Stepping into a new environment demands new expectations, new challenges and new things to learn. It doesn’t no matter how skilled you are as a teacher. It takes time to adapt comfortably into a new environment and culture .
Coming from a different learning system and culture, I knew the stakes were high. The curriculum, the teaching methods and the administrative procedures were in stark contrast with those of my former institution.
Moreover, I had been out of the teaching arena for close to eight months and needed to revive some of my teaching wits.
One hundred days down the road, I’ve learned a number of things I’m about to share with you in this post.
Project lessons on a whiteboard
In a teaching context, projecting lessons on a whiteboard is better than projecting them on a white painted section of a classroom wall. This is because you cannot write directly on a PowerPoint that is projected on the wall. However, this is possible on a whiteboard especially when you wish to explain a concept better.
Implement a wide variety formative assessments
Testing student knowledge using a wide range of formative assessments promotes faster and adequate learning. Formative assessments range from worksheets, games, and oral questioning. Do not accumulate content or wait for the last minute to crucify students with a tough summative assessment.
Make room for visuals in practical lessons
Letting students watch movies and documentaries on practical life issues is a great way to enhance visual learning and critical thinking skills. I remember showing a documentary on Elon Musk’s electric cars when I taught electricity unit. It was a 30 minutes documentary followed by thought-provoking questions for the rest of the 20 minutes.
Re-teach, Redo and Retake
Before giving a retake test, do a gap analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses and reteach those concepts using a different teaching approach. For example, if you previously taught them using a PowerPoint projection, you could try using a puzzle game or other strategies to help them understand the concepts better. Using the same method to re-teach a concept that students failed in a test doesn’t make any difference because the reason they failed those questions in the test is closely tied to the method that was used in teaching them.
Select concepts from questions students failed and feedback those questions to them. You could alter a some questions slightly while maintaining the rest of the test questions.
Set rules when correcting test scripts in a lesson.
By nature, students like to justify wrong responses in their marked script for valid points. Instead of learning from their mistakes and taking to corrections, they focus on grabbing extra points. At times, they complain your marking was biased or the questions were incorrectly framed.
Grading structural or essay questions is challenging compared to grading multiple choice and short-answer questions. Responses to structural and essay questions are subjective as opposed to multiple choice, calculations or short-answer questions. A student might expect you to give them extra points for an inadequate, incomplete, weak or unclear explanation to a structural or essay question. If students whine continuously for extra points to a question they presume was unjustly marked, ask them to put their complaints in writing next to the question on the marked script and submit it to.
Review the script and explain why they do not deserve an extra point.
Often, only those who are convinced they deserve an extra point will put their complaint in writing and submit it to you. In most cases, those who whine for extra points without any justification will back off because they know they can’t squeeze unmerited points from you.
As a teacher, you also need to do some quality control on the standard of questions you set for a test or an exam. This is because a wrongly set question might affect students negatively and also lead to biased grading.
Here are a few ways I learned to solve the problem:
- I take the test before administering it to students. This helps me to identify grammatical, typographical and contextual errors that might have slipped into the question paper while I was setting the questions. It also gives me a clue on the appropriate time-frame for the test.
- Secondly, beyond having a markscheme to use as a pointer for marking, I ensure that the marks allocated to each question in a test is justified in the markscheme and I must have reviewed the concept with the students in regular lessons. For example, if I ask students to state five factors that influence enzyme activity for five marks, I ensure they must have learned them during our regular lessons.
- I always review and edit questions I get online to suit my context before I set them on a test. Some questions you find online may have incomplete instructions or are incorrectly phrased. It is therefore important to edit the language to suit your context before administering the questions to students.
Leverage on online resources
In the 21st century, teaching without the internet is like cooking food without a pot. I rely hugely on easy-to-use online resources and tools to complement my lessons. Here are a few resources I learned and used on a daily basis.
- Whenever I find a website with relevant lesson plans related to the unit I’m currently teaching, I immediately bookmark the link for future use. Click here for details if you don’t know how to bookmark a link.
- I use the Random pick website to select students randomly for a volunteer project or task. I may also use it to select students randomly for a group work activity.
- I project a timer from Google to time students for any test or assigned task. To use a timer, simply log on to Google and insert a timer. Customize the timer that shows up and project it on the screen so that students can easily monitor their time left for their activity to be completed. A timer is better because individual wrist watches or the wall clock might be faulty. As soon the timer goes off, students stop whatever they are doing.
- I learned how to create and use google forms effectively for virtual learning. Google forms are easy to use and administer tests to students online.
- Creating crossword and puzzle games to assess students is my favorite. I quickly signed up for an account on Wordmint.com the day I discovered it. Till date, I used it to create worksheets for differentiated lessons and for fun games.
Bonus questions? Yeahhhh!!!!
Always Add Bonus questions to your CAT. It’s fun. Students love extra points. A fun way to give them extra points is to ask bonus questions. Think of when you were a student and how you valued extra points. Likewise, your students love extra points. You could search for fun facts online on the topic you are currently teaching and use them to set bonus questions. You could also search online for websites that provide teachers with interesting bonus questions on your subject. In science, I found many websites with interesting bonus questions. You could also look at the features surrounding your school; the building, the furniture, your classroom, the students and current events. Create questions related to those aspects to give students bonus points.
Here are some examples of bonus questions I added to my test:
- Write the full names of your science teacher: first, middle name and last.
- Write the first stanza of……song
- How many 0.5cm slices of bread can you cut from a whole bread that’s 25cm long?
- What place are you in when you pass the person in 2nd place if you’re 3rd place right now in a race? 2nd place.
- What word looks the same upside down and backward?
- What can you keep but cannot share and once you share it, you can’t keep it anymore?
If you are a teacher, you’ve certainly heard the quote “If you‘ve stopped learning, you should stop teaching!”
I guess you’ve learned something new from my first 100days experience. Shoot me a mail or drop a comment to help a teacher learn from your teaching experience.