Positive attitude, organisation, focus, communication, feedback, questioning, review and closure are the essential teaching skills that all effective teachers should possess to maximise student learning (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010). First year teachers that possess these skills and apply these strategies in the classroom will feel less vulnerable and more prepared to meet the challenges of teaching, and they will be able to maintain a positive and manageable classroom. Combinations of strategies, such as agreeing on classroom rules and consequences at the beginning of the year, being consistent about expectations, reinforcing appropriate behaviour, being neutral, maintaining student dignity, etc, are also useful in classroom management.
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A calm and productive environment starts with the teacher. Appropriate actions and positive attitudes, of a teacher towards students, should be maintained at all times. Inappropriate handling of a problem student may make the situation worse. Teachers are a role model for students and students look to the teacher for safety and consistency in the classroom. If a teacher appears to not be able to handle behavioural problems in the classroom some students may become anxious and withdrawn. Teachers also need to be able to meet the instructional needs of an ever changing student population. The process used to meet these needs should also include examining learning style and how this, along with teaching style and classroom environment, contributes to the student’s academic achievement and fulfilment.
If teachers have the right approach to teaching, satisfaction can be gained from teaching when students enjoy learning and apply learning to everyday situations. “The more knowledgeable you are, the better able you will be to meet the demands and challenges of teaching, and the better able you will be to capitalise on its excitement and rewards” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p6). When teachers encourage students this makes learning fun and interactive, students begin to learn and take interest in what lies within information/knowledge which are not in the basic concept of just learning for the sake of it. This has been how teachers have taught in past generations. “One of the misconceptions about teaching is the idea that knowledge of subject matter is all that is necessary to teach effectively, knowledge of content is essential, but understanding how to make that content meaningful to students requires an additional kind of knowledge” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p7-8). Strategies and concepts applied correctly and effectively by teachers’ means that the students’ learning begins to take on meaning and ownership. It is imperatively important that as a teacher you understand what is being taught, “we can’t teach what we don’t understand” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p8). If a teacher has little understanding of the content it is hard for the students to learn as the teacher needs to have very good knowledge of content as well as pedagogical content knowledge – “an understanding of how to represent topics in ways that make them understandable to learners, as well as an understanding of what makes specific topics easy or hard to learn” (Eggen & Kauchak, 2010, p9).
Teachers need to encourage students to use their cognitive knowledge by forming groups within the classroom. Teachers choose basic concepts that they are confident the students will know and then get the students progressing onto more complex concepts. By having knowledge of basic concepts this allows students to recall knowledge that they have learnt in previous lessons to actively think about making connections and relationships associated to other subjects, for example how the ability to count is quite useful when completing scientific experiments. By doing this students are using both procedural and conceptual knowledge. When teachers call on an individual student to explain their process of thinking about the concepts of what they are learning allows the teacher to assess what the student has learnt. Placing students into groups allows the students to understand other students’ ways of thinking which then allows the student to assess and increase their own knowledge. Group placements allow the teacher to assess students’ Zone of Proximal Development. Students who have a ‘low zone’ will be helped in their thinking by the other students in their group who have a more developed proximal zone. This method is effective in guiding the students who need a little more help.
As booker et al (2010, p399) suggests, “Meaning, understanding and appreciation cannot be given to children by a teacher-dominated transmission approach to teaching. Students need a wealth of practical and creative experiences in solving problems by observing, analysing, describing, exploring and drawing a variety of shapes, arrangements, patterns, maps and other geometric structures”. Problem solving scenarios, in group tasks, best demonstrates this. Students are required to work in a team to encourage social interaction, critical thinking and active involvement. This also helps to motivate the students to stay on task and retain the knowledge and skills learnt. Encouraging free exploration allows the teacher time to assess the learning capacity of the students. Teachers are also more likely to offer help and assistance to the students who require further guidance or extra work for the students who excel at a faster pace. Having the ability to engage students in class activities and discussions, by using social situations and group work, also allows the teacher to discover what activities work towards helping students learn whilst keeping the attention on the lesson being taught. “Children ‘construct much of their reality through playing’ and their games almost always involve sustained attention, high-level thinking and collective as well as individual effort” (Booker eta l, 2010, p8).
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The resources that are available to teachers are designed to introduce students to the topic being taught, but also give the students, who have a better grasp of the topic, to challenge themselves further. The students, who are more advanced, are an asset to the teacher. These students can assist other students in a group situation as they can provide scaffolding to other students in the way of their thinking and processing skills as well as their higher Zone of Proximal Development.
By providing a safe, happy and positive environment teachers can guide students using a practical and hands on approach. Promoting team building that will challenge each student’s theories and learning skills through group activities can be achieved by creating socially and physically interactive classroom environments. Teachers need to be self observant and be able to adjust their teaching strategies and techniques to suit the needs of the students. Communication networks with other, and older, teachers are of a great value. First year teachers need to feel comfortable to ask for guidance and support, to ask for help when required and not to let problems increase. Think ‘outside the box’ and be proactive and seek alternative resources which may be adapted to meet the needs of different students and their levels of learning. Teachers are responsible for every student that enters their classroom. These are the students that teachers help shape by guidance and effective teaching strategies. The better prepared a teacher is, the better prepared the students of the future will be.
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