Five Ways to Start Your Lessons


Attention getters, do nows, morning meetings, hugs, and high fives. These are often the ways teachers start their days. By now, you probably have your routines in place for how you start your day or class period. But sometimes it’s good to mix it up. Or maybe you’re looking for an exciting entrance to a specific lesson plan. Just like writers, teachers often need a hook!

Whether you’re mixing it up or just curious about what other teachers do, check out these five videos to see five different ways teachers start their lessons.

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Animating The Classroom

TED youth Brooklyn museum November 2015

TEDYouth conference at the Brooklyn Museum. November, 2015. Photo by Ryan Lash for TED via Flickr

It was outstanding. Under the soft glow of the mighty brass chandeliers of the Beaux Arts Court of the Brooklyn Museum, learning stations — many decorated with a splash of iconic TED red — were scattered about the restored glass tile floor like a handful of strategically tossed jacks. As I bounced about the room, I watched 400 students smile with delight, scrambling to engage, create, and collect the vast knowledge available in the room. They vibrated with energy and I knew in an instant that this conference would be extraordinary.

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Hamilton: The Ten Dollar Founding Father Proves Priceless in American Classrooms

Revolution, independence, the founding of our nation — this was my favorite era to teach. I have more creative, exciting lessons for this period than for any other, no matter the course or Hamilton the Musicalcontent.

Fascinated by the often fortuitous folly of the Founding Fathers, I made it a point to show my students that this nation was created by a group of brilliant but imperfect men — and women.

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Common Core Math Playlist: Engaging Students with “Productive Struggle”

Editor’s Note: Math teachers across the country are learning the power of formative assessment in their classrooms. In this video series, we bring you an opportunity to see formative assessment in action, with the help of math consultant Ann Shannon and resources from the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP). Ann provided the initial training for teachers in Kentucky’s Kenton County on how to implement MAP and frameworks from the Math Design Collaborative. She observed teachers in the classroom, gave real-time feedback, helped facilitate the after school meetings to analyze student work, and helped build capacity in the district so that the work would be sustainable.

When I first read the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics, I felt overwhelmed. I loved the idea of common standards and a focus on math practice standards as a way for students to interact with the content, but I wasn’t sure how this would look. How would I support teachers and their approach to this content? Soon after Kentucky adopted the CCSS in March of 2010, my district, Kenton County, got involved with the Math Design Collaborative (MDC) as a way to help teachers make sense of the standards and begin shifting instruction toward the Common Core. My work with teachers around MDC has been critical to our students’ success because of the focus on formative assessment and teacher collaboration time.
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Video Playlist: 6 Ways to Build Relationships with Students

In these videos, you’ll find tips to help build authentic relationships with your students and define your classroom culture.

1. Creating a “Comfortable” Classroom Environment: Middle school can be a sensitive age where students may start feeling anxious about belonging in their communities. Mr. Van Dyck puts students at ease with verbal and nonverbal indicators, and encourages students to be themselves around him.

2. Advisory: Check-In and Support and Building Student-Advisor Relationships: Having a time and place where students can talk about their lives and receive support from peers and teachers can go a long way in creating a positive class culture. Advisories can be helpful in both small groups or one-on-one with educators and students.

3. Making it Personal in the Classroom: Ms. Koch shows how sharing personal anecdotes makes students feel safe and more inclined to open up to her about their lives.

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Your Body Language Speaks Volumes: 6 Tips for Teachers

Start off your school year on the right foot! Here are 6 body language tips to help with classroom management:

1. Lesson Starters: From the moment her students walk through the door, Ms. Bubb demonstrates that they have her undivided attention, making students more likely to focus on Ms. Bubb and her instructions.

2. My Teacher Look: Keep students on track and redirect behavior with just one look. Every teacher needs one of these. Watch how Ms. Noonan uses her “Teacher Look,” and come up with one of your own.

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25 Alternatives to Using the Word “Great”

Ubiquitous at best. Overused and cliché at worst. Nevertheless, I was hooked. I started to notice it everywhere. I’d say “great” when a student offered a response; “great” when she really dug in and started working; “great” on the margins of papers.

All over the margins of papers. But because I was using it to describe everything, I wasn’t saying anything. Our feedback, our praise, our gentle nudging is most effective when we are deliberate with our words and precise in our communication. And once again, I learned a valuable lesson from paying attention to the kind of classroom data that helps me change my practice: student work. Upon reviewing my feedback on student work, I noticed I needed alternatives to my “go to” praise if I wanted it to matter.

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Argument Writing: Four Reasons Why It’s Writing Priority Number One

You probably don’t need me to tell you that argument writing is a hot topic in education — it has a special place in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and it is writing anchor standard number 1 for a reason. However, some teachers are asking if we really should no longer teach persuasive writing to our upper grade students.

Argument WritingI have many fond memories of teaching persuasive writing. Students love discussing and debating their point of view, and it has the capacity to pull in reluctant writers because most students don’t have trouble writing about their position on controversial issues. Also, persuasive writing has traditionally been required on high-stakes assessments such as the ACT. This is all good stuff, so why should we switch from persuasive to argument writing? Because, while persuasive writing may be a norm of the past, argument writing is the skill of the future.

Here are four reasons to make the switch from persuasive to argument writing for grades 6-12:

1. Argument focuses on evidence and clear reasoning

Argument writing is all about whether you have quality evidence and whether you can explain how your evidence supports your claim. The logical process of gathering evidence, coming up with a claim, and linking evidence to your claim is different than the passion of persuasive debates. Rather than ignoring contrasting points of view, different perspectives strengthen arguments by giving students the chance to test their claims with contrasting evidence and refine their positions. Introducing standards for accountable talk and argument frames is a great way to keep the discussion focused and academic in nature.

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