers do not provide whole-class instruction or non-differentiated homework. Students frequently participate in centers where they move about the classroom by choice.
⬥ Teachers prepare a variety of differentiated tasks based on student information. Students complete curriculum and personal interest projects with the help of rubrics and choice boards.
⬥ Teachers occasionally use a learning management system (LMS) to allow students to access curriculum content anywhere in the classroom or even outside of school.
⬥ Teachers assess students, collect data, and teach mini-lessons to students frequently. Students frequently monitor their own learning.

Heavily Blending Instruction

⬥ Students frequently work with differentiated playlists and are able to choose which tasks they work on and how long they spend on each task.
⬥ Students frequently conference with a teacher to determine which activities will best help them learn and how they will demonstrate their understanding.
⬥ Students frequently use a LMS to access the curriculum and occasionally complete work in a non-homeroom teacher’s classroom.
⬥ Students make learning goals and are systematically monitoring which learning objectives they have mastered.

Fully-Blended Classroom

⬥ Students explore concepts before any teacher instruction (mini-lessons) in grade-level and non-grade-level content areas.
⬥ Students can choose independently how to learn (by themselves, with a peer, or from the teacher) and demonstrate their understanding based on their personal interests, learning styles, or abilities.
⬥ Students frequently work in any grade-level classroom and can access all coursework online.
⬥ Students frequently make learning goals, collect data regarding the learning objectives that they have mastered, and conference with the teacher about their progress.

Conclusion: Blended Learning Takes Patience

After you you are sufficiently overwhelmed from self-assessing how “blended” you really are, just remember that elephants must be eaten one bite at a time and the same could be said for Blended Learning classrooms. No matter where you’re at with your Blended Learning knowledge or implemented strategies, know that it can take upwards of 2-3 years to fully transform your classroom to provide the individualized instruction that learners are craving — and that’s if your community is ready for it! The best advice I can give you is think big, start small, and go slow.

Interested in more articles like this? Check out Special Education Career’s Blog here!

The 21st Century Classroom

Children working with technology in the classroomTechnology in the Classroom

With technology becoming an integral part of our world, it can be valuable to teachers and students alike. The ultimate goal of schools, from elementary to higher education, is to produce lifelong learners and successful students who are prepared for the workplace. Technology can help educators meet that goal in a creative and motivating way.

There are 7 key advantages of using technology to improve a student’s classroom experience.

  1. Teachers are facilitators

    Teachers can use technology to facilitate learning instead of lecturing. As a facilitator, a teacher’s focus is to guide the students in their learning. When teachers facilitate learning, students become active participants leading to increased comprehension and application of the material. Students learn at a higher level as they make connections to real life experiences and discover how to become more of an independent learner.

  2. Learning is student focused

    Student focused learning allows students to make decisions about their learning. It gives them a say in planning, goal setting, and assessment. As they become engaged in these processes, it helps the students take ownership of their learning. This type of classroom learning best simulates real world situations as students track their own progress and become more self-reliant.

  3. Learning is active and engaging

    When students are encouraged to take an active role in learning, they are more likely to retain the knowledge they’ve accumulated and build essential skills that will accelerate their learning toward college preparations and career readiness.

  4. Lessons can be enhanced

    Teachers can use technology to supplement the work with activities that can be customized and focused on a student’s problem areas. Technology can also allow a teacher to personalize the work so it more closely matches the student’s learning style. If students want to go further in depth on a subject than the textbook allows, a quick connection to the internet offers a wide variety of information accessible at the click of a button.

  5. Learning is adaptive

    All students are unique. They learn at various paces and also process things differently. Technology encourages learning to be more adaptive in order to help students maximize their unique styles of learning. Technology in the classroom also lets students learn at their own pace. By allowing students to be self-paced, more learning can occur since it is tailored to the student’s level. Adaptive learning is also valuable because it assesses students, gives immediate results and personalizes learning based on the assessment. There are various adaptive learning programs teachers can use in the classroom, like Dreambox, I Ready, and Knewton.

  6. Captures student’s attention

    Students today live in a technology driven generation. Students are intrigued with technology outside of the classroom, so bringing it into the classroom brings with it a sense of familiarity and interest. It helps pique student’s interest and makes learning more fun for them.

  7. Teaches skills for the future

    With technology all around us, many jobs have a digital aspect to them that they didn’t have 30 years ago. Using technology in the classroom in collaborative ways helps build teamwork practices that will aid students in the workplace. It prepares students to manage projects, think critically and problem solve, all of which will help in real life scenarios.

For more ideas of ways to incorporate technology check out https://www.edsurge.com/e/summits for a list of companies.  

Technology is changing the way we live and work. Technology has the ability to enhance a child’s tomorrow. Therefore, as we prepare students for their future, it is important to integrate technology into the learning process.

Learn more about technology in the classroom in “The 21st Century Classroom Part 2” 

Gaming in the Classroom

five happy students looking at ipad together in a classroomAs technology becomes a more integral part of the classroom, teachers are finding gaming to be a fun way of improving student achievement.

According to Forbes, gaming has been shown to increase metacognitive skills. Metacognition is basically being aware of your thinking. Many games created for the classroom have metacognitive skills built into them. As student’s metacognitive skills improve so does their academic skills. Research has shown that students who played educational games as part of their average school day had a deeper knowledge of the curriculum. Students also become more productive and self-reliant.

Gaming encourages repetition using sight, sound, and touch, which improves memory of a skill as the brain makes connections during the process.

Gaming also motivates students to want to learn. It makes learning more fun and engaging and improves collaboration skills. It is not just for younger students, gaming is revolutionizing the higher education classroom as well.

Elementary Gaming

  • Diffission. Diffission is a math game aligned with Common Core. Students earn the title of ‘Diffusionist’ by dissolving and slicing through blocks as they learn about fractions. It records student’s progression so teachers can note student’s problem areas. Teachers can assess students as they progress through the game. The company, Filament Learning, who created this game, will also design games customized specifically to the needs of your school or district.
  • Timez Attack. Timez Attack is an engaging game that teaches students to master multiplication. It has built-in assessment and fluency skills to make sure students quickly recognize the answer to problems. Imagine Learning, owner of Timez Attack, offers many other viable gaming options for the classroom.

Middle School Gaming

  • Classcraft. Classcraft is a fantasy themed classroom management tool. Its main goal is to encourage teamwork and collaboration through role playing. Classcraft is set up by the teacher and is meant to be used the entire year. All characters have different strengths and weaknesses so that the only way students can be successful at this game is to work together. Teachers can set up the game to fit their classroom style and needs. Students can earn or lose points based on behavior in the classroom. For example, a teacher may make coming late to class worth a 10 point deduction or answering a question in class worth a 30 point addition. Teachers can also build quizzes and review for tests as part of the game in the form of Boss Battles. Classcraft is designed for students from grades 4-12.
  • Citizen Science. Citizen Science is a free, online game that encourages problem solving and critical thinking in science. Students have to figure out how to save a lake that is being polluted, encouraging the growth of algae. Students have to apply their knowledge of ecology to solve real world issues. The game is based off of a lake in Wisconsin.

High School Gaming

  • iCivics. iCivics offers free, online games to teach students to be civic minded. Former US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor founded iCivics to create students who were better informed civically. The goal is for students to become active citizens who participate in the democratic process. Besides the online gaming, iCivics provides teachers with creative and free resources to use as curriculum along with the games.

Higher Ed Gaming

  • Foldit. Foldit was created by the University of Washington so anyone could have input in their research on protein folding. With over 200,000 players online, gamers are not just about having fun, but are actually making advances in biochemistry. People can compete individually or on teams. Players get the opportunity to create new proteins which could prevent or treat diseases.
  • Toolwire. Toolwire has writing games which prepare students for career success. Colleges like Broward College in Miami have been successful using this simulation in their English Composition classes. The programs have the students take on the role of a junior staff writer. As people work to develop content for the virtual broadcast, they learn paragraph construction, grammar, revision, and citation skills. The success of the virtual newscast is dependent on the person’s performance, which is assessed by the game.

Games can be a fun way to learn simple or complex skills. They can provide students with problems to solve and goals to achieve. They can be created to assess students using specific and measureable objectives. Gaming brings technology to a new level in the classroom and makes learning more active and engaging.