Understanding the Different Types of Learning in Your Classroom

Learning in the Classroom

As a teacher, you are bound to come across a variety of students in your classroom with different backgrounds, tastes, abilities, etc. Inevitably, you will also find that your students receive information differently. Being able to recognize these varying learning styles is so important because you don’t want to teach everyone the same way and you must be able to adapt the way you teach to accommodate everyone and give them the best chance at succeeding. Take a look at the different learning types in the classroom and best practices to work with them.

 

Visual Learning

Someone who is a visual learner best receives information when they can see it in front of them. They might ask for a demonstration to see how something is done before they feel comfortable to dive into it themselves. They learn best with the use of maps, charts, and diagrams to better understand what is presented before them. Here are some things to do when working with visual learners:

 

  • Using flowcharts, webs, and charts to organize information

 

  • Use highlighted or color-coded notes to relate material better

 

  • Write checklists for formulas and commonly misspelled words

 

Auditory Learning

These students learn best through listening whether it be from spoken word or various sounds and noises. Some of these students might be very musically talented, so they may sing, or play in the school band. While your lesson may not be based on music, there are still many ways to accommodate these learners so that they can also feel part of the lesson. Best practices when dealing with auditory learners include:

 

  • Strike up a conversation with the student about the particular lesson

 

  • While in class have the students recite the information by asking questions for students to answer out loud

 

  • Get creative and have them put the material to a tune or rhythm for them to go over with you later

 

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners are going to want a more hands-on and physical experience with the material. Simply put, they learn best by doing. They enjoy actively going through the motions and feel the material within their body. Unlike visual learners who want to see something before they give it a shot, kinesthetic learners will want to dive right in and pick things up as they go along. Some best practices for working with kinesthetic learners are:

 

  • Having them write down notes on paper while they listen to the lesson

 

  • Maybe dramatize different concepts and have the students move objects around to act it out for themselves

 

  • Use some body movement while explaining something such as finger snapping, foot tapping, or even just mouthing ideas.

 

Honorable Mentions: Social and Solitary Learners

There are also some types of learners that are not as common as the three listed above but are still worth being aware of. Social Learners are the ones who work great in group settings. They are the students who are active in the school participating in clubs and sports and have no problem working with others. Solitary Learners are students who take to themselves more often than not. They typically come off as shy because they aren’t quick to raise their hand to ask/answer a question. They will usually try to figure things out on their own before deciding to come to you for help.

5 Ways to Involve Your Students in Philanthropy

Textbook open to a page that has a chapter titled "we care", image used for Robert Peters educator blog on how to get students involved with philanthropy

Philanthropy is very important to creating a better world, so it’s vital that we teach children the importance of helping others. While most schools push this mindset by teaching children not to bully one another and by periodically hosting fundraisers, there usually isn’t a lot of discussion about philanthropy, its importance, and how young people can get involved in meaningful ways. Young people spend so much of their time in the classroom, that it’s a great place to start teaching them to develop a philanthropic mindset. Here are some great ways you can help students pursue philanthropy.

Start a classroom project

While your school may participate in some kind of fundraiser or philanthropic event each year, it can be beneficial to do something within your classroom as well. Even if you’re just raising money to donate to a specific cause, you’re helping students get involved with philanthropy. However, it’s important to teach them that philanthropy isn’t just about donating money. Consider choosing a cause that lets you make something, such as cards for people in the hospital or an activity that raises money. If you can take your students somewhere to volunteer, definitely do it! It could be something like cleaning up a park or visiting the elderly, just make sure you meet any standards set by your school district for trips.

Teach a lesson on philanthropy

If you can’t actually do something with philanthropy, just teaching students about it can make an impact. Teach them the difference between philanthropy and charity, talk about the history of philanthropy and its prevalence in society today, discuss the ways philanthropy can significantly impact someone’s life; any of these topics can lead to rich discussions and learning experiences for students.

Plan a career day…with well-known philanthropists

Typically, career days involve local adults coming in to speak with students or students dressing up as the career they’d like to have. Consider adding a philanthropic twist to this traditional event by having students research well-known philanthropists and then give presentations on these individuals. You could also have local philanthropists visit your classroom and talk about how they’re involved with philanthropy and why they do it.

Get parents involved

Ultimately, the people who can influence your students the most to participate in philanthropy are their parents. Send home handouts with a list of ways children can get involved with philanthropy and also highlight the benefits, for students and those who are helped through philanthropies. If parents understand the importance of philanthropy, they’re more likely to continue encouraging students to pursue philanthropic endeavours.

Offer outside resources

Like sending a handout home to parents, giving students the resources they need to participate in philanthropy is incredibly helpful. Provide them with a list of suggestions on how they can participate in general philanthropy, like picking up trash or helping out other people in their daily lives. Also consider handing out information on local philanthropies, such as their locations and contact information along with a little blurb about what the organization does. Give students information about community volunteer days as well.

Creative Ways to Encourage Students to Write

Notebook with blank page and two crumpled up pieces of paper on top of it with a pen, image used for Robert Peters blog on creative ways to motivate students to write

One of the most difficult challenges educators face is encouraging students to write. Whether it’s writing in class or at home, most students just do not enjoy the prospect of writing, especially if it’s for an assignment. However, writing is a vital skill for the real world and being able to communicate through writing is an incredibly valuable trait. Even if you can’t motivate students to write in class, but they do decide to write on topics unrelated to classwork, you’re helping their education because studies show that any form of writing can improve overall writing skill.

Use relevant writing prompts

Kids feel more motivated to write if they can relate to the prompt. If they are interested in the topic they’re writing about, they’ll enjoy the writing more. Make the topics about hobbies, local events, or their families and friends. When the topics are something they feel a connection to, your students will put more effort and detail into their writing and actually be interested in what they’re writing about. Depending how old the students are, you can have them debate issues they feel strongly about, such as a school dress code or local community issue.

Encourage them to share

For most students, they enjoy being able to share their work with one another, their teacher, or even their families. Encourage sharing because it’ll motivate them to write better and actually listen to the input they receive from others on their writing. However, if a student is really shy and reluctant to share, do not force them to read their writing out loud or show it to another student. Ask if you can see it and give them your feedback or even encourage them to write for themselves without sharing their work with others.

Teach them anyone can write

The problem most students face is that they do not believe they can actually be talented writers. They’ve either never been told their writing is good, believe it’s not something they can learn, or have never been given instruction on how to write. Give your students examples of great writers who met failure time and time again or teach them simple tricks to improve their writing.

Do not demand perfection

Writing can be daunting for students because they believe what they write should be flawless for it to be considered “good.” Teach your students it’s okay to make mistakes and they can always ask for advice or input on their writing. If their grammar or plot development isn’t perfect, gently offer them advice on how to improve, but also look for aspects to compliment so they don’t feel discouraged.

Celebrate their writing

Any student likes compliments and receiving positive attention. Find something in each student’s work to celebrate and show them that they’re making progress. It’s important to offer constructive feedback, but it’s also vital that you avoid giving a student the impression their writing is bad and cannot be improved.
Check out even more ways to inspire students in their writing!

Rural Schools Consider Switching to a 4-Day School Week

Image of blank notebook with pencil, small pencil sharpener, and shavings on the sheets. Used for Robert Peters blog about rural school considering switch to a 4-day school week.

Recently, rural schools across the country have begun switching to a 4-day school week. It’s unclear whether or not reducing the days students spend in school is beneficial in the long run; there hasn’t been enough time for schools using this type of school week to show a clear outcome. Right now, the schools making the switch are all rural schools located in the Midwest; 88 districts in Colorado, 43 in Idaho, 30 in Oregon, and nearly half of the districts in Montana. The administrators of these schools believe that this change will benefit the districts in various ways, but that hypothesis remains to be determined.

How does it work?

The plan for the 4-day school week looks like this: students spend slightly more time at school each day, which can be anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes, then they use Friday for more extracurricular or family activities. School districts originally thought that cutting a day from the school week would lead to lower costs, but that idea has been mostly disproven. A main reason districts are attempting the change is because they lack funding and attention from the federal and state governments. Rural areas are scrambling for ways to cut costs and a 4-day school week seems like the best solution. Many districts made the switch on a trial basis, but the community and students view it as a permanent change; it’ll be challenging to move back to a 5-day school week after everyone has adjusted to only four days.

What are the benefits?

Some studies have also shown positive results, particularly regarding children’s academic performance and cutting costs for some districts. Some school districts have seen significant changes regarding students’ scores. The main concern is saving money and many report that moving to a 4-day week allowed them to reach this goal. Another benefit of a 4-day school week comes from families having more time to spend with their children and also more time to run errands and take children to doctor’s appointments or on vacations, without pulling them out of school.

What are the drawbacks?
Though many positive studies exist, for some districts, there was not a noticeable difference in academic performance or financial savings for other schools. The change hasn’t necessarily been detrimental to these two factors, but it hurts the community in other ways. While most students and school employees like the idea of a 4-day school week, many parents are against it. Families with two working parents must find someone to watch their children on their new day off, which costs more money. Children may not have food or heat at home and they have one less day they can rely on a meal and warm environment, where they’re being nurtured. The switch works for a subset of families and can be extremely beneficial to them, but it’s also important that other families who don’t have the means to provide childcare of enrichment for their children on the new day off aren’t overlooked.

5 Ways to Get Students Outside

Image for Robert Peters blog post about how to get students outside

It’s been an unusual winter, but the sun is finally out and the weather is starting to get warmer. Students sense spring is here and know that means the end of the year is fast approaching. It can be difficult to keep students focused during class, when they’re stuck inside and can see the sun shining right outside the window, all while eagerly anticipating summer vacation. Taking your students outside for a period of time will help them get rid of their anxiousness to be out of the classroom and it’s healthy to get some fresh air. Read about some of the ways you can incorporate time outside into your lesson plans  to satisfy your students and also cultivate learning. You’ll like being outside too!

Give them a head start on homework

If it fits into your class schedule, plan to give them some time to start their homework during class. Students will focus because they know they’re working ahead and will have less to do that night and they’ll also be accomplishing something for the class. You can also head outside to let students start a worksheet they’re supposed to finish in class or to quickly review work from the day before. If students will be sitting and working on something anyway, you might as well let them do it outside.

Offer free reading time

While this activity depends on the type of class you have, students will almost always have something they need to read, whether it’s a novel, play, article, or research. Take your class outside while they read. If you’re reading together as a class, that is another great opportunity to move outside, so students can sit in a circle and read through their assignment together.

Create a writing prompt

Craft a writing prompt students can complete outside. Have them composes a poem about nature or write what they observe as they sit outside and listen. Encourage everyone to spend a few moments silently listening to everything around them; you’re helping them with their observational skills as well. If they’d spend time in class writing, it’ll be easy to let them do this task while outside.

Make it class specific

You can take any one of these ideas and tweak it to best fit your class. You can also do certain activities depending on what subject you’re teaching. If students are learning about ecology, teach them local plants and animals, then head outside and see if you can find any. For a literature class, spend time reading famous literature about nature, then let students try to write their own from inspiration while being outside.

Play a game

If you can schedule free time into your class schedule, try this idea! It’s important to stay focused on class work and accomplish what needs to be done, but sometimes students just need a break. Figure out a fun, easy activity that allows students to spend time outside, interact with one another, and also move around. Once you go back inside, your students will be much more focused on learning after working off excess energy.

The Difference Between a Teacher and an Educator

An image used for a blog post on the difference between being a teacher and being an educator

Before getting into the more minute differences between a teacher and an educator, I’d like to start with a simple dictionary definition of the two terms. The definition of a teacher is “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct,” while an educator is defined asa person who gives intellectual, moral, and social instructions.” There is a clear difference between these two words, which indicates that there’s a clear difference to the people we apply them to. Many use the two words interchangeably, but that isn’t completely accurate. As I’ve stated in another blog, you can be a teacher and not be an educator, you can be an educator and not be a teacher, or you can be both.

Educating vs. teaching

There’s a difference between teaching a child a list of facts and helping them sincerely understand a lesson. Educators make it their goal to ensure that students fully understand the lesson, while teachers who are not educators merely get through their lesson and hope the students took enough away to pass the class. Educators seek to instill deep understanding in students, the kind of learning that they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.

Inspiring vs. telling

When a teacher merely focuses on teaching their students and not educating them, it usually results in telling them facts and a way of looking at topics, instead of inspiring the students to take learning onto themselves. Educators often inspire students to pursue their interests and delve deeper into certain subjects. Throughout the discovery process, educators will encourage this development and continue to cultivate any inspiration and interest.

Encouraging growth vs. meeting goals

For many teachers, it’s difficult enough to get through the daily syllabus and make sure students are sufficiently prepared for tests and are also completing their homework. An educator can take all of these goals a step further and encourage their students to grow as individuals in addition to teaching the required subjects and lessons. When working with students, an educator helps them grow in their lives outside of and beyond school, instead of only teaching them the lessons to get them to graduation. True educators teach students valuable life lessons and help them grow and become better people.

I feel confident in saying that the majority of teachers aspire to also become educators, but it can be incredibly difficult, especially in a school that doesn’t provide teachers with enough resources or training to handle a classroom full of children. Becoming an educator takes lots of studying and practice, but it’s definitely an admirable goal to strive toward.

Top Podcasts for Educators

Robert Peters Top Podcasts for Educators

Podcasts are a great way to work on your professional development, stay in touch with current news and trends, and come up with creative ideas for your classroom. Nearly every profession and hobby have a few podcasts about the industry and education is no exception. If you have spare time, such as during a commute, while grading papers, or when you’re cooking dinner, listening to a podcast about how to be a better educator can greatly benefit you. While there are quite a few education podcasts out there, here are some of the top ones.

Free Teaching PD

This podcast features speakers who are leaders in the education industry and each week has a different speaker. They discuss the latest ideas and innovations in teaching and help you work on your own creativity. After listening to this podcast, you’ll feel inspired to try your own hand at coming up with some great ideas to enhance education.

Talks With Teachers

Brian Sztabnik, a former English teacher and blogger, hosts this podcast. The podcast features educators who feel passionate about their profession and wish to discuss their own classrooms. A theme for 2016 was focusing on educators who also run their own blogs and what it’s like being a teacher who regularly blogs. The speakers are all from different areas and have varied work experience, so it’s always interesting to hear their insights into education.

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers

This podcast focuses specifically on the issue of burnout with teachers and how it can be avoided. Watson’s podcast provides a way for stressed teachers to feel understood and realize that lots of other people feel the same way they do. The podcast also offers possible solutions to issues that teachers may face in the classroom.

The Cult of Pedagogy

In this podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez features not just educators, but also parents, administrators, and students who discuss teaching and the classroom. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from technology use in the classroom to the best ways to manage your classroom. If something is related to education, this podcast has or will feature it.

Every Classroom Matters

Vicki Davis, an incredibly influential educator, runs this podcast and focuses on incorporating technology into the classrooms and creating stronger relationships with students. Her podcast also covers how to feature STEM in the classroom more, as well as teaching students the basics of coding. She’s been ranked as a top teacher, so this podcast is definitely worth listening to.

How Teachers Can Create a Work-Life Balance

Robert Peters How Teachers Can Create a Work-Life Balance

All too often, teachers experience burnout. Teaching can be an incredibly stressful job, putting in long hours and working with dozens of students each day. Teachers also often struggle with keeping work separate from home, because they need to grade homework and prepare lesson plans, which is difficult to find time for during normal workday hours. The issue is further complicated for teachers who are also coaches or advise extracurricular activities. These teachers frequently stay after regular hours to run practices or meetings and often make themselves available to students at all hours and on the weekends. With so many responsibilities, how can teachers find a stable work-life balance?

Learn to say “no”

First off, you need to learn to prioritize as an educator. If you already have too much to do and are stressed, you don’t need to take on the role as an advisor for another student group. It’s important to connect with your students and support them, but you won’t be any help if you take time off or leave teaching entirely due to burnout. Even if your supervisor asks you to take charge of something, unless it’s a vital responsibility, do not be afraid to turn it down and focus on keeping a healthy balance between your personal life and work.

Keep yourself healthy

One of the biggest issues with burnout is that teachers become exhausted from working too much. Make sure you’re taking the time to de-stress and getting plenty of sleep. Fit some time to exercise into each day and also make sure you’re eating healthy. Cut back on caffeine and pack yourself nutritious lunches. Having a balanced diet, exercise, and enough rest will give you extra energy.

Here’s a website with great blogs about staying healthy and reducing your workload as an educator.

Create a support system

You work with plenty of other teachers who understand exactly what you’re going through. Rely on them as a support system. You can vent to them about difficult students and ask their advice on how to manage a work-life balance and any tips they might have about easing your workload. You also have friends and family outside of work who care about you and can help you de-stress. If you have a roommate or spouse, ask them for their help and support as well, especially with duties around the house. Working as a team will make finding balance much easier.

Don’t bring work home

While this step may be hard, there are ways to do it. Lots of teachers with families and busy lives outside of work have managed to avoid taking their work home. By learning to say no and prioritizing their responsibilities, many teachers do not have work to do outside of the usual workday hours. Improve your organization and time management skills and eventually, you’ll be able to avoid bringing work home, so you can create an even better work-life balance.

Technology Resources to Use With Students

Image for Robert Peters's blog about technology resources to use to educate students in the classroom

Technology has become more prevalent in our world than ever before. Now, nearly every person has a smartphone and understands how to use a computer. This flourishing of technology has been seen in schools as well. Most students have personal cell phones and can navigate a school computer with ease. It’s a common experience for teachers to struggle with trying to get students to pay attention in class instead of to their smartphones. Instead of forbidding the use of technology in the classroom, here are some great resources teachers can use that combine technology and learning.

Figment

This site offers students a chance to publish their own writing of any kind and then receive feedback from other students. They can also comment on and discuss others’ writing that’s posted on the site, though it’s important to note that not all the content is appropriate for school or all ages, so you might want to check it out yourself before using the site. There are all types of writing on this site, so you may want to encourage young writers in your class to check it out.

Glogster

Students can create their own interactive posters on any topic and customize them as they see fit on this site. It can be used online as well as with a mobile app. Your students can easily add text, links, audio, video, and images to their Glogster and play around with the many features the site offers. It gives them a chance to be creative, while also creating an educational tool for a presentation or project.

CNN Student News

CNN offers informative news clips that cover current events and are only ten minutes long. You can start the day with watching the daily clip with your students and then have discussions about the events or ask a few questions about what they learned.

Free Rice

This website is a fantastic way for students to review different topics and also help out a good cause. FreeRice.com donates 10 grains of rice to the hungry for every answer you get correct when using the site. And yes, it’s legit. You can choose from math, humanities, English, chemistry, geography, sciences, and even various languages. It’s a great way to give students some downtime while also having them work on something relevant to class, but also fun. You might want to offer some kind of prize to the student who has the highest amount of rice at the end of the week or month.

DIY

Students can learn more about topics they’re interested in and also discover new passions through this site. It allows them to complete challenges and earn badges and can also be connected to an adult account so a students’ parents and teacher can follow their progress. The environment is completely safe and gives students the chance to learn more about themselves and what they want to do in the future. After students complete a challenge, you can have them create a tutorial or short presentation on what they learned.

Check out this list for even more technology resources for your classroom.

7 Habits of Effective Teachers