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by Erica Fischer on Dec 2, 2011

Best Strategies for New and Student Teachers

Welcome back to #langchat, everyone. We hope your Thanksgiving holidays were as relaxing and turkey-stuffed as ours!

This week we have Thursday night’s #langchat summary available for everyone who wasn’t able to make it to the discussion. Please feel free to share links to the summary with all your friends and colleagues — anyone who you think might be interested in some of the best, free professional development out there.

Also, please remember that the discussion’s never over! While our weekly meeting is held from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. EST, the conversation continues here in the summary in the meantime. If you have any thoughts that you would have liked to share Thursday, or that are inspired from your colleagues’ tips below, please comment at the end of the post. We’d love to hear from you!

Student Teachers in the World Language Classroom

Our #langchat discussion this week centered on the most important strategies that we can share with a student teacher in the world language classroom. As always, your colleagues shared a wealth of information and tips pulled from their hands-on experiences.

So, why should you agree to mentor a student teacher? Many participants said they’d love the opportunity to do so to pass on the experience and knowledge they’ve gained over time. This is a wonderful reason to do so; it’s important to remember that a student teacher is a student, too. Other participants mentioned that they love the fresh thinking that student teachers bring and enjoy bouncing new ideas off a like-minded individual. Both teachers can grow in this way.

Although this weeks’ topic was targeted at student teachers, many of the resources and strategies apply to all new teachers. Student teaching is a great opportunity for new or soon-to-be professionals to experience teaching first-hand and decide if this is something they want to do. Lots of new teachers, however, can feel overwhelmed by the experience. So share some of the great ideas and strategies suggested by your #langchat colleagues below to help them manage the transition!

Mentally Preparing Student Teachers

Perhaps one of the best pieces of advice you could ever give student teachers is to take advantage of the time they have. A first-year teacher often faces a steep learning curve and a demanding workload. It’s tough to go from theory in university to practice in the classroom. The more practice, the better prepared the student teacher will be for his or her future students.

Student teachers occupy a unique position in the school between teacher and student. Sometimes when they struggle, it’s because they are unable to bridge this gap successfully. To combat this, @fereydoon1975 always recommends that student teachers take it easy and be themselves. If you’re yourself, students believe you and will feel connected to you.

It’s also important for student teachers to get involved with other educators. Try suggesting that they show up for all meetings and visit the staff room in order to be seen and get a clear idea of how the school runs.

An oft-overlooked tip for new teachers is to do what it takes to remain sane. Teachers who first begin working with their own students often feel overwhelmed and feel that they need to work on improving their skills and knowledge all the time. @SECottrell stresses that work outside the classroom is important — essential! — but new teachers also need to make time for themselves lest they feel like they’re drowning.

A good starting tip? Encourage new and student teachers to focus on one thing only for a week or so, then they can move on to another. Trying to do too much at once is a quick path to losing hope.

Classroom Management 101

Probably the biggest issue for new educators, classroom management is a topic that you should always sit down and discuss with your student teacher. Your colleagues shared several of their basic classroom management techniques that would be useful for student teachers.

First, a classroom seating chart is a good idea. @dr_dmd finds it indispensable, as it allows him to learn names, organize groups and assign pairs much faster. @SECottrell uses name tents (cards or paper folded in half to form a tent shape) to assign seats so she can alter the seating rapidly and often.

Structure and consistency are other important ingredients to a well-behaved class. @petreepie suggests student teachers create a consistently structured class with clear explanations and instructions so students understand where the class is going. Consistently following through with “threats” and classroom discipline is also essential — including rewarding positive behavior.

@suarez712002 can’t stress enough how important consistent routines and procedures are to building a relationship with students. Kids need to know what is expected and what to expect from us.

Some of your colleagues other tips and tricks are collected here.

  • Time management, through minimizing (or maximizing) down time, is an important strategy for new teachers to learn (@SraSpanglish).
  • Encourage student teachers to get to know their students; it shows that they care (@dr_dmd).
  • Several participants suggest popsicle sticks with students’ names on them to manage and track student participation and interaction.
    • @cadamsf1 uses colored popsicle sticks for quick group assignments. Students choose their favorite color.
    • @dlfulton puts numbers 0-1-2-3 on the ends of popsicle sticks (one number per end per side) and uses these numbers to record students’ participation.
  • @fravan shares his belief that class starts when students enter the room with new teachers. He likes to be in the classroom chatting and engaging with students from the beginning.

For more tips on classroom management, discussed on #langchat several weeks ago, visit Classroom Management for World Language Classes.

Effective Teaching for Student Teachers and New Teachers

In addition to effective management and mental strategies, there are some useful techniques that you can suggest to your new student teachers to help them in their quests to become a world language educator.

Often, teachers with the worst classroom management problems also have the most problems with their lesson plans. We’ve compiled a list of participants’ suggestions below, all of these ideas are great suggestions for new and old educators alike!

  • @dlfulton always stresses the importance of gestures and visual aids to support comprehensible input.
  • @petreepie suggests varying the activities so students are always challenged and engaged.
  • Lesson plans that use the target language 90% or more of the time are the most effective for students, but often it’s difficult for new teachers to adopt these. We have to help teachers see their effectiveness as well as assist with planning for them (@dr_dmd).
  • Going along with @SECottrell’s tip on choosing one topic and working only on it for a week or so, encourage new teachers to try out multiple techniques and strategies until they find things that work for them.
  • A useful tip for everyone is to create a “bag of tricks” of short activities for when classes end earlier than planned (@fravan).

Useful Resources for Student Teachers and New Teachers

Two useful technologies for assisting classroom management are Class Dojo and MyClassTalk (for iPhone). These are fun, useful tools that can take a lot of the guesswork out of running a class for new teachers.

For an electronic alternative to the popsicle-stick name-picking activity, try some of these teacher-suggested ideas:

  • The Hat, a free software that randomly chooses names for any in-class activities (@placido).
  • Classtools.net’s Fruit Machine random name picker (multiple teachers).

State and ACTFL standards are great helps for new teachers  as they can show what an effective classroom should look like. Other teaching organizations have excellent standards-based resources as well.

The TELL Project’s teacher observation form for administrators can be a useful tool for new teachers — to understand what they should be evaluated on — and for administrators — to understand what they should be evaluating.

@pamwesely presented on fresh ideas for cooperating and mentor teachers at ACTFL 2011, and you can view her presentation handout online.

Thank You!

As always, thanks to all our participants for sharing all your great ideas and discussion! #Langchat and all these resources wouldn’t exist without your support each week. Keep tuned to #langchat for more news about the first free e-book, “Web Tools for the 21st Century World Language Classroom.

Be sure to join us next week for another great discussion on #langchat! Feel free to let us know what you’d like to discuss by visiting our topic suggestion form. Also, check out the full archive of Thursday’s chat. Take care!

#LangChat is an independent group of world-language education professionals who come together every week via Twitter to share ideas and discuss pressing issues in the world of education. Check out the #LangChat wiki for more information about our goals and the team behind it all here. These weekly discussion summaries are sponsored by Calico Spanish as a service to the world-language community.

Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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