12 Days of Teaching: 5 Organisational Set-ups

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‘Tis the season for chaos. Regardless of how well you’ve planned your lessons, the festive season can be somewhat distracting. For today’s 12 Days of Teaching post, we take a look at five organisational classroom set-ups you can use throughout the year.

Organising a classroom that works for both teacher and students can be a daunting task. But putting structures and routines in place allows a class to run more smoothly—allowing quality learning to take place.

Here, we provide five tips for organizing your learners and their learning space.

  1. Create a safe place to learn. Students must feel safe to take risks, and not be afraid of making mistakes. Your classroom environment should facilitate a foundation for building meaningful, trusting relationships.

In this Teachers Media International video, a school community team demonstrates how they have transformed a concrete and steel edifice into a stimulating—and safe—learning space.

  1. Incorporate technology. Regardless of the hardware in your classroom, it should be easily accessible to individual, pairs, or groups of students. For a look at an “organised for learning” classroom of the future, check out this video. Notice how students are working individually, in groups, and also as a whole class? They’re still using physical materials, but in a very different way.
  2. Personalise learning where possible. Some students thrive in large groups, while others will share more if the group is smaller. Pay attention to student learning styles, including those who fit on the special needs spectrum, to allow all learners to flourish.

Here, a school has tailored its classroom layouts, resources and lesson activities to help students with dyslexia learn. Can you adapt any of these ideas in your learning space?

  1. Pay attention to physical layout. How a classroom is laid out reflects your teaching style—and you. If you want students to collaborate in small groups, organise students around tables or clusters of desks. Consider a u-shape desk configuration for whole group discussions, or learning stations for self-paced curriculum.

This Teachers Media International video may inspire some ideas.

  1. Get creative. Set aside any preconceived notions of how you think a classroom should look. Visit museums, libraries and other schools for ideas, or research business, universities and flip through home and garden magazines to see how working spaces are created and organised. You may be surprised to find gems you can apply in your own working environment. Brainstorming with students may also net some ideas, and will allow students to feel as though the classroom truly belongs to everyone.

Excited to learn more? In this informative article from Scholastic, real teachers share inspiration and creative tips that will help turn your classroom into a unique learning space. Remember, it’s all about building relationships and creating an engaging environment.

See you on Friday!

~ The Teachers Media Team

P.S. If you’ve missed posts one through four in our 12 Days of Teaching series, you can start with here with 1 Project Based Learning Activity.

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12 Days of Teaching: 4 Cool Science Experiments

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We kick off the second week of our “12 Days of Teaching” blog series with four cool science experiments guaranteed to promote questions and engage your students.

According to Eric Brunsell, Assistant Professor of Science Education at the University of Wisconsin, there are five key features to a good inquiry-based science experiment.

  1. The learner must engage in scientifically-oriented questions
  2. The learner gives priority to evidence in responding to questions
  3. The learner formulates explanations from evidence
  4. The learner connects explanations to scientific knowledge
  5. The learner communicates and justifies explanations

From this, we understand that science activities must focus on real world ideas—activities should be prompted from open-ended questions where multiple answers are possible. They should spark questions, and motivate students to probe further.

With this in mind, take a look at the four cool science experiments listed below, curated from the Teachers Media International (www.teachers-media.com)  library. Not only are they sensational, they’re also designed to engage student learning and provoke questions.

Glowsticks

In this visually impressive experiment, secondary students use glowsticks to show luminescence and rates of reaction. A great complementary resource for your chemistry lessons.

Dry Ice – Exploding Bottles

Teach “sublimation” with a bang—this experiment, suitable for secondary students, reveals the explosive power of subliming dry ice.

Forces: Rocket Launch

In this “dangerous” experiment, primary students work through a series of questions to determine how much air pressure is needed to move objects of varying size.

Materials Activities 

Introduce young scientists to the subject of “changing materials” with these great experiments that use common materials such as sand and snow.

For more great science experiments, register for Teachers Media International, an online professional learning resources that gives you access to more than 3,500 best practice videos, articles, learning packs, and much more. Our “Lite” service is FREE!

Missed the days one through three of our “12 Days of Teaching” blog series? You can check out the archives, starting with Day 1, here.

~ The Teachers Media Team

12 Days of Teaching: Three mathematics strategies

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This week, we kicked off our 12 Days of Teaching series, which will feature three weekly posts for the next month that offer strategies for keeping you and your students focused throughout what is often a highly distracting time of year.

Monday’s blog introduced one project based learning activity. On Wednesday, we offered two festive writing prompts. Today, we take a look at three teaching strategies for maths.

Mathematics often gets a bad reputation. You hardly ever hear people say, “I was never good at reading” but “I was terrible at maths” is a common phrase, especially from your students’ parents. Bringing them into the fold is actually our first tip.

Engage Parents

Curriculum is ever-changing. It’s important to communicate to parents what students are being taught in maths, to give them a better understanding of how they can help their kids at home. Workshops or parent meetings are a great way to help parents understand new strategies or mathematical terms. Consider hosting a school math fair for students and parents. When parents understand what is being taught, they’re more likely to engage.

This Teachers Media International video offers some great tips on how to make maths less scary for parents.

Combat “Maths phobia”

A fear of maths is a real thing for students. Creating an environment in which students feel comfortable to take risks, express themselves, ask questions, and work together can go a long way towards building trusting relationships that can take some of the fear out of learning, particularly where “maths phobia” lurks.

In this Teachers Media International video, you’ll find great tips on how to create the right maths environment.

Ask Meaningful Questions

Be sure to ask meaningful and purposeful questions that require students to be thoughtful when responding. Model aloud how to think about a question, respond, and clarify thoughts. You can use evidence of student thinking to assess if they are understanding the content and how they are progressing.

Take a look at this Teachers Media International article for more assessment ideas.

Of course, there are many more strategies for teaching maths we haven’t covered here. How do you combat “maths phobia” in your classroom? We’d love for you to share your tips in the comments.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first week of our 12 Days of Teaching Campaign. We’re back Monday with the fourth installment. Until then, we hope you have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

12 Days of Teaching: Two festive writing prompts

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On Monday we kicked off our 12 Days of Teaching series, which will feature three weekly posts for the next month that offer strategies for keeping you and your students focused throughout what is often a highly distracting time of year.

Loosely based on the 12 Days of Christmas, we began with 1 Project Based Learning. While not all of the posts will be centered on the festive season today we offer 2 Christmas-inspired writing prompts.

As students begin crafting their holiday wish lists, we thought it might be a good time for them to reflect on the past year. On which side of Santa’s list would they land if they were judged on their activities over the last few months? With that in mind, consider these two writing prompts:

  1. Think about a time when you did something that might be construed as “naughty”—played a prank on your sister? Stayed up late? Skipped out on that homework assignment? Write a letter to Santa providing a reason for your “slip up” and then write a persuasive argument as to why he should forgive you. For extra marks brainstorm ideas on how you can make up for being naughty with some ways of being nice.

For tips on persuasive writing, take a look at this Teachers Media International resource, which includes five short videos to spark your students’ imaginations.

  1. It’s easy to get wrapped up in twinkling lights and cinnamon smells at this time of year, but this season is also about sharing, caring, and thinking of others. Consider a time in the past year when someone did something nice for youmaybe it was that morning your parents made your favourite blueberry pancakes, or when your teacher helped you understand that difficult algebra equation. Have you experienced kindness from a stranger? Write a letter to Santa telling him about the experience, and why this person should absolutely end up on his “Nice” list.

Of course, these writing prompts can be adapted for a more generic message, helping students to understand the importance of recognising their actions throughout the year, not only when they think it will make an impact on old Saint Nick.

If you’re in the United States, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! Check back with us on Friday for the third installment of our 12 Days of Teaching blog series.

~ The Teachers Media Team

12 Days of Teaching: One project-based learning activity

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As we move into the holiday season, we thought it would be fun to focus on some themed education tips and teaching strategies, loosely following the 12 Days of Christmas—but with a Teachers Media International twist.

For the next 12 blogs posts—each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—we’ll offer up 12 cool ideas, beginning with today’s post: One project-based learning activity. The posts may not make for good holiday song lyrics, but we can guarantee a fresh perspective on some new, or new to you, teaching strategies.

But first, a refresher on the difference between projects, and project-based learning.

Projects can be completed at home while project-based learning requires teacher guidance and team collaboration. Project-based learning demands some “need to knows” on the part of the students and teachers; whereas projects can be outlined in detail on a single piece of paper. Projects are often recycled year after year, whereby project-based learning is timely, complex, and takes time to prepare and implement.

Sound daunting? It isn’t—particularly when you consider that project-based learning provides an excellent opportunity for you to keep students focused on learning, even as the distractions of the upcoming holiday season threaten to take over your classroom. If students are engaged in a long-term meaningful project, they are less likely to be distracted by eggnog and twinkling lights.

The key is to start now.

This Edutopia article outlines some wonderful cross-curricular ideas for project-based learning activities, many of which tie into the holiday season, or can be completed without mention of Christmas at all. As a provider of professional development for educators across the globe, we’re especially drawn to the projects that teach about different cultures, customs, and learning practices.

However, if you’re keen to try a Christmas-themed project that will facilitate collaboration and teacher input, take a look at this Teachers Media International video in which students are tasked with creating a festive newsletter.

We hope the ideas here have inspired a project-based learning activity in your classroom. Check back with us on Wednesday when we offer two fun writing prompts to keep our 12 Days of Teaching going. As always, we welcome your comments and feedback.

~ The Teachers Media Team

HOT TOPIC: Celebrating diversity throughout the holiday season

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Can we make Christmas trees in art class? Should the school play be a nativity scene? Is it okay to do a Secret Santa among staff members? These questions and many others are commonplace now as classrooms around the world become much more diverse.

In this Teachers Media International video, a group of teachers debate whether the standard nativity play is still appropriate in a school that is making a concerted effort to become more inclusive.

Interesting perspectives. But this is just one example of a much more complicated issue.

Besides Christmas, many different events—spiritual, religious, and tradition-based—are celebrated in different ways during these times; Ramadan, Hannukkah, Kwanzaa, and Pancha Ganapati, to name a few. It isn’t feasible to plan for each of these diverse holidays, but there are ways you can celebrate diversity and inclusiveness by using this time of year to build understanding and awareness of others.

  1. Learn about other religious or holiday celebrations. Consider creating a calendar that notes each of them, and where possible, plan small activities, such as a craft or writing prompt, that helps to acknowledge these special days.
  2. Encourage students to share their celebrations with the class through stories, songs, decorations, or foods.
  3. Plan each activity after answering the following question: what is our educational purpose?
  4. Hold classroom discussions that explore why some people celebrate differently, at different times, and in different ways. These discussions should also be held at the staff level.

What tips for inclusivity would you offer? How does your school handle the December holiday dilemma? Share in the comments!

Have a great weekend!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Writing prompt: Learning tolerance through writing

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We live in a very diverse society, a true melting pot of cultures, customs, and beliefs. Now more than ever, learning to understand—and tolerate—how others see the world is the most important strategy in avoiding conflict, locally and on a global scale. There is perhaps no better time to begin these discussions than today, on International Day for Tolerance.

But what is tolerance?

UNESCO defines it as, “respect, acceptance, and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expressing, and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience, and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference.”

Education is the most important and effective way of learning how to find that harmony.

Consider the diversity within your classroom or school. Where are students from? What customs do they observe? What is unique about their culture? This is a great opportunity to brainstorm the positive aspects of diversity and to ask students to define tolerance in their own words.

Now, create a classroom scrapbook or poster collage of student writing by encouraging each student to describe in detail a custom or tradition observed in their household. Whether it’s Tuesday Taco night, or taking part in Yom Kippur or Chinese New Year, this is a great way for students to help each other learn. Reflect on how diversity is demonstrated in the school—through music? Sports? What are other ways this diversity can be celebrated?

For a longer term project, extend this cultural investigation to your local community, your country, or even the world. Research a variety of cultures, identifying key ways in which they are different and unique. In what ways can students promote global harmony among these cultures? What is one thing you can do as a class or school? Why is tolerance so important now?

The answers to these questions may stimulate engaged classroom discussion and provide additional writing prompts.

How will you talk about “tolerance” in your classroom today?

~ The Teachers Media Team  

Photo credit: “Header image: BY- Public Domain Pictures / Creative Commons

NaNoWriMo: Embracing longer writing in the classroom

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For the past 16 years, November has become synonymous with writing—aspiring authors from around the globe dust off their typewriters and sharpen their pencils while vowing to write 50,000 words in 30 days.

What began as a small gathering of people hoping to stave off the cold weather blues has blossomed into a massive initiative that involves millions of new—and experienced—writers, and has even trickled into classrooms around the world.

Of course, writing 50,000 words in a month is likely not an achievable goal for individual students (it works out to 1,667 words a day which, as established authors can attest, is harder than it seems), but what about as a group?

There is a National Novel Writing Month classroom kit available on the official website that includes posters, pep talks, workbooks and participant badges, but even if you’re not ready to get that formalized (or you think it’s too late), there are other ways to use NaNoWriMo to inspire student writing.

Whether you’re considering a group project or simply challenging students to write a longer story (maybe 5,000 words versus 50,000), you’ll need to slot time for it. Encourage students to use this block for free-flow writing—at this stage, punctuation, word choice, and other grammatical rules can be abandoned, at least until the work in progress (WIP) is drafted. (December is unofficially, and somewhat affectionately, referred to as National Editing Month.)

It’s important that students see you write as well, so try to use allocated class time to work on your own project. It will be fun to share everyone’s works at the end of the month, maybe even as part of a holiday celebration. Encourage your students to sign up for NaNoWriMo (it’s not too late!) and to add each other as writing buddies. You can track word count, take advantage of the virtual pep talks from bestselling authors, and challenge each other to write longer, and better.

Need some inspiration to get started? Take a look through our blog archives for writing prompts and story starters guaranteed to get those creative juices flowing. And of course, young writers are often inspired by other authors. In this Teachers Media International video, Michael Morpurgo talks about the inspiration for his books and his love of writing.

And here we explore the life and writing regimes of Roald Dahl, perhaps one of the most recognisable children’s authors in the world.

Now, sharpen those pencils and…write on!

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo credit: Header image: BY- www.today.com / Creative Commons

Engaging with parents: Helping parents support their child’s learning

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Hosting effective parent meetings can be tricky. Just as children have different ways of learning and communicating, so too do parents—and meeting those different needs requires careful planning.

In this Teachers Media International video, an educational expert speaks to a number of experienced teachers to glean some great tips on how to host effective parent meetings. You’re probably already aware of some of the ideas—such as establishing good relationships with parents ahead of time—but we hope you pick up some new ideas on how to best communicate student learning.

Once parents have a good idea of the work that’s going on in the classroom, they will have a better of idea of how to support their child. Further insight is provided in the Teachers Media International series, What Did You Do At School Today? featuring four videos that give parents an insider’s look into what school life is like for their children.

What tips would you provide to new—or seasoned—educators about hosting effective parent meetings? Share some of your best (or worse!) experiences in the comments.

Have a great weekend.

~ The Teachers Media Team

Writing Prompt: If I Were a World Leader

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The world watched on pins and needles last night as President-elect Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in what was perhaps the most controversial U.S. election in history. Today, people all over the world have mixed emotions about the outcome.

Regardless of your personal thoughts on the election, these feelings will spill over into the classroom as students struggle to understand what this means for them, for the U.S., and for the world.

Today may be a good time to remind students about the importance of democracy, and how the elected candidate has a responsibility to uphold the promises made during the campaign.

What kind of promises would your students make if they were President? A world leader? Principal of your school?  These questions provide the foundation for today’s writing prompt.

Discuss first the important tenets of leadership with the points raised in this comprehensive article and take a look at how kids perceive leadership in short YouTube videos, such as this one.

A simple search for “kids’ perspectives on leadership” will net several links—choose the ones best for your class.

Now  ask students to write a speech that outlines the promises they’d make in their bid for leadership at the class, school, country, or world level.

For older students, this Teachers Media International video may provide useful tips on speechwriting.  For younger children, consider a template such as the one below, in which students can fill in the blanks:

If I were _________________, there would be _________________, _____________________, and ____________________. You wouldn’t have ________________________ or ___________________. I’d cancel __________________, and bring back _________________!

Of course, be prepared for cancelled homework and longer recesses—but what other important issues, locally or globally, can you highlight in the classroom today?

~ The Teachers Media Team

Photo Credit: Header image: BY- White House Museum / CreativeCommons