As any teacher education program will tell you, there are many different kinds of instructional strategies that have been developed and implemented in classrooms over the years. In contemporary pedagogical research, some of these methods are considered more effective than others at engaging students, helping everyone absorb information, and creating positive learning spaces. The following are a few teaching methods that can work for students of all ages.
Differentiated instruction is a method where an instructor will alter their teaching style to be more accessible for all members of a classroom. This usually means presenting the same information in different ways or providing learning activities that are tailored to students' individual levels and needs. Differentiated instruction can be particularly effective in classrooms with multiple English language learners (ELLs) to ensure that all students can understand the content being presented, regardless of their English abilities.
Classrooms where students are at multiple grade levels, or classes with students who have learning disabilities, can also benefit from differentiated teaching.
To implement differentiated teaching, you can:
Deliver content and educational materials (lectures, readings, and more) at various levels of linguistic complexity so that all students are adequately challenged.
Offer a variety of potential project formats that have the same learning outcomes, which allows students to choose the format that best suits their skills.
Give excelling students the option to access extra credit projects and assignments that will allow them to challenge themselves further.
Differentiated instruction requires that teachers get to know their students and understand their needs. While it can be applied to any classroom and any subject, this is a teaching strategy that is likely to evolve over the course of the semester or school year. It requires flexibility on the part of the instructor as well as good perceptual skills so that teachers can see what individual students need the most.
Culturally Responsive Teaching
As a teacher, chances are you are working with students from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures. Culturally responsive teaching is a relatively new teaching style that seeks to integrate students' cultures and experiences into the classroom in a positive and respectful way.
This kind of teaching can manifest in a wide variety of different ways.
As a teacher, you can positively acknowledge all of the various cultures of your students in the class by having respectful discussions about those cultures and allowing students to safely share things unique to their cultures.
You also want to be sure to understand that your students may have different approaches to education and learning based on their personal cultural background.
In the classroom, you can make a special point to create opportunities for projects and presentations that allow students to share aspects of their culture and heritage
When you know your students are culturally diverse, you can plan to implement different teaching and learning styles and approaches based on those different cultures.
It's also important to provide positive acknowledgement of different family configurations and backgrounds so that students can see themselves in learning materials, lessons, and other classroom activities.
As a teacher, you can also strive to explore the differences and similarities between students and cultures in a respectful and encouraging way in order to foster conversation and understanding.
In the context of subjects like history, you might consider events through various cultural lenses and exploring different interpretations of and responses to historical and current events.
Culturally responsive teaching is one of the best ways to create a safe and enriching learning environment for all students. It allows students to feel understood and accepted, promotes understanding among peers, and even allows teachers to learn from their students' experiences.
In North America in particular, culturally responsive teaching might take the form of an emphasis on indigenous culture and teaching methods. This can help indigenous students connect to and share their cultures while also teaching non-indigenous students about the land on which they are living.
Active Teaching and Learning
Active learning requires students to take an active role in their education rather than just listening to their teachers. Whether you are teaching writing strategies, mathematics, or science, there are ample opportunities in every subject for students to get actively engaged in the learning environment.
With some students, encouraging active learning is easy: teachers can give students the chance to answer questions, present on various topics, and participate in activities. For students who are not as naturally enthusiastic or interested in the subject matter at hand, active learning requires active teaching.
To help students who are less engaged to become active learners, try the following techniques:
- Engage students on an individual basis to see what aspects of a subject they find most interesting
- Create activities that require all members of the class to join in, but provide various roles for students to fill so that they can do what they are most comfortable with
- Introduce humor or competition into learning activities
- Provide positive reinforcement when students participate
- Help students understand the value of participating in their own education
Some students will prefer more individual or subtler forms of participation, and that can be its own form of active learning. Not all students will be comfortable speaking in front of the class or joining in with activities. Completing assignments, good focus levels, and enjoyment of the subject matter are all considered active learning.
It is also important to remember that students who have difficult home lives or other considerations may struggle to be active learners and may need extra support from teachers to allow them to participate in a way that works for them.
Varied Teaching Aids
As a teacher, your presentation style is one of the most important ways that you can engage with students. There are several ways that you can optimize your teaching style to make your lessons as engaging and interesting for students as possible. The first important way to do this is to present information using a variety of teaching aids.
In addition to presenting lessons by speaking to your class, make sure to incorporate visual references whenever possible. Other forms of teaching aids that can be helpful include examples, gestures and kinesthetic instruction, tactile learning aids, and audiovisual presentations like videos or slideshows.
Varied teaching aids are helpful for a wide variety of subjects, from literacy to biology to fine arts. Some students learn best by listening, some by watching, some by writing, and some by tactile or kinesthetic experiences. Many students also find it easier to retain information that has been provided through multiple memorable formats rather than just one. Try to switch up your methods to keep your presentation style interesting and effective. Talk to your students in a personable way to engage them, and don't be afraid to make mistakes. All of these factors can help you build a stronger relationship with your students while also providing them with a rich and varied learning experience whenever possible.
Education and Learning Strategies
Students learn in a variety of different ways. Some of these types of learning have only been more recently researched, while others are well-established. You can structure your classroom environment to promote the following types of learning so that students can have the opportunities to explore and participate in education in a variety of ways. These learning strategies accept that there are many ways for students to engage with educational materials and thrive in a learning environment.
Project-based learning is an educational style that encourages in-depth student engagement. It goes beyond just doing projects in a classroom environment and instead focuses on long-term projects that have real-world applications. This is a method that encourages students to participate in the local community and have educational experiences that really make a difference.
Project-based learning can help students gain a better understanding of how the world works, their place in the community, and the methods involved in the practical application of what they are learning. Project-based learning can be applied to many different subjects, though some kinds of projects may require teachers and school administrators to get in touch with community organizations to set up learning opportunities.
Examples of potential projects include:
Students learning about plant biology participate in an invasive plant pull or other ecological restoration initiative.
Students in a physics class work together to create solutions to community problems using physics and design principles.
A class of intermediate or advanced Spanish students works on a real-world translation project alongside the local Spanish-speaking community.
A history class works with the local archives on a digitization project to preserve primary sources.
These are just a few examples of projects where students can make a difference while being part of a learning environment. In addition to helping students learn, these kinds of projects can also provide professional development experience to help students understand more about the kinds of jobs they might be interested in doing in the future.
Experiential learning is often confused with project-based learning, but in fact the two teaching techniques have different applications and goals. Experiential learning is a broad term for any learning style that allows students to get hands-on experience that enriches their learning, whether or not that experience is part of a community-based project. Many pedagogical theories recommend incorporating experiential learning as it can help with retention of information, improve student interest, and give students a better understanding of the applicability of what they are studying.
Examples of experiential learning include:
- Nature walks and outdoor activities
- Roleplay and practice activities that apply newly learned principles
- Field trips to places that are related to the activities in question
- Projects where students make physical objects based on recent learning
- Projects based on real-life experiences that students have had
All of these kinds of experiential learning can be tailored to students' individual learning goals and needs. The purpose of experiential learning is to help students engage directly in their education in a way that is meaningful for them, memorable, and helpful for them as learners. For some students, experiential learning can make them come alive and can make learning feel more real. You may have heard the common complaint from your class, 'when are we ever going to use this in real life?' Experiential learning is a great way to answer that question.
Traditional teaching techniques have sometimes required students to follow a narrow learning path that fits into specific curriculum criteria without focusing very much on students' individual interests and skills. Inquiry-based learning is a technique that allows students to expand on what they are learning based on their own particular interests. It encourages students to ask questions and pursue their own lines of exploration and inquiry to produce new results.
Imagine a class that is learning about, for example, ancient Mesopotamia. A teacher who was focusing on inquiry-based learning might start by delivering one or several lectures on ancient Mesopotamia, covering broad-ranging topics and an overarching timeline of events. Once this material had been delivered, the teacher would talk to students about their particular interests and the kinds of questions that they had about the material.
Students would each choose a research topic and do their own inquiry-based learning. The teacher would provide support for students as they researched their topic and would offer a variety of formats for the final results, like a project or an oral presentation of students' findings. Some students might learn about food production and agriculture, some about tool use or trade, and others about culture and social structure.
Inquiry-based learning has the benefits of not only improving student interest in a topic but also providing more breadth and depth of information to a class. It can teach students to be self-sufficient in their research and to take initiative. It can also be rewarding for students who ask questions and who want to go above and beyond what is taught in class.
Inquiry-based learning has the benefits of:
- Improving students' interest in a topic
- Providing more breadth and depth of information to a class
- Teaching students to be self-sufficient in their research
- Teaching students to take initiative
- Being rewarding for students who ask questions and want to go above and beyond what is taught in class
If you are interested in integrating inquiry-based learning in your classroom, make sure to support students by providing clear guidelines, access to primary and secondary sources, and support for students as they examine different questions and modes of inquiry.
Teachers have long recognized the importance of teamwork and collaboration in the classroom, and cooperative learning is a great way for you to emphasize teamwork among your students. Cooperative learning teaches students to value each other and to value their own unique skills and contributions to the learning environment. In many cases, you can use cooperative learning as an alternative to the traditional, more individualistic way that students are encouraged to learn. Rather than emphasizing individual achievement, cooperative learning teaches students to work together to find solutions and to share those solutions so that everyone benefits.
Examples of cooperative learning include:
Group projects where each student has a different role.
Problem-solving activities conducted in groups or as a class.
Roleplay activities where students can play a variety of parts.
Activities that require students to generate solutions based on a variety of different skills and areas of expertise.
There are times when cooperative learning is appropriate, as in the above scenarios, and times when it might not be the best choice for a class. Tests and individual assessments, for instance, may not be a time when group collaboration is acceptable. However, cooperative learning is a good way to for students to learn social skills as well as potential skills for professional development in the future. It also teaches students leadership abilities and helps them understand how they can contribute to group activities.
It is important to monitor cooperative learning carefully to ensure that students are all playing to their strengths in a group, rather than one or two students doing almost all of the work. Explaining expectations clearly and offering ongoing support throughout the cooperative learning process are good ways to ensure a positive result for all of your students.
Teacher and Student Activities
Some of the best methods a teacher can use in the classroom take the form of specific activities that teachers and students can do in a classroom setting. These activities can improve student learning while also preparing students for further education and a career. Many of these activities and strategies are evolving rapidly because of the changing technologies and cultural environments that students are likely to encounter in today's world. All of them can help you develop stronger teacher-student relationships and create a more innovative and effective classroom environment.
Gamification is a term for the process of turning a lesson or learning objective into a game. Some of these games may make use of digital technologies, while others can be played using traditional mediums. Turning a lesson into a game is a great way to boost student engagement and make class more fun for everyone.
Gamification can include class-wide competitions, group games, or even single-player games. Almost any subject, from memorizing the rules of the order of operations to spelling difficult words, can benefit from gamification.
A race to see who can fill out a times table sheet the fastest.
A game of charades using chemistry vocabulary words.
A drawing game where a student draws on the board and their teammates have to guess what concept they are depicting.
Online single-player games to help students learn math, spelling, or typing skills.
Homework that takes the form of games to provide students with practice.
Word puzzles to help students learn grammar concepts.
Riddles to promote creative thinking.
All of these types of games can be modified for different school levels and subjects. Make sure that games allow all students to participate and that they are engaging for your class. If students respond well to a particular game format, consider repeating it with different material at a later date. Games should be fun, after all, so work with your students to figure out what kinds of games work best for them.
Peer teaching is a term for any activity where students teach each other to assist with their own learning. Many teacher training programs have recognized the effectiveness of this method for a long time, but it is important to note that some kinds of peer teaching tend to work better than others. In order for students to get the most from peer teaching, they need consistent support from instructors, clear expectations for their roles as teachers and learners, and the ability to work to their own strengths.
One great way to promote peer teaching is through research projects. Have students research particular topics either alone or in small groups, with each student or group tackling a different subject. Explain to the students that it is their job to teach the rest of their class about their subject. The students will do their own research and structure a lecture for their classmates that goes into detail. Their lecture might include a visual presentation or class activities.
This kind of project can improve students' teaching skills, allow them to become experts in their own topic, and teach them to deliver information clearly and answer their peers' questions. Peer teaching can also be used to provide an extra challenge for students who excel in class while providing extra learning opportunities for students who are struggling.
In an increasingly online world, students interact with media more than ever before. Many teachers are finding that it is increasingly important to work with students to improve media literacy skills so that students are better able to navigate online sources and make informed decisions about what they are reading and watching. Teaching media literacy can help your students identify misinformation, understand how to locate and cite primary and secondary sources, and how to engage with media with a critical eye.
You can improve your students' media literacy through many different strategies:
The best way to foster media literacy is by incorporating various kinds of media sources into your teaching methodology. This might include using video clips, newspaper articles, or even social media posts.
In the classroom, you can have group conversations about what media bias and then can brainstorm ways for spotting misinformation. This can help lead to a conversation about why media literacy is important.
Another great way to encourage critical thinking skills is teaching students how to find and cite reliable sources and how to use their judgment when doing research. You might also set a minimum number of sources that students need to cite for any given project.
To really help students understand reliable an unrealiable sources, show your students examples of media hoaxes and misinformation, which can help them identify such things in the future. Having students create their own media hoaxes to present to the class as a way to bring humor and experiential learning into the conversation as well.
Helping students develop good media literacy skills is increasingly becoming an essential job for teachers and parents alike. This is a set of skills that can apply to students at any age and in any subject. In addition to helping students produce higher quality work, media literacy can also help them make sense of a complex world.
Technology in the Classroom
Just as media literacy is becoming more and more important, technology is playing an increasing role in students' lives. Integrating technology into the classroom is one way for teachers to keep their students' education up to date in the modern world. The use of technology can take a lot of different forms, from online learning at all educational levels to the use of computers and other devices in the classroom.
Learning to use technology in a school environment can teach students how to be responsible and safe in an online environment. Teachers should discuss online privacy and information sharing with students. Of course, the use of computers, cameras, and other kinds of technology in a school environment will be largely budget-dependent, which can pose a challenge for some teachers and schools.
While technology in the classroom may not be an option for everyone, there are some programs that can help you access technology for your classroom, including:
- Computers for Learning allows schools to apply to receive free computers for their students.
- The National Cristina Foundation has an application process for public schools and other educational programs to receive technology, especially if they work with low-income or otherwise marginalized students and families.
- Computers with Causes is also targeted at marginalized individuals and organizations.
- Everyone On has an application process for schools and for families to receive low-cost computer technology.
In addition to these resources, there are hundreds of local and state-specific organizations that can also help you get access to technology for your students. While having computers in the classroom is by no means obligatory, it can enrich students' school experiences while helping them to become technologically literate.
Interdisciplinary study is a particular approach to learning that teaches students to look at a single topic from multiple perspectives. If you are able to integrate two or more school subjects into the same lesson or topic, students can have a more enriched and holistic learning experience.
Examples of interdisciplinary study could include:
Reading a fiction book about a historical event, combining English with history.
Incorporating social studies with science to teach students about the history and applicability of scientific concepts.
Teaching non-language subjects in a class's second language to improve fluency and vocabulary.
Having students create artwork or other creative projects that relate to lessons in other subjects to help with retention and self-expression.
Interdisciplinary study is a highly versatile teaching method that can help prepare students for further education. It can help them look at problems creatively and to think outside the box, drawing on other areas of expertise to reach the best possible conclusions. This is also a great way to make learning less rigid and less clearly divided into different subjects, letting students transition smoothly from one area of study to another and allowing them to make creative connections.
Effective Teaching Strategies for Student Mental Health
As a teacher, you might already have noticed that some of your students struggle with mental health and behavioral issues. Some have called the apparent increase in student anxiety and depression a mental health epidemic, and it is something that many teachers are seeking to help with.
Fortunately, there are several effective teaching strategies that are being developed specifically to help teachers help their students. These suggestions can help you promote good mental health, positive self-image, and rewarding relationships among your students. They can also help reduce behavioral issues and help you create a more inclusive and accessible environment for disabled and neurodivergent students.
Social-emotional learning (SEL) is a pedagogical strategy that emphasizes students' emotional wellbeing and their ability to connect with others. It is a broad-ranging teaching plan that has many different elements.
There are five main areas that SEL targets:
- Responsible decision-making
- Relationship skills
- Social awareness
To help students improve in these areas, teachers can implement a wide variety of practices in the classroom. These can include:
Daily check-ins where students start the day with a brief discussion and acknowledgement of the start of the lesson or school day.
Discussions around self-esteem and good mental health practices.
Emphasis on empathy and active listening among students.
Teaching students how to productively manage difficult emotions and resolve conflicts.
Check-outs and reflections to help students end the school day and transition to after-school life.
The benefits of SEL as reported by teachers, families, and communities are profound. Students tend to have higher academic achievement; better social and emotional skills; a reduction in anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues; and long-term improvement in their social mobility and prospects. Teachers have reported that SEL has helped them create a compassionate and happy learning environment with fewer behavioral issues and conflicts among students.
If you want to reduce class conflict and behavioral issues, creating a behavior intervention plan may be the right choice for you. This is a strategy where teachers collaborate with students to create reasonable expectations for behavior in the classroom. Students and teachers can brainstorm what they think the rules of the class should be so that everyone understands and agrees on them. This can help students feel that they have some control over their educational environment and that their opinions are valued.
Behavioral plans can also help you design conflict resolution strategies and behavioral management practices that work for your students' needs. Some behavioral plans include creating a quiet corner of the class where students can go to cool off if they get upset. This space can also provide an area of reduced stimulus for neurodivergent students who get easily overwhelmed. These tools can help students feel safe at school and feel that they understand how to proceed, even when things get challenging.
Whether you're a veteran teacher or new one, or even a student awaiting the results of their Praxis, NES, TExES, or CSET exam, you may be looking for new ways to teach your students. You're likely to learn about a wide range of teaching strategies both during your teacher education program and on the job, and one of the challenges of teaching is finding the methods and approaches that work best for you and your students. Finding that fit can help make teaching even more rewarding, so we hope some of the strategies we've provided in this guide can help.