Hey there, fellow educators and Instagram enthusiasts! Today, I want to talk about a nifty feature on everyone’s favorite photo-sharing platform: Instagram Threads. We all know that Instagram is great for sharing snapshots of our lives, but did you know it can also be a fantastic tool to support teaching and learning? That’s right! In this blog post, I’ll walk you through some creative ways teachers can leverage Instagram Threads to engage their students and make learning a whole lot more exciting. Let’s dive in.
#1: Creating a Private Classroom Community
Imagine having a space where you can interact with your students outside the traditional classroom setting. Instagram Threads provides just that! You can create a private group solely for your class, allowing for open discussions, sharing resources, and fostering a sense of community. It’s an excellent platform to keep the conversation going beyond the classroom walls and make learning a collaborative experience.
#2: Sharing Timely Updates and Reminders
Remember those times when you had to make last-minute announcements or reminders, and you wished your students could see them instantly? With Instagram Threads, you can quickly post updates, reminders, or even schedule them in advance. It ensures that important information reaches your students promptly, and you can bid farewell to those “I didn’t know about it!” excuses.
#3: Encouraging Visual Storytelling
Instagram is all about visual content, and Threads takes it up a notch! As a teacher, you can leverage this feature to encourage your students’ creativity through visual storytelling. Assign projects where students can capture and share images or short videos related to the topics they’re studying. It adds an exciting dimension to learning and allows students to express themselves in unique ways.
#4: Instigating Dialogue and Debates
Discussion is an integral part of education, and Threads provides an ideal platform for fostering meaningful conversations. Teachers can initiate discussions by posting thought-provoking questions or prompts related to the lesson material. Students can then respond, share their perspectives, and engage in healthy debates. This helps develop critical thinking skills and encourages active participation.
#5: Showcasing Student Work
Who doesn’t love recognition and appreciation for their hard work? Instagram Threads can be an excellent avenue for showcasing student achievements. Create a designated space to highlight exceptional projects, artwork, or any other outstanding work by your students. Not only does this motivate them, but it also inspires others and creates a positive classroom culture.
#6: Conducting Virtual Q&A Sessions
Want to provide additional support or address student queries outside regular class hours? Instagram Threads offers a seamless way to organize virtual Q&A sessions. Dedicate specific time slots where students can post their questions, and you can respond with detailed explanations or clarifications. It promotes active learning and demonstrates your commitment to student success.
Remember, while Instagram Threads can be an incredibly useful tool, it’s crucial to prioritize privacy and ensure all interactions are conducted in a safe and secure manner. Always adhere to your school’s guidelines and obtain necessary permissions from parents or guardians.
So, there you have it! Instagram Threads can be a game-changer when it comes to supporting teaching and learning. By tapping into its features, teachers can create engaging, interactive, and visually appealing learning experiences for their students. So why not give it a try? Your classroom is just a click away from a vibrant online community.
Stay connected, stay inspired, and let’s explore the incredible possibilities that Instagram Threads brings to our educational journey. Happy teaching, everyone!
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Mobile devices seem to be infiltrating classrooms at an ever-increasing frequency as the years roll by. First, it was Walkmans (remember those?), then it was mobile phones in the late 90s. From then it progressed to iPods, then to Blackberrys, then to smart phones. The latest iteration of the digital classroom intruder, however, is more cunning and more covert than any of its ancestors (if you ignore Tamagotchis) – it’s the ninja of all learning space (invaders) – the smart watch.
Smart watches, once limited to fitness tracking and notifications, have evolved to offer a wide range of features and possibilities. These wearable devices have the potential to enhance the teaching and learning experience by providing teachers with innovative tools and students with interactive opportunities. In this blog post, we will explore how smart watches can be effectively utilized in teaching and provide valuable tips for educators who have to deal with smart watch-related incidents in the classroom.
#1: Real-time notifications and reminders
One of the key advantages of smart watches is their ability to provide instant notifications and reminders. Teachers can leverage this feature to stay organized and keep track of their schedules, meetings, and important deadlines. By syncing their calendars with smart watches, educators can receive alerts and reminders directly on their wrists, ensuring they never miss an important event or deadline.
#2: Health and wellbeing
In order to create an optimal learning environment, it is crucial for teachers to prioritize their own health and well-being. Smart watches equipped with health tracking features, such as heart rate monitors, sleep trackers, and step counters, can help educators maintain a healthy lifestyle. By keeping a close eye on their physical activity levels and sleep patterns, teachers can make informed decisions about their overall well-being, leading to improved focus and productivity in the classroom.
#3: Time management and productivity
Teachers often face the challenge of managing time effectively in the classroom. Smart watches can assist in optimizing classroom routines by serving as a discreet time management tool. With built-in timers, alarms, and stopwatches, educators can easily allocate specific time intervals for activities, presentations, or exams. This helps maintain a structured environment and ensures that students are aware of the allocated time for each task.
#4: Collaborative learning and communication
Smart watches can serve as powerful tools to facilitate collaborative learning and communication among students. With the ability to send quick messages, share files, and receive notifications, teachers can encourage student engagement and foster a sense of community within the classroom. Additionally, smart watches with voice assistants can enable hands-free communication, allowing teachers to quickly address questions or provide feedback while conducting activities.
#5: Personalized learning and differentiation
Every student learns at their own pace, and it’s important for educators to cater to individual needs. Smart watches can aid in personalized learning by offering customized reminders, progress tracking, and individualized feedback. Teachers can set up personalized notifications for students to remind them of upcoming assignments, study goals, or important events. Furthermore, smart watches can track students’ progress in physical activities, providing them with real-time feedback and motivation.
#6: Interactive teaching tools
Smart watches come with a range of interactive features that can be integrated into teaching strategies. For instance, teachers can use the stopwatch feature during science experiments or physical education classes to measure time or calculate speeds. The built-in compass can be utilized during geography lessons, and the voice recorder can assist in language learning activities. By exploring the various features of smart watches, educators can enhance their instructional methods and engage students in unique ways.
As technology continues to shape the education landscape, smart watches offer a host of possibilities for teachers to enrich the teaching and learning experience. By leveraging the real-time notifications, health tracking capabilities, and interactive tools of these wearable devices, educators can create more engaging and productive classroom environments. By embracing this technology and incorporating it into their teaching practices, teachers can stay ahead in their mission to provide quality education in a technologically driven world.
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Good teaching is built upon the foundations of effective classroom management. Most teachers recognise this, and I believe that’s why my 2015 book, The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, became an award-winning bestseller within a very short timeframe. We know that order must be maintained in the classroom for deep learning to take place, but how do we maintain that order in a way that is not confrontational, or stifling, for our students?
Thankfully, we have the wise words and fresh perspective of a great expert to guide us today. I’ve invited Mitch Metzger from Destination TEFL, Bangkok, to share his top tips for using proactive and reactive classroom management strategieswith our students.
Let’s face it, classroom management is the hardest part about teaching abroad.
Managing a classroom in ANY country is an immense challenge. It requires emotional intelligence and a deep understanding of human behavior. It involves aspects of psychology, educational pedagogy, and even philosophy.
Managing a classroom abroad means doing all of this on TOP of the fact that your students don’t speak your language!
But there are simple mindset and habit changes you can make that will immediately improve your ability to manage a classroom abroad. Mastery may take years, but applying what you learn in this post can have you managing like a pro in a matter of weeks.
ESL classroom management is a challenge, but it’s also an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to improve your EQ. An opportunity to become an expert at body language and non-verbal communication. An opportunity to learn transferable professional, personal, and leadership skills that will change your life even once you move on from the classroom.
Studies have also shown that these skills in teachers have a direct and significant impact on student achievement. At the end of the day, it’s all about our students.
Working to change their lives is what truly changes our lives.
So grab a notepad and pen (or, let’s be real, your phone), and let’s dive into some strategies that will put you on the path to classroom management mastery!
What is Classroom Management, actually?
Before we get into the secret sauce, it’s essential to first understand what we’re actually talking about when we say “classroom management”.
Because it’s not what most people think it is.
For many people, those words elicit memories of teachers yelling, sending kids out of the room, and otherwise strictly enforcing a set of rules “because I said so”.
Think about it, how did most of your teachers enforce classroom rules when you were growing up? Yeah, ours too…
Unfortunately, monkey see monkey do and we’re just really smart monkeys. Many of us, myself included early on in my career, fall back on the same disciplinary tactics of our teachers.
But that’s not what classroom management is supposed to be. At least, not great classroom management!
Great classroom management is about getting the most out of your students. Creating a safe space where they can make mistakes and try again. Developing deep bonds and trust with your students. Helping them to create a better vision for their own futures.
Most of all, it means being a true role model. We can’t expect students to do as we say and not as we do. After all, did we when we were young?
So how can we change the paradigm of classroom management? Good question, probably a bit too big to be solved in a single blog post (I smell a series). However, there is one simple shift that can make an immense difference.
Simple, but not necessarily easy.
Proactive vs. Reactive Classroom Management
Understanding (and actually creating habits around) proactive versus reactive classroom management strategies seems like a small change. However, it will forever change the way you manage your classroom, especially while teaching English abroad.
The difference is in the fundamental approach you take to potential issues in your classroom.
Reactive strategies involve solving problems that have already occurred. Disciplining “bad” behavior, what most people think of when they hear classroom management, falls into this category.
Proactive strategies are about anticipating potential problems and putting systems in place to prevent them from happening in the first place.
I like to say reactive strategies are putting out the fire. Proactive strategies are not putting a candle near the drapes.
After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This is all nice in theory, but what do these different approaches look like in practice? What are some concrete strategies you can actually use in the classroom?
Reactive Classroom Management
Let’s start with reactive management behaviors. Now this isn’t necessarily “what not to do” (though some of these definitely fall into this category). Problems will inevitably arise in the classroom, and sometimes you’ll need to ‘react’.
However, these should be more of a last resort. Only leaning on these strategies, or using the wrong reactive strategies, is where problems can arise.
So, let’s look at various reactive strategies and see which might be effective and which should be left behind.
Reactive strategies to avoid
Some habits you’ll want to be careful to NOT get into include:
Yelling at students
Using shame as a discipline strategy (easier to fall into than it sounds)
Removing students from the classroom
Getting emotional or visibly frustrated
Not checking your biases
One thing we always train our teachers to take special note of is this: You can’t expect immediate compliance.
The truth is, respect and trust have to be earned. It doesn’t matter if the people you’re leading are 50 years old or five, you have to do the work to earn their buy-in.
Too many teachers expect their students to immediately listen to everything they say and get distraught or upset when that doesn’t happen.
But students are people too, and we don’t particularly like taking orders from people we barely know and trust. Right?
Effective reactive strategies
Like we said, problems in the classroom are inevitable. Occasionally you’re going to have to put out some fires (hopefully not literally), so it helps to have a good extinguisher.
Some effective strategies include:
Practicing patience and empathy, even in stressful situations
Having a word or action that refocuses attention on you (e.g., clapping patterns, short phrases, etc.)
Keeping other students busy with a task while addressing issues
Having a calming space in the classroom students can go to when feeling overwhelmed.
This is NOT a timeout. It should be a comfortable space (seating, plants, maybe even a little fountain) students want to go to, you just have to train them on when they can be there.
Adding these strategies to your teacher tool belt will help you solve problems whenever they occur.
Proactive Classroom Management
Now time for the real secret sauce! Proactive classroom management strategies will completely change your classroom when done right.
So let’s learn how to do them right!
Here are 3 simple strategies to prevent problems from arising in the first place.
#1 – Be completely prepared for EVERY class
Let’s be real, it can be tough to prepare 20+ engaging classes per week. As a teacher, it’s easy to slide into a bad habit of not fully preparing for every class.
Whether this is just teaching straight out of the book, or over-relying on worksheets from the internet, underprepared classes are the top culprit for why students misbehave in the first place. We know that young learners (and hell, even people our age) have short attention spans. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that if students aren’t engaged consistently throughout the lesson they’ll lose focus, and this inevitably leads to classroom behavior issues.
So put in the groundwork and prep your lessons.
Work to make them physically and intellectually engaging. Challenge your students. Find ways to make the material relevant to their lives. And most importantly, have all of your lessons fully resourced and ready to go.
Another pro tip here is to work on your transitions. Any ‘gap’ in the lesson is an opportunity for students to potentially misbehave, so filling those gaps ensures students don’t veer off track.
This tip isn’t really fun, because it requires a bit more work on your part. But a bit more work in the preparation will pay off immensely in the form of better lessons, stronger relationships with your students, and better mental health. After all, nothing is more taxing than an ‘out of control’ classroom.
#2 – Get to know your students
This seems like a given, but you’d be shocked (and appalled) at the number of ESL teachers who don’t even bother to learn all of their students’ names.
In their defense (kind of), I’ve had jobs where I have taught hundreds of students. It can be tough to learn that many names, let alone get to know them all.
Yet too many teachers lean on that excuse as a reason not to really get to know their students at all. They spend all of their time in the ‘teachers’ lounge’, or only interact with their students for the 55 minutes of English class each day.
The truth is, though, there is NO better classroom management strategy than strong bonds with your students. If they trust you, if they respect you, if they like you, they will listen to you.
So what can you actually do to bond with your students?
Get a class roster, make name cards, or employ other strategies to learn their names
ASK them about their interests, and talk about yours
Eat lunch with them or play with them at recess from time to time
Come to school a bit early, or do your grading at school and leave a bit late
This doesn’t have to be too much, maybe 15 minutes. But you can get a lot of informal facetime with your students in those quiet little moments before or after school.
Learn a bit of their language (and practice where they can see you!)
If you follow these simple tips you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get to know your students!
#3 – Let the students make the rules
I know, it sounds crazy. But hear us out…
Letting your students make the rules can be a powerful technique when it comes to actually enforcing the rules. Think about it: aren’t you more likely to follow rules you come up with yourself?
People naturally don’t like being told what to do, so if you give the students the power to decide what rules are fair then they’re much more likely to follow through.
It also makes it way easier for you to enforce the rules. Instead of saying “do this because I said so” you get to fall back on “Hey, these aren’t even my rules. YOU came up with these!”. Trust me, the latter is far superior.
Now, you’ll have to steer the conversation a bit to make sure some essential rules are hit. But this can be as easy as one or two leading questions. “Is it a good idea to talk if the teacher is talking?”
In the ESL classroom, you may also need the help of a co-teacher that speaks the students’ native language. It doesn’t take a really high level of English to make some of these rules, but if your students are at a lower level it’ll be good to have someone there to help formulate their thoughts if they don’t have the vocab for it.
The final proactive management tip
To wrap things up, I want to leave you with one more proactive tip.
Take care of YOURSELF!
Yes, proper self-care and work life balance is absolutely essential for classroom management. If you’re overwhelmed or burnt out, it will inevitably impact your students. Energy is contagious, and as the leader you are the conduit for the classes’ energy. This makes it important to learn to control your own energy.
So meditate, journal, go for walks, do yoga, eat healthy, travel on the weekends, pursue hobbies that interest you. Set up good, sustainable systems for work life balance. Grow in areas you feel are important for your life. The best teachers by FAR are happy teachers (not an opinion, studies show this to be true), so be sure to do things that make you happy.
If you do that, then teaching itself will become one of those things!
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Updated: 7th February 2023 – As this is an evolving topic, this blog post shall be updated regularly in order to make the content relevant for teachers and schools.
Accompanying podcast episode:
You’ve probably already been swept up by the huge (and sudden) tidal wave of hysteria that has been generated by OpenAI’s latest product: ChatGPT.
From writing computer programs to producing beautifully formatted English and SAT essays, to answering Mathematics IGCSE examination questions – ChatGPT seems to be the digital guru we’ve all been waiting for, and big tech companies have been attempting to create, for decades.
You could almost say “Chat’s one small step for RAM, one giant leap for mankind!”
Whilst a witty pun like this is enough to break the ice and get a few giggles at your next Teach Meet (perhaps), it won’t be enough to calm the nerves of many who have suddenly realised that we have a major problem on our hands.
ChatGPT has hit educators globally with thunderclap surprise and is causing a lot of panic – and for good reason. In terms of updating Academic Integrity policies, schools will now have to go right back to the drawing board and devise intelligent solutions to a wide array of complex challenges that ChatGPT will pose. Another key consideration for all educational institutions will be how to figure out their position on AI, and which teaching practices to use, as these systems and tools evolve.
So, if you’re one of the many educators out there who is considering how ChatGPT will affect your teaching, then here are some interesting thoughts and resources:
The first rule with any new technology is to educate students regarding its use and to reveal what is ethically and academically acceptable (as they say the genie cannot be put back in the bottle so banning does not work). Is ChatGPT just another ‘cognitive offloading’ tool like spellcheck, Grammarly, or Amazon Polly, or is it much more than that? Read this good overview piece by Larry Ferlazzo at EdWeek to find out more.
#3: Plagiarism software cannot detect it quite yet
OpenAI have just recently created a kind of ChatGPT detector – to check if an assignment has been artificially generated – but even they themselves say that it’s nowhere near perfect: only 26% accurate! OpenAI recommend using their plagiarism detector, along with other software (like the tool from TurnItIn) to get a good, overall picture of just how much bot-generated text is present within a piece of work.
What if it catches a student who has used ChatGPT partially? Is this acceptable?
#4: Have a go yourself.
A colleague of mine used it in class with students on an IB Digital Society essay and he reported that it was interesting to examine and use the results. It writes pretty good TOK (Theory of Knowledge) essays based on last year’s prompts, for instance. However, it does have many limitations and I believe it’s important to discuss these with students. I do think the TOK assessment, and other essay-based coursework, will have to radically change over the next few years. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a shift in schools towards more internal assessment methods like group/individual presentations and practical work.
#5: Should we be concerned about students using it?
As schools continue to set essay assignments (as per current requirements) I recommend using a new tool called Elicit which can help students with searching and ranking sources alongside improving the quality of their research questions. This is a great introduction to the Extended Essay for IB, for example. A list of the many other tools out there can be found at this link – Future Tools – Find The Exact AI Tool For Your Needs.
In addition to the current disruption already caused by ChatGPT, Google (of course) are planning to stamp their feet and make their mark very soon. The AI arms’ race is on, and Google’s offering is a system called Bard – so advanced that its predecessor, LaMBDA, was controversially described as being “sentient” by its developer.
Will we see the day when self-aware AI systems are given the same rights and responsibilities as people? In LaMBDA’s case, the system described feeling “happy or sad at times” and reported having a deep fear of being switched off – a fate comparable to being killed, in its ‘opinion’.
Special thanks to Jeremie Tisseau, CEO of Morphosis Holdings Co. Ltd., for acting as my ‘go-to consultant’ and for sharing his expertise on all things ChatGPT and AI with me. Your input has allowed this blog post to remain relevant, useful, topical and accurate.
Useful PDF Resources
See below. Just click on the ‘download’ buttons to save these pdfs.
As a teacher or a parent, you’ll likely have an interest in the subjects that children are learning in school, especially newer subjects like computer literacy, robotics, coding, or even game development. And while some parents and teachers might be worried that children already spend too much time on tablets, mobile phones or laptop computers as it is, the good news is that all of these subjects are likely to enhance the learning of more traditional curriculum areas, such as mathematics and English.
Coding, in particular, is quickly becoming a key skill that school students must achieve basic competency in before they graduate. In August last year, for example, former President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the nationwide rollout of Kenya’s first ever coding curriculum in primary and secondary schools. This made Kenya the first African nation to create an official coding syllabus to be delivered in schools.
Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts on why coding is such an important subject for students to learn.
In this digital age, when technological advancement continues to transform our lives, learning coding is crucial, especially for school students. Because if you think about it, the apps and websites children use all run on code. Thus, it’s vital for them to learn and understand the basics of coding to make the most out of the apps and websites they visit and utilize.
As you may be aware, in the current curriculum, students in classes 11 and 12 are taught fundamental programming languages, such as C, C++, Foxpro, and more, while sixth-grade students and up learn computer basics. And as online education came to light, more and more students eagerly took online tuition coding classes to test various programming languages.
Given this situation, education professionals must also understand that teaching coding is as important as teaching sustainability at school. It offers numerous benefits for your students – from academic excellence to better career opportunities. To explain it further, we’ve listed down the reasons why coding is essential for students. Let’s get started.
#1: Coding improves critical thinking skills
One of the many reasons why learning coding is important is that it can help students improve their critical thinking skills. A 2014 study actually demonstrates that the five brain areas associated with language processing, working memory, and attention are activated when people work with source code. Because besides memorizing various programming languages, students will also need to understand how to use them correctly. But to do that, it will require them to think differently.
Dealing with codes requires you to break down problems into smaller and more manageable pieces to understand what happens next. This strategic problem-solving technique is called computational thinking. Coders must examine the data, assess the situation, and decide which course of action will help them achieve their objectives.
In light of this, students who learn how to code can improve their problem-solving/critical-thinking skills by figuring out the best solution to a problem at hand.
#2: Coding boosts creativity
Aside from honing problem-solving skills, coding also fosters the creativity of students. It gives them the opportunity to express themselves, experiment, and be creative. They can design websites, apps, or games in a fun and exciting way.
“But how does coding help with creativity?“, you may ask.
Well, while you learn various programming languages and techniques to create various programs, you always need to start building from scratch. For instance, when students are tasked to make an animated object, they have to think about what it should look like and how it can be presented on the screen. This is when they need to use their creativity and problem-solving skills to achieve what they picture.
#3: Coding teaches patience and persistence
Learning how to code is similar to how we learn a language. The only difference is we use programming languages to communicate with the computer. So, typically, we start by memorizing the alphabet, some words, and phrases before we begin creating sentences for use in conversations. And, of course, we will inevitably make mistakes along the way. It’s the same scenario in coding.
As you might already know, coding is complex and can be frustrating. But it teaches us patience and perseverance. Because to be successful, one must be able to experience failure and bounce back from it. It will take some testing and troubleshooting before the codes work effectively.
Students can use this process of trial and error to their advantage as they go through life, helping them to understand that perseverance is often necessary to find solutions to many difficulties.
#4: Coding improves communication and teamwork
Coding also teaches two of the best things students can use when they enter the real world: communication and teamwork. Most of the time, teachers assign students to work in groups when developing projects. That requires them to communicate with one another and make collaborative efforts for a successful program. But, even if they’re working on individual projects, they can still seek feedback from their classmates. Thus, by teaching coding to students, they’ll develop their communication skills and learn the importance of teamwork.
#5: Coding creates career opportunities
Finally, learning to code opens up many career opportunities. Considering how technology continuously advances as time passes by, coding is an extremely useful skill to possess. Computer programmers, web developers, and other IT jobs are now in demand because of the increasing number of businesses relying on code. And it’s not just those in the technology sector, but also those in finance, retail, health, and other industries.
If people learn to code at a young age, they’ll have the advantage of having better career opportunities in the future. Not to mention that the salary can be at a high level for those qualified, talented, and experienced IT people.
The bottom line
There are many reasons why coding is important for school students to learn. Besides learning how to build websites and apps, they also learn valuable skills and lessons they can use in the real world. Not to mention that you’re also bringing them numerous career opportunities in this ever-growing digital world. And if they grow interested in developing more advanced and amazing software, they also contribute to our future.
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Originally posted December 2017. Updated December 2022.
The Christmas vacation is finally here. Many of us in the teaching profession can now look forward to a good couple of weeks of much-needed rest and recuperation.
Our students deserve a break too.
I agree that time spent with family and friends is an absolute essential right now, but I’m also mindful of the workload and duties that will hit me like a tornado when I return to school in January.
When it comes to school holidays, I always see them as time to ‘go at my own pace’. The way I see it, I have two choices:
Do nothing for the whole holiday and totally chill out, returning to the normal barrage of work that hits every teacher at the start of Term 2
Still have a holiday and some rest but do some little things to get a head-start on things before I return to school
I’ve always found that trying to do option 2 is the best, even if I don’t get through all of the ‘head-start’ work that I plan to do.
Is this an admission of failure before I even begin? Maybe, but here are my plans made as realistic as possible: meaning that I can have a rest and do around 50% (minimum) of these things too:
Requisitions and orders: I’m a Science Teacher, so I need to order chemicals and equipment for my lessons each week. This Christmas my first priority will be to get all of my requisitions done for each week of Term 2, ahead of time. This will save me many a long night when I get back to school, and will help me to plan ahead and reinforce my long-term curriculum mapping.
Termly review: Every Christmas I make it a priority to evaluate where I am at now, and where I want to be with my classes by the end of the term. This kind of self-analysis allows me to see where I’m behind and where I’m ahead and how to address those issues. This is really important for final-level exam classes as they must have covered the whole syllabus and have revised by the time the terminal exams come along.
Getting back to gym: I’ve been slacking off lately (I said this back in 2017 too!). No excuses this time. I’ve got every day free for a few weeks so I’ll be up early and out for a jog before hitting the weights later in the day.
Responding to student e-mails: Some students in my exam classes will be e-mailing me with questions about past-papers, coursework and subject-specific stuff. If I can help, then I will help. However, if not urgent, then I will deal with these queries when I am back at school.
Clothes: I’m running out of a few things (such as shirts that actually fit me!). Time for a wardrobe mini-makeover so that I continue to look half-decent at work.
Writing my next book: My first book was quite well-received, as was my second (The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback) so I’ve decided to have a go at writing another. Ten Techniques Every Teacher Needs to Know will explore the themes of classroom management and assessment to inform learning in even greater depth and breadth than my first book, and will build upon the fundamentals covered in one of my most popular blog posts. I see this as ‘downtime’ for me because I really love writing. Can I count this as ‘relaxation’?
Going back to karate: Another thing I’ve been putting off. Time to get a regular schedule set up.
Contacting people I should have contacted ages ago. Chasing up old leads and projects that I’ve allowed to slip.
Of course, as well as all of this I plan to enjoy my freedom in Thailand as much as possible. A trip to Pak Chong (where The Big Boss was filmed), along with my long-awaited visit to the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi (still haven’t done that yet – it needs to go on the list!).
How will you use your free-time this Christmas? Is it all one-big holiday or can you think of some small ways to make your life easier when you get back to school?
It was a mid-spring morning in 1996. I was 13 years old enjoying Science class with one of my favourite teachers up on the top-floor lab at North Wales’ prestigious St. Richard Gwyn R.C. High School.
I loved Science. The feel of the lab, decorated with preserved samples in jars and colorful posters and periodic tables and famous Scientists on the walls, along with the cool gas taps and Bunsen burners that rested on each desk. This was my favorite part of the school.
Today’s lesson was special though, and I remember it for a very unexpected reason.
We were receiving back our Forces and Motion tests today. I loved getting my tests back, not least because I always revised really hard and was used to getting at least 75% on each one.
I always used to do two things whenever I got my tests back:
Check that the teacher had added up the scores correctly
Check how to improve my answers
On this particular day I had lost marks on a question that was phrased something like this: ‘If a rocket is travelling through space, what will happen to the rocket if all of the forces on it become balanced?’
In my answer I had written: ‘The rocket will either continue travelling at a constant speed or will not move at all.’
Now, how do I remember this seemingly obscure moment in a sea of moments from high school, most of which I cannot recall? Well, that’s simple: My teacher came over and took the time and effort to verbally explain where I’d gone wrong.
I should have just written that the rocket will continue at a constant speed, not “or will not move at all”.
This moment of personal, verbal feedback from my teacher was powerful and precious. Not only did it serve to maintain my momentum in Science learning, but it left me with visual impressions of the memory itself: My friends in the Science lab, the posters on the wall and even the sunlight shining over the glistening Dee Estuary which was visible from the Science lab windows.
This little story shows us the power of verbal feedback, and therefore the caution we should place on what we say to our students. Young girls and boys grow up to become men and women, and their teachers leave a number of impressions on them, some of which are permanent.
The trick is to ensure that the permanent impressions are useful, positive and productive: As was the case with my conversation with my teacher that day.
And not all impressions need to be verbal. Written feedback can be just as memorable.
Let’s now explore the fundamentals of effective student feedback that are easy to implement, and useful.
Peer Assess Properly – The Traditional Method
I first learnt the power of peer assessment back in 2008, when I had just moved to Thailand.
As a keen young teacher with two years of UK teaching experience, I found myself teaching students who were all very keen to do their best. Homework assignments and classwork seem to come my way on a real-time, live-stream basis, and I soon found myself inundated with work to mark.
At first, I tried the traditional methods of using a green or red pen to write lengthy comments on each piece of work. I had learned from my training in Assessment for Learning in the UK, that written comments that help the student to improve were much better than a letter grade or a score followed by a ‘Well Done’. I’d learnt about the ‘two stars and wish rule’ where I’d write two positive things about the work and then one item or target for improvement.
These ideas were great in theory, but I found that my weekends became shorter and shorter as I tried to write effective comments on every piece of work that came in. I was spending less and less time doing the hobbies I enjoyed, and I became quite the old grouch.
I finally expressed my concerns in the staff room one day and a colleague of mine said “You should do more peer assessment”. She was right.
I instantly started getting my students to mark their own work, and reflect upon it, and the results were astounding: My weekends became ‘me time’ again, and students seemed to learn better than they would from receiving my comments.
As I continued to develop my skills in assigning proper peer-assessment, I discovered that I was sometimes making some catastrophic errors. I refined my strategy over the years, and came up with this six-step system:
Step 1: Make sure that the work you set has an official mark scheme or set of model answers associated with it. There’s nothing worse than trying to ‘guess’ the best answers along the way as you’re trying to get the kids to assess the work. Make your own mark scheme if necessary, but make sure the answers are clear.
Step 2: When it comes time for the kids to assess the work, ask them to swap their work with someone else in the class. Alternatively, if this doesn’t work for your particular class, then collect the work in and redistribute it.
Step 3: Ask each student to get a colored pen ready to mark with. Red and green are good. You may wish to have a set of special ‘marking pens’ somewhere in class that the kids can use whenever they mark each others’ work.
Step 4: Print the official mark scheme and give a copy to each student. This has the advantage of providing a permanent copy for each student to keep, and allows you time to help students as they mark. Projecting the answers onto a screen canalso work, but you may find that students cannot see and that you may have to scroll through at a pace that’s not suitable for every student. Printing a copy, or sharing it on the schools VLE so that students can access it via a tablet or laptop, is best.
Step 5: Make it very clear that students should tick the answer if it’s correct, and make full corrections if it is wrong. The mere act of writing out the model answer onto the work being marked will reinforce the concepts into the subconscious mind of the student.
Step 6: Let the students give the work back. Collect it in at the end of the lesson so that you can glance through and check that everyone has peer assessed properly. If anyone hasn’t, then make them do it again.
Once work has been peer-assessed, you can sit down with individual students and have ‘progress conversations’ designed to pin point areas of weakness and highlight areas of strength
You have to be quite organised with this method (e.g. making sure you print the mark schemes on time). However, this will save you loads of time and will definitely help the kids to learn properly.
Experiment with automated assessment
I wrote a blog postabout the effective use of ICT in lessons some weeks back, and I mentioned the first time I came across MyiMaths.
It was back in 2013, and it totally transformed my work life.
Why? That’s simple. Students would go into the ICT lab, or use their laptops or tablets in class, and literally be taught mathematics by the computer! The program would even assess the work immediately, and differentiation wasn’t a problem because students could work through the tasks at their own individual pace. The benefits were enormous:
All of the students were focused and engaged
All of the students were challenged
The teacher had more time to spend with individuals working on specific problems
The content was relevant and stimulating
No behavior management issues as the students were all quietly working
No time was needed by the teacher for marking and assessment. The program did all that for you. All you had to do was collate the data.
There are numerous instructional software programs on the market today that save the teacher lots of marking time, and provide the students with engaging material to learn from, Whilst I wouldn’t advocate using instructional software every lesson, it certainly can become a big and effective part of your teaching arsenal.
Give verbal feedback the right way
Verbal feedback is a great way to have a personal one-to-one conversation with a student. It can help you to address systemic, widespread issues (e.g. not writing down all of the steps in calculations) and it can be a great way to motivate each student.
However, many teachers are only going so far with verbal feedback and are not using it as the powerful tool it is.
Take this piece of KS3 Geography work for example:
I received this work from a parent at dinner, who knew I was an educational author, on 21st June 2016.
You’ll undoubtedly have noticed the dates on the work: 1st December and 8th December 2015. I’m sure you’ll have shuddered upon the realization that this work hadn’t been marked in seven months! No peer-assessment, no self-assessment and no comments from the teacher. There aren’t even any ticks! Add this to the fact that this boy’s entire notebook was completely unmarked, just like this, and you can begin to understand why I nearly had palpitations in front of several avid noodle and rice connoisseurs!
When I asked the boy about why it wasn’t marked, he said that this teacher never marked worked, he just gave the occasional verbal feedback. My next obvious question was to ask what verbal feedback he’d received about this work. He said he
With teacher workloads increasing globally, this kind of approach is, unfortunately, not uncommon, However, verbal feedback need not be time-consuming and can be executed in a much better way than is seen here in this Geography work. Here are my tips:
1. Set your students a task to do and call each student one-by-one to have a chat about their work. Be strict with your timings – if you have a 40 minute lesson and 20 students in the class then keep each conversation to two minutes.
Mention the points for improvement and use sincere praise to address the good points about the work. Ask the student to reflect on the work too.
Once the conversation is over, write ‘VF’ on the work, and ask the student to make improvements to it. Agree on a time to collect it in again so that you can glance over the improvements.
As you can see, this simple three step approach to verbal feedback generates a much more productive use of time than simply having a chat with the student. Action has to be taken after the discussion, and this places the responsibility of learning solely in the hands of the student, which is where it should be.
Be specific in your comments
Sometimes it is appropriate to collect student work and scribble your comments on it with a colored pen. When you do this, make sure your comments are specific and positive, Take a look at these examples, which all serve to empower the student:
Peer Assess Properly – The Technological Method
A growing trend that is proving popular with teachers is to use Google forms in the peer assessment process. I wrote about this in my book, and I’ve included the extracts here:
A good form for students will look something like this:
There are many alternatives to using Google forms. For example, you may wish to create a form via your school’s VLE, or even get the students to send each other their work through e-mail or a chat application (although this will remove anonymity). Either way, peer assessment with technology will save you time and provide your students with quick, detailed feedback.
Make sure students improve their work
A common theme you may have spotted in this week’s blog post is that of improvement. Students should always improve the work that’s been marked or assessed. This serves two purposes:
The student will get into the habit of giving their best effort each time. After all, a great first attempt means less effort needed in the improvement phase
The process of improving a piece of work serves to firmly cement concepts in the subconscious mind of the student, aiding memory and retention
Don’t forget to use rubrics, mark schemes and comments – students can’t possibly improve their work without these.
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Updated: October 2022 (Originally posted May 2017)
I received a message from a very stressed out Newly Qualified Teacher a few weeks ago. It pertains to a problem that many educators face: dealing with homework. When I told her that I was planning to write an article about this very issue, she agreed to share her message with all my readers:
Dear Richard. I’m about to finish my first year in teaching and I’m really ashamed to admit that I haven’t been able to mark my students’ homework on time each week. In fact, I’ve set so much homework that it has just piled up and piled up over the course of this year, to the point where I now have a literal mountain to deal with! I’m kind of hoping that most of my students will forget that I have their work, and this seems to be happening as some of it is months old. I’m so stressed out! How can I make sure that this never, ever happens again?! – G
Being overwhelmed with marking, particularly that caused by homework, is a common problem for new and experienced teachers alike. In this article, I’ll examine the best ways to design and organise homework, as well as ways to avoid being bogged down and ‘up to your eyeballs’ in paperwork. If you would like an audio version of my strategies, then please listen to this excellent UKEdChat podcast (highly recommended for anyone who wants to get better at assigning and organizing homework)here.
Consideration #1: Homework is not pointless
It’s really important to make this point from the outset. A number of articles have come out in recent years causing us to question the merits of setting homework. At one point, this mindset became so mainstream that I remember sitting-in on a departmental meeting in which a number of teachers suggested that we shouldn’t set homework at all, as it is totally pointless!
This might be a nice excuse to use to avoid some paperwork and marking, but unfortunately it’s not true at all.
In my experience, homework is only pointless if the kids never ever receive feedback, or if the homework doesn’t relate to anything on the curriculum. Then, of course, their time has been wasted.
I’ll always remember one school I worked at where all of the teachers had set summer homework for their students. Piles and piles of homework were set, including big, thick booklets full of past-papers. Guess what happened when those students returned to school the next academic year; many of the teachers had changed, and the work was piled up in an empty classroom and never marked. What a tragedy!
We’ll explore some ways in which we can give feedback in a timely manner today, as well as ways in which we can design our homework properly.
Consideration #2: Think carefully about the purpose of each piece of homework you set
This is crucial. Ideally, all homework should fall into one of four categories:
To review concepts covered in class
To prepare students for new content they will cover in class
To prepare students for examinations (e.g. with exam-style questions, revision tasks and past-papers)
A combination of two or three of the above
If the homework you are setting does not fall into these categories then you are wasting both your time and the students’ time by setting it.
Consideration #3: Think carefully about how much time the students will need to complete each piece of homework
This is an important consideration. Put yourself in the students’ shoes. Is this homework too demanding, or too easy for them? Will they actually have enough time to complete it? Is your deadline reasonable?
Consideration #4: How much self-study or research will your students have to do to complete your work? Where will they get their information from?
If the piece of work you are setting involves preparation for content or skills soon to be covered in class, then your students might have to do some research. Is the level of self-study you are asking of your students reasonable? Are they old enough, and mature enough to be able to find this information on their own? If not, then you may need to give some tips on which websites, textbooks or other material to look at.
Consideration #5: Can you mark this work?
This is such an important consideration, but can be overlooked by so many teachers who are in a rush.
Think carefully: if you’re setting a booklet of past-paper questions for ‘AS’ – Level students, then how is it going to be marked? Crucially, how will the students receive feedback on this work? And remember: homework really is pointless if students don’t get any feedback.
Be honest with yourself. If you honestly don’t have enough time to mark such large pieces of work, then it’s much better to set smaller, manageable assignments. At least that way your students will get some feedback, which will be useful to them.
Also, don’t try and do everything yourself when it comes to marking. Use peer-assessment, self-assessment and even automated assessment (such as that found on instructional software) on a regular basis. Be careful though – make sure you at least collect in your peer-assessed and self-assessed assignments afterwards just to be sure that all students have done it, and so that you can glance over for any mistakes. Students can be sneaky when they know that the teacher is trusting them with self-assessment each week by simply providing the answers to the work.
Another good tip is to spend some time on the weekend planning your homework for the week ahead. What exactly will you set, and when, to allow you enough time to mark everything? How can you set decent homework that’s not too big to mark? An hour spent planning this on a Saturday is much better than four hours cramming in a marking marathon on a Sunday because you didn’t think ahead.
Consideration #6: Are you organised enough?
Not to sound patronizing, but are you, really?
If you’re a primary school teacher then you’ll be collecting in assignments relating to different subject areas each week. If you’re working in the high school, then you’ll you’ll be collecting in work from potentially more than a hundred students on a regular basis.
You need to have some kind of filing system in place for all of this work. Maybe a set of draws? Folders? Trays? Electronic folders?
One strategy that absolutely works for me is that I get all of my students to complete their homework on loose sheets of paper, not their notebooks. Why? Because if they do it in their notebooks, and I haven’t had time to mark their work by the very next lesson, then it’s a nightmare having to give back notebooks again and collect them in continuously.
With loose paper its easy. I collect it in, and put each group’s assignments in a set of trays. I have one set of trays for work collected in, and one set for work that is marked. It stops me from losing students’ work and losing my sanity at the same time! The students then glue the work into their notebooks afterwards.
In addition to organizing my paperwork, I also organise my time. I use every Saturday morning for marking, which really saves me lots of headaches during the week. Do you set aside a fixed slot each week to do your marking?
Think carefully about the purpose of each piece of work you set
Don’t set work that will take the students too long, or too little time, to complete
Think carefully about the demands of any research that students will have to do. Maybe you need to point them in the right direction?
Use a variety of assessment strategies to mark student work. Don’t make assignments so big that you just don’t have time to make them.
Make sure you have some kind of filing system in place, so that you don’t lose work.
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A dissertation is a paper that graduate students must write as part of their academic requirements to earn their Master’s or PhD. Some high school curricula, such as the IB Diploma, include some kind of extended writing task that is similar (e.g. the Extended Essay in the case of IB). The paper is typically based on original research to prove that a candidate has mastered the subject and its relevance in society. Therefore, it is an extensive research paper with comprehensive content, including images.
Using images in a dissertation project
There are no rules against using images in a dissertation project. However, it would be wise only to use them when necessary. Images are particularly appropriate for visual art or film dissertation projects. Examiners can check the images in such areas to analyze your creative work.
Regardless of why you use the images, they should be clean and clear. For this reason, a background eraser should be your friend if you choose to insert images in your dissertation project.
Cleaning up images for your dissertation
Dissertation images are unlike other images included in content writing. For instance, they do not serve decorative purposes. Instead, they are critical to explaining the content of the dissertation. So, examiners will use them to grade your paper. For these reasons, you cannot submit a blurry or low-quality image.
What follows are some guidelines for cleaning up images for your dissertation.
#1: Remove the background
You can clean up the image by removing the background. However, only do this if the background does not contain relevant information. Removing the background will make the focus object clearer. It will also declutter the image.
#2. Remove defects from the images
You can also clean up the images by removing defects from your picture. Such image defects include:
Blurriness caused by shaking of the camera or subject when taking the photo
Chromatic aberrations, like unwanted color lines around dark objects in the photo
Unwanted orbs in the photo caused by lens flare
Improper field of depth, where a specific portion in the image appears sharper than others
Removing the defects above will increase the image quality and make it easier to interpret. The cleaner the image, the easier you can portray what you want in your dissertation paper.
#3. Remove unwanted people, objects, and text
Another way to clean up your dissertation image is by removing unwanted people irrelevant to the image’s purpose. Also, you can remove people from who you do not have permission to feature in your project. Additionally, you can remove unnecessary text from images, especially when using images created by graphic tools.
Removing unwanted objects from the image will make it less “noisy.” This means that the image will focus more on a primary object instead of being too cluttered. Also, it may save you from copyright or consent issues.
However, while cleaning up your dissertation image, especially if you are an art student, it would help to be keen not to strip it of its unique qualities. Sometimes, the backgrounds and what you consider “noise” may be your image’s “it” factor.
When using images in a dissertation, it would be wise to consider the specific guidelines and rules. For instance, in the US, all images used in dissertations and academic papers must either be copyrighted by the author or referenced in the manuscript. The guidelines may differ depending on the location.
So, researching the guidelines would be wise if you are an international student studying abroad.
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Originally posted on August 18th 2019. Updated on September 3rd 2022.
Getting back into the swing of things can be a challenge: especially after a long summer vacation. Our body clocks are normally out of sync and we’ve probably been taking life a bit easy for a while (and rightly so).
The new academic year pounces on us like a monkey from a tree.
In order to be prepared for the craziness ahead I’ve devised a list of ten things to do prior to the first day back at school. Follow these magic tips and you’ll be energized, prepared and ahead of the game.
Tip #1: Create a regular sleeping pattern
Get up at your normal ‘work day’ time each day for at least a week before school starts. This will calibrate your body clock so that it’s easier to get up when school begins.
It’ll be hard at first – if you’re like me then you’ll be exhausted at 6am. Just try it – force yourself to get used to getting up early.
Tip #2: Set up a morning ritual
Come up with a sequence of events that will inspire, empower and energize you each morning. For me, my morning routine looks like this:
Get up at 4.30am
Go to the gym (it opens at 5am)
Work out at the gym
Shower at the gym
Have coffee and breakfast at the gym lounge
Read over e-mails and lesson plans for the day ahead
Leave the gym and be at school by 7am
Getting the hardest things done in the morning (e.g. exercising) is a very empowering way to start the day. This ritual of mine also serves to give me energy – I’m not rushing to school and I’m fully breakfasted, coffee’d-up and mentally prepared before the school day even starts!
Tip #3: Learn about the A.C.E. method of post-pandemic teaching
The best way that we can re-integrate our students after so much disruption due to lockdowns is by facilitating the following:
Action: Include lots of kinesthetic activities in your lessons.
Collaboration: Get students working together in groups (see my blog post here for more advice about how to do this).
Exploration: Encourage deep learning through problem-solving and research-based tasks.
I’ve a quick video all about the A.C.E. strategy here:
Tip #4: Read ahead
Whether you’re teaching the same subjects again this year, or if you’re teaching something totally new – it always helps to read ahead.
Go over the textbook material, watch out for subtle syllabus changes and make sure you read over the material you’ll actually give to the kids (PPTs, worksheets, etc.).
Tip #5: Prepare ahead
Linked to reading ahead but involves the logistics of lesson delivery – make sure your resources are prepared.
Don’t forget – every teacher will be scrambling for the photocopier on the first day back. Prepare your paper resources in advance, or plan to do photocopying at ‘off-peak’ times (e.g. late after school one day).
Tip #6: Set personal targets
Is there anything that you could have done better last year?
If you’re a new teacher, then what are some life-challenges that have held you back in the past? Procrastination? Lack of organization?
We all have things that we could do better. Think about what those things are for you and write down a set of personal targets in your teacher’s planner. Read them every day.
One of my targets, for example, is not to set too much homework but to instead select homework that achieves my aims most efficiently.
Tip #7: Get to know your new students
Spend time talking with your new students and take an interest in their hobbies, skills and attributes.
Look at previous school reports if possible and find out if any of your new students have any weaknesses in any subject or behavioral areas. Talk with members of staff at your school about ways to accommodate and target such needs if necessary.