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Now that most of us have already blown through our New Year’s Resolutions, it’s time to concentrate on bringing new ideas to our classrooms.  While most teachers are doing a good job, being a professional drives us to make our classrooms even better – for both student and educator alike.  In this article, we’ve pulled together some innovative teaching tips for you to look over and try to implement in your classroom in 2018 and beyond.  Not every idea will apply to you, but hopefully you’ll be able to run with at least one of these teaching strategies in 2018.

Additive Grading:

Additive grading can come in many formats, but what they all have in common is the starting point.  Under this system, everyone starts your class with a 0 or a ‘F’.  Students earn points to move their “Score” up into the different grade levels over the course of the year.  While it can be done on an assignment or project basis, the full-effect on the student mindset isn’t there unless it’s cumulative for the entire term.  Ideally students will have more than one chance to gain points – so retests or more problem sets are allowed for a student to show mastery and earn more points.

I first learned about this style in a book by Lee Sheldon that I picked up after watching a TED talk.  While a bit gimmicky in format, the book contains solid information. This isn’t a tough change to put in place, but it can have significant impact on student behavior.  The fear of being wrong (and losing points from the A grade, as most students look at the world) is replaced with the ownership of earning points for working through problems.  It’s the same reward feedback used by most games – scores go up, not down, as you get better based on the work you put in and the results achieved.

It can have an outsized impact on the “smartest” students – their self-worth can sometimes be tied to “being smart” rather than the work they put in to overcome a challenge. This leads to real difficulty coping with failure of any kind.  An additive grading system, much like the honey badger, “don’t care” how smart you are – it’s designed to reward work and action.  After awhile, students link the work and persistence to the grade which gives some room to explore outside the comfort zone and risk setbacks.

Instead of saying a student has averaged an ‘A’ after 3 assignments, try saying they’ve earned 1/3 of the points needed for a semester ‘A’ grade.

Storytelling:

Storytelling is one of the most underrated technologies invented by mankind.  It allows us to feel like we have control over our world, and allows us to connect with both the past and the future.  For thousands of years, it was the only method to pass information on from one generation to the next.

It’s also likely you aren’t using it enough in your classroom.

Ideally, you’d already be opening most material with a story.  If you’ve ever taken speech classes or participated in Toastmasters, you know that having a good “hook” at the beginning of a speech is essential.  A good story allows students to attach concepts to their memory in a different fashion than normal learning methods.   It also captures the attention of a student, making them more attentive and open to the material you wish to get across.

You might think it’s hard to come up with material, but it’s really not.  Just use a story from your life, a story from someone else’s life, or a story from the past depending on what’s applicable.  Fiction is fine as well.

It really doesn’t matter what subject matter you are covering either.  It’s probably easy to see how a history lesson could easily use this method, but fields outside the social sciences work as well.  All of our scientific knowledge is really a running story, as one researcher bases her finds on the back of another from the past.  Most of us remember the story of Benjamin Franklin “discovering” electricity – how much better would it have been to tie that story into some information about how electricity works?

Burger King Learning:

What’s Burger King learning? For those of you that don’t know, the fast-food chain had the slogan “Have It Your Way” for over 40 years.   I never really liked Burger King as a kid, but I think their slogan is a great way to approach modern education.

We’ve had technology in the classroom for a number of years now, but one underutilized application is in allowing students the opportunity to learn and review material in the format that works best for them.   We know that not every student learns the same way. Some do better reading – others listening – still others through video.

Over the next few weeks and months, why not try introducing some tweaks into your learning plan?  You could start by video recording your lessons as you introduce new topics.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, just enough for someone to understand what you saying.  A few days later, you can make the unedited video and audio available for students to use in review.

Over time, you’ll build up a library of AV study aides your students can refer to when they need a second look at material.  Not every student will benefit, but some will.  It doesn’t take fancy equipment either.  You could use a phone camera, but more ideal would be a standalone camera (so you don’t burn through your phone’s memory).  If a GoPro is out of your price range, there are highly-rated cameras that are well under $100 that will fit the bill.

Resources:

http://www.learnersedgeinc.com/blog/podcasts-in-the-classroom

http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/printouts/podcasts-nuts-bolts-creating-30311.html

Tips For Filming and Editing in the Classroom

Storyboard Teaching:

Some children struggle with summarizing the main theme of a lesson or an assigned reading.  Storyboarding is an effective tool for helping these students learn.  It’s been utilized with primary school up to graduate school aged students, so don’t think it’s just useful for younger children.

You can go as high or low tech as you want when storyboarding.  Usually it is done on paper, but it can be done on a tablet or computer as well.   A number of  squares are put in order on the page, and information is drawn or written in them in a logical, chronological order.  While you can include as many storyboxes as you want, most students will try to limit it down to the bare minimum they need on their own.

Resources:

Scholastic Series On Storyboarding

A Storyboard Template

Storyboarding For Reading Comprehension

Google For Educatiuon – Storyboarding

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