Experience matters, especially in the classroom. If you haven’t discovered the clever, useful tips from NEA colleagues at www.nea.org/Works4me, here’s a quick sample.
Do you have teaching tips to suggest? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I got tired of my students taking the bathroom passes to the bathroom and accidentally dropping them in the toilet or the sink, so I borrowed this idea from a fellow teacher. Our school doesn’t require that the kids have a hall pass. When a child needs to leave, the boys put a little blue plastic duck and the girls a green one on their desk. (The color of the ducks matches the beginning letter of boy/girl.) There is only one of each duck, so there won’t be a party in the restroom. I can see at a glance if someone is gone and if it’s a boy or a girl.
Jennifer Litchenberg, second-grade teacher
A Left-Handed Solution
I am left-handed, so I’d end each day with an enormous black and blue smudge down my hand from writing on the overhead projector. I no longer have this problem since I started leaving a lightweight work glove next to my projector. Whenever I start notes with my students, I put on the glove. It looked pretty silly the first day or two, but we just laughed about my appearance, and now even my students will put on the glove when they write at the overhead.
Andrew Mitchell, ninth-grade math teacher
Our curriculum includes drawing diagrams — parts of a leaf, rock cycle, layers of the sun, etc. As a quick review we do an activity I call “Five by Five.” The students work in groups of five. When I ring a bell, the first student begins to draw and label the diagram. After one minute I ring the bell again, and the first student passes the paper to the next student. Students offer encouragement and helpful hints, but only designated students may work on the diagram during their minute. The process continues for five minutes. The table with the best diagram gets a small prize.
This is an effective review. It is quick, nonthreatening and fun. For the teacher, it doesn’t require any preparation or grading! The technique works for almost any grade or subject matter.
Anonymous, Works4Me reader
In order to reinforce map skills, my students write a detailed description of their bedrooms, including shapes, sizes, colors and directional relationships between objects in their rooms. After a few lessons on maps, keys and symbols, the students create an aerial view map of their room.
I display each bedroom map on a large bulletin board. In the center of the bulletin board I place a zip-lock bag containing the children’s descriptions. During free time, the children can take out a description and try to match it to a map on the board. If the work was done accurately, the challenge shouldn’t be too difficult.
Stella Block, third-grade teacher
Calming Disruptive Students
I often write notes to whichever child is nearest to me, asking him/her to give directions to the class. I found that some of my loudest, most disruptive kids were the ones who had the most control over the other students. It wasn’t the end of the disruptive behaviors by any means, but it did give me a lot of insight into the kids. I was able to ask them for help later in different situations, and they were happy to use their influence with other kids.
I did use other strategies throughout the course of the semester, but this was a strong one. Often, I would announce that I was going to give special help — then I’d speak very quietly. Try turning off half of your lights or turning them all off and opening the blinds. This gives me a bit of a headache, but my kids seem to be calmer.
Barb B., Works4Me reader
While studying geometry, my kids create a city on four tables at the rear of my classroom. Some students are assigned the responsibility of creating the natural features like lakes, hills and rivers by placing construction paper where they are located. Others design roads and bridges and consider the use of other modes of transportation. Some work on the development of the business areas, while still others design needed municipal services, recreational areas, and housing. At home, the students create a 3-D building or facility to place in the town.
After the city has been created, I ask my students to provide a written mathematical description of the building they designed. They are expected to use geometric descriptions using area, perimeter, volume, angles, measurements of distances, etc. The kids have very interesting discussions about placement of the buildings, modes of transportation, and how they impact development and other issues cities grapple with as they develop.
My students voted this their favorite activity of the year. The cross-curricular connections with this are numerous.
Karen Isola Green, sixth-grade teacher
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