Instructional Strategies...Grace Martin & Young Shin
What strategies can teachers use to create an effective learning environment that engages students in the quarter system?
The quarter system involves three-hour classes in which multiple transitions and different activities must be utilized in order to keep students engaged. When lesson planning in the quarter system, we began with some web searches for effective strategies, but could not find much beyond the usual "think-pair-share." When we asked veteran teachers at CCH about effective strategies, we were referred to a paper resource from Barrie Bennett's book Beyond Monet. We decided to create an easily accessible online resource that compiled some of the best instructional strategies into one toolbox. Hence, the "easyteachertoolbox.weebly.com" website was born!
Our method began by deciding what categories of instructional strategies we wished to investigate. For the quarter system, we decided that the most important categories of strategies were: classroom management, engagement, collaboration, formative assessment, and brain breaks. We then referred to Beyond Monet. This paper resource has been used by several teachers at CCH with a lot of success, however its descriptions are lengthy and several strategies seemed to repeat themselves. We compiled and refined these descriptions of effective strategies and typed them into our weebly page. Then we began on the brain breaks section, which was a combination of ideas from our own experience and from David Sladkey's Energizing Brain Breaks Blog. To better illustrate each strategy, we inserted pictures from Google Images that were under the "labelled for reuse" category. Knowing that the veteran teachers at our school would have some very effective and unique approaches, we requested to have some time at the next P.D. day to ask our staff for help. At the P.D. day, we asked all of our teaching and educational assistance staff to think of their first year in the classroom, and then posed the question: "what effective strategy do you use today that you wish you had had in your first year of teaching?" The staff wrote their responses on cue cards, and when they were complete, we asked them to turn their cue card over and write down what rewards they use in their classrooms to motivate their students. We collected these cue cards and added their valuable information to our Weebly page. To our surprise, a lot of teachers did not write down instructional strategies, but personal advice. We added our favourite quote to the home page: "Use what works for you, and shamelessly throw the rest in the garbage." With the project finished, we emailed the link to our website to all staff at CCH.
Our project was well-received by other teaching staff at CCH. A few emailed us back to say "Great job!!! Very comprehensive and engaging. Thank you so much for your time and effort to developing a wonderful resource.", or said in person "your project is great, I'm actually going to use it!" We feel that digesting Barrie Bennett's strategies from the Beyond Monet book and tapping into the veteran experience of CCH teachers was very beneficial. It helped us to use strategies that work and are both engaging and fun for the students. Young has already been using strategies that incorporate motion. Young’s students have given feedback such as, "We should do more brain breaks like these Mr. Shin," or said to other teachers "We should do more moving around activities. Ask Mr. Shin for the fun ones." Young has learned that much of these strategies need to be adapted depending on a particular make up of students or subject matter. Grace has learned that students enjoy it when teachers are not afraid to try out new ways of learning, and that all methods (however effective for other teachers) must be adapted to your personal teaching style.
Young Shin has a mathematics background and taught Religious Education at Catholic Central High School for PS III. Grace Martin is a fantasy novel author with a background in biology and physics. She taught Science during her internship at Catholic Central High School.