Thursday, October 10, 2013

Effective Teacher

There are many attributes and skills that are necessary to be an outstanding teacher. However, I selected the following attributes that in my opinion are among the most important ones:

1) High expectations: An outstanding teacher knows and strongly believes that all her students can learn and will learn. If her students are not learning, an outstanding teacher is going to question her practice and reflect on her teaching. She will examine the curricula, her own teaching, the teaching programs, and see what needs to be modified and adjusted. An outstanding teacher does not give up and find alternate and innovative ways to help her students reach their full potentials.

2) Caring: An outstanding teacher takes the time to establish a culture of care, respect, and appreciation for each other. She creates a learning environment where students feel comfortable and secure to actively participate, express their opinions, and enjoy learning. An outstanding teacher knows her students’ well. She is aware of their talents, interests, backgrounds, and families. She designs lessons that are culturally relevant and which build upon the strengths her students come with.

3) Starts with the objective in mind: An outstanding teacher knows what she wants her students to learn. She begins the teaching and learning process with an end in mind and all instructional strategies are carefully and skillfully selected to help her students reach the lesson’s objective. An outstanding teacher is clear about what her students need to learn. She is familiar with the CCSS and the school and district expectations. She designs student centered lessons which promote active student involvement and interaction among each other. Teaching becomes a purposeful exercise that is goal oriented, relevant to student lives, and differentiated to meet students’ needs.

4) Life-long learner: An outstanding teacher never stops learning about teaching strategies and techniques. She never stops researching, asking questions, talking with colleagues and asking for help if needed. An outstanding teacher is proactive, energetic, and has a contagious passion for learning. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Literacy Centers

Literacy Centers are effective instructional practices that include meaningful and productive activities for students to do while you as a teacher work with your guided reading groups. At the beginning of the year I have a few activities that I use in my non-negotiable centers: Library, Independent Reading, Technology (Computers and Listening) and Word Study. During the school year, I constantly change the activities in these centers as I see fit. These are the templates I use. Center Directions
Center Cards

I encourage my students to take responsibility for their assignments and to demonstrate progress by using this center assignment page. I check their completed work every Friday and they receive prizes for completing their work. If their work is incomplete they have to complete it during the weekend and their parents have to sign the assignment page. I also complete their Parent Report on Friday and their parents have to sign the page. All these expectations are set at the beginning of the year. I have the same system for my math workshop block and centers. I will talk about math at another time.

Differentiated Instruction

Students bring to the classroom a wide range of skills and abilities. As a responsive teacher, I make sure that all my students’ needs and different learning skills and abilities are addressed effectively by differentiating instruction, providing students with choice, selecting activities that are interesting and engaging, and monitoring student learning by continuously assessing students formally and informally.

To begin with, differentiating instruction is a very effective way to make sure all students have access to a challenging curriculum at their level of academic performance. In other words differentiated instruction allows my students to learn at their own pace without watering down the curriculum or lowering expectations. In this way, all my students will be able to learn through multiple assignments tailored to their individual needs and their own level of achievement. I always plan learning center activities that are geared to diverse learning styles, readiness, and levels of interest. Also, I make sure that my students have the opportunity to meet with me daily to conference about their learning progress, reading, and writing. I achieve this through guided reading, center work, math workshop, and conferences during writing workshop.

Second, all students should be able to choose activities and assignments. I make sure that I have a student-centered classroom where students are not only able to choose their assignments but also they are able to choose how they want to demonstrate what they have learned. For example, at the reading center my students can choose books that they want to read and they can also choose how they want to show what they learned -completing a graphic organizer, writing a book review, writing a letter to the author, etc. Providing students with choices and opportunities to explore topics in which they have a strong interest makes learning more exciting. 

Third, I always select activities that are motivating and engaging for my students. Cooperative learning strategies, involving students in asking and answering their own questions, think pair share, one minute papers, learning centers, individual and group projects, are some of the strategies that effectively engage my students. 

Finally, I make sure that I continuously assess my students, whether it is a formal or informal assessment, they both provide data that allows me to identify students’ strengths and weaknesses. It allows me to provide feedback, monitor progress, and narrow gaps in learning. Ongoing assessment allows me to make educated instructional decisions to support my student learning and progress.

All these strategies help me to address the wide range of skills, abilities, and learning styles that my students bring to the classroom.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why use Cooperative Learning in the Classroom?

Cooperative learning activities contribute to the creation of a productive classroom environment by cognitively engaging students in their exploration of content. Here are some other reasons why cooperative learning should be used in the classroom:
  1. Cooperative Learning activities produce positive outcomes since they engage students who show a greater joy in learning and more interest and liking for school and class.
  2. Cooperative learning activities engage students by stimulating interaction. Students interact in groups of tow or four and this provides a safe team context and interpersonal support. It’s very important that children feel secure and supported. It is easier for them to talk with a supportive teammate rather than in front of the whole class.
  3. All cooperative learning activities are learner centered because students interact and learn from each other rather than directly learning from the teacher’s instruction. Learning requires students’ direct and active involvement and participation. The role of the teacher changes from direct teaching (teacher centered) to monitor and facilitator. The teacher watches their students learn and listens to them talk.
  4. Cooperative learning activities produce real-life learning experiences, which reduce or eliminate the transference gap generated by traditional lesson formats. Most adults in the United States took foreign language classes, but few became fluent in that language because the lessons did not emphasize practice in real life situations. Memorizing vocabulary words or rules of grammar does little for fluency because one cannot transfer the skill of analyzing sentence structure to the skill of speaking. In contrast when the skills are practiced in settings similar to real-life settings they can easily be transferred. Cooperative learning activities allow the students to practice real life settings like leadership skills, teamwork skills, conflict resolution skills, listening skills, and the ability to express and defend their own point of view. Students learn about integrity, understanding, responsibility, and respect.
Kagan, S. (2002) "Kagan Structures: Not One More Program. A Better Way to Teach Any Program"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative Learning is an approach to teaching that makes maximum use of cooperative activities involving pairs and small groups of learners in the classroom. In a cooperative learning classroom, students work together on academic tasks in small groups to help themselves and their teammates learn together. They use cooperative, pro-social behavior to accomplish their common tasks or learning activities. Cooperation is working together to accomplish shared goals. Within cooperative activities individuals seek outcomes that are beneficial to themselves and beneficial to all other group members. Cooperative learning is the instructional use of small groups so that students work together to maximize their own and each other’s learning.
The idea is simple. Class members are organized into small groups after receiving instruction from the teacher. Then, they work through the assignment until all group members successfully understand and complete it. Cooperative efforts result in participants striving for mutual benefit so that all group members gain from each other’s efforts. Students come to realize that all group members share one goal, know that one’s performance is mutually caused by oneself and their group members, and feel proud and jointly celebrate when the group members are recognized for achievement.