Teaching requires the use of many different types of educational tools. Some are a necessity and some just make teaching and learning much more interesting. Many teaching tools are used for educating the children in your class while others are used for teacher preparation and organization. What are some tools that you should be using in your classroom and how should you be using them?
- Graphic Organizers: Graphic organizers are tools that teachers can give to students and use themselves. In essence, a graphic organizer is a type of a graph, chart or diagram that allows students to organize thoughts onto paper and to understand complex ideas and connections through illustration. There are hundreds of types that can be used for writing, social studies, science and language arts. Graphic organizers are essential tools that every teacher should use; not only do graphic organizers help students to organize their thoughts, but they also really do help convey new concepts in a digestible manner. Students who have learning disabilities will also benefit from the graphic organizer's ability to ease understanding and reduce stress.
When are graphic organizers good to use? How about when you are teaching paragraph writing? There are great graphic organizers out there that guide a student through paragraph-writing in steps, beginning with the initial topic sentence and then moving to the supporting sentences and eventually to the final sentence that either leads into the next paragraph or simply ends the body.
A Teacher should make overhead copies of all graphic organizers and perform several examples with her students before letting them embark on their own assignment. Students should always practice using the graphic organizer when the teacher is giving examples on the overhead. I highly recommend purchasing an educational book that is filled with templates for different graphic organizers to use in your class.
- Rubric: Rubrics are a scoring tool that teachers create, listing the criteria of an assignment, specifics on how that assignment will be graded, and guidelines for the quality and the quantity of the assignment. Categories from the assignment are chosen by the teacher and then placed on the rubric. Once the categories are determined, the teacher should assign a point value to each category. An easy point value is to use one to five points for each category. This transfers easily into a letter grade by adding total points together when grading the assignment or project.
Typically a rubric is used in a larger assignment or project. Rubrics are explained to the students before the project or assignment is started. Copies of the rubrics should be handed out to each student and the point value for each area of the rubric should be clearly marked on it. Rubrics allow for easier grading for the teacher when the assignments are submitted for review.
- Lesson Plan Book: Lesson plans, when used appropriately, are perhaps the most important teaching tool at our disposal. It is customary to use a lesson plan book, but not every teacher will utilize it to the fullest extent. I am mentioning its importance here because it is ideal to have your lesson plan book filled out accurately and in great detail for every lesson and every day of the week. Lesson plans not only help keep you organized and prepared, but they are also essential for you to have ready in case you are sick and need a substitute. Another important benefit of the lesson plan book is that, if you save the book for the next year, you already have lessons that you can improve, expand or revise so that you'll never again start from scratch. That is a huge time-saver!
- Media: Utilize computers, books and even your overhead projector. Teachers can use the overhead to teach any subject. Overheads can be used when direct teaching, reviewing, or even to enhance student participation. Among other things, computers aid in research, typing assignments and creating presentations. There are also many software programs that can enhance not only your teaching and organization, but also the student's learning experience. Ask your media specialist what is available for you. A computer is an invaluable tool that should be utilized them as often as possible. It isn't hard to incorporate this tool into your lesson plan.