Tips and Tricks For Student Teachers

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Yes, we play with swords.

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Team Jacob anyone?

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When students be filling out their anonymous feedback cards.

     I tend to spend the first few days of a new teaching placement feeling like a nervous bundle because I just feel so alien. Teenager, #just #let #me #communicate #with #you! 

     One of the first things I do to get over my initial case of the classroom jitters is just talk to the students and get to know them as individuals. You can do this simply by playing icebreakers, asking about their weekends, or eating lunch with them. Over my last five years student-teaching and working small classroom jobs, I have collected and crafted several useful teaching tools like this that I now keep handy in my toolbox. I hope that these can in turn help you with your transition into an unfamiliar classroom. 

1. Two Truths and a Lie. I love, love, love this ice-breaker because what the students choose to disclose to you and what you think their “lie” is tells you a lot about how they view themselves. The idea is for each person to tell three random facts about themselves, but one of them must be a lie, and everyone else must guess the lie. For instance, I may say something like: 1) I play violin, 2) I know how to use a sword, 3) I like to drink hot water. Almost every time, the majority of the class will guess #2 as my lie (probably because I’m Asian, but actually I don’t play the violin), and they just don’t see a beautiful, confident young woman like myself wielding a deadly weapon. 

2. Greet students at the door. Call them by name and welcome them into your classroom! Show them you’re excited that they’re here to learn. You can also vary this up by giving students a firm handshake as they walk in, which sets a more professional tone and allows them to practice an important skill!

3. Keep an agenda on the board. I will usually write out a list of things I’d like to cover for the day and sometimes an item will in the form of an acronym or a “surprise.” It will always keep the students eager to find out what’s next!  

4. Pencil mustache to gauge student activity. I borrowed this idea from a host teacher of mine, Mrs. Winter. Whenever students are copying notes down and she wants to know how many of them are finished, she will say something like, “Give me a pencil mustache if you’re done writing this down” and students will instantly turn their writing utensils into facial hair! Alternatives may include bunny ears, peace sign, making a duck face… etc.
 
5. Use pop culture references. When I taught a lesson on electrical circuits, I found a way to tie in Twilight and One Direction into the lesson (“electrons travel in one direction, haha get it?”). The connection doesn’t have to be too deep, but enough to be relevant, and it’s a great way to help students remember difficult material. Besides, which teenage girls do you know who wouldn’t appreciate the occasional glimpse of their celebrity crush during class?? (Ew, not you Edward).  

6. Use popsicle sticks to keep track of students you’ve called on during class. This is also a favorite of mine that is borrowed from one of my awesome host teachers, Mr. Shaboz. He writes each student’s name onto a popsicle stick and during class, he will randomly select names from the class pile to answer questions. This is a neat way to ensure that every child is getting individual attention, and this also keeps students on their feet and attentive the entire lesson.  

7. Feedback cards. (Courtesy of Ms.Piasecka). Each student gets a blank cue card. On the board I will write three questions:
1. What did you like about the way Miss Soo taught? 
2. How can Miss Soo improve for next time?
3. On a scale of 1-10, how engaged did you feel in class? 

I normally do this on my last day of placement, but in retrospect I would also recommend implementing this as a mid-way check-in so that you have time to incorporate the feedback students give you. 

If you have suggestions for other tips or tricks that have worked well for you, please feel free to share them in the comments section. 

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