• Reaching Chronically Absent Students During Distance Learning

    Frequent phone calls, emails to parents, and flexible attendance policies can help wayward students get back on track.

  • Research-Tested Benefits of Breaks

    Students are easily distracted, but regular, short breaks can help them focus, increase their productivity, and reduce their stress.

  • Resolving Conflict in the Classroom

    Handling classroom conflicts is a part of most teachers’ lives. Even seemingly small disputes can negatively impact the classroom environment and interfere with long-term relationships. This is why managing student conflict peaceably is such an important part of our work as educators.

  • Rethinking Family Engagement This Year

    Parents and caregivers are more involved in elementary school kids’ education in distance learning, and teachers can help increase their effectiveness.

  • Setting the Stage for a School Year Online

    The digital classroom doesn’t have to be a replica of the traditional classroom. Try these tips for different online instruction.

  • Seven Ways to Do Formative Assessments in Your Virtual Classroom

    Finding out what your students are really learning remains indispensable to teaching. Here’s what teachers are doing to check for understanding online.

  • Seven Attention-Getters to Use Instead of Raising Your Voice

    These visual and audio cues can help middle and high school teachers quickly get students back on track.

  • Seven Guidelines for Setting Up Clear Online Lessons

    The way a lesson is laid out online can make all the difference in whether a student can follow along and execute it successfully.

  • Seven Smart, Fast Ways to Do Formative Assessment

    Within these methods you’ll find close to 40 tools and tricks for finding out what your students know while they’re still learning.

  • Seven Tips for Breakout Room Success

    Having students meet to work in small groups helps build community and fosters deeper learning.

  • Seven Tips for Teaching With Videos

    Along with considering video length, teachers should look for ways to make watching a video an opportunity for active learning.

  • Seven Ways to Increase a Student's Attention Span

    Children often struggle to pay attention, but when they are given a task they view as challenging or hard, they are even more likely to give up before truly trying. If you notice a child that is regularly losing focus during challenging tasks, here are some strategies that might help increase that attention span and improve the overall outcome of tasks.

  • Seven Ways to Increase a Student's Attention Span

    Children often struggle to pay attention, but when they are given a task they view as challenging or hard, they are even more likely to give up before truly trying. If you notice a child that is regularly losing focus during challenging tasks, here are some strategies that might help increase that attention span and improve the overall outcome of tasks.

  • Seven Ways to Maintain Relationships During Your School Closure

    Suddenly, you’re not in the same physical space as your students. We asked teachers to share strategies for maintaining relationships both peer-to-peer and student-teacher when everything’s gone remote.

  • Sharing Resources With Your School Community and Beyond

    By creating helpful digital resources, teachers can forge strong bonds of trust with students, parents, and colleagues both near and far.

  • Simple Ways to Encourage Kindness in Students of All Ages

    With Random Acts of Kindness Day approaching, here are five easy ways to promote kindness across all age groups.

  • Simple Ways to Promote Student Voice in the Classroom

    Giving students some say over what happens in class can promote engagement and a strong sense of community.

  • Six Opening and Closing Routines for New Teachers

    Check for understanding, manage your students, and build classroom community with these six opening and closing classroom routines.

  • Six Opening and Closing Routines for New Teachers

    Check for understanding, manage your students, and build classroom community with these six opening and closing classroom routines.

    Routines and consistency matter greatly and are necessary for creating a smooth learning environment in your classroom. Routines help with creating community, checking for understanding, and managing the classroom.

    If students come in knowing they’ll be required to write, read, or share at the launch of the lesson, they enter the room already anticipating that there is an immediate expectation. (The same goes for closing routines and winding down your lesson.) There won’t be the usual litanies of, “What are we doing today?” Students often are calmer knowing a task is at hand.

    Share One Word: Ask students to share one word about how they are feeling that day. It can be in general, about a new project, or about something that is happening in their lives or in the world. This is whole-child stuff that tends to the emotional aspect of the student, bringing balance to the academic and intellectual focuses that typically drive the school day. It also builds emotional intelligence.

    When I was first doing this opening routine, students would say things like good, OK, tired, and bad, but as they became more comfortable with each other and gained a larger vocabulary of emotion words, they began to share such words as pensive, anxious, serene, and frustrated. To lower the stakes in the beginning, have students share with a neighbor or in a triad, then build to a whip around the room where everyone shares her or his word aloud.

    Quote of the Day: Students love to share their opinions—who doesn’t? As an opening routine, I used Quote of the Day the first few years I taught high school, and it proved a great success. I would find a quote from a singer, actor, politician, or famous dead person and have it displayed on the board when students walked in. They would sit down and begin writing a response. Under the quote, I would include the same question prompts: What does it mean? How can you relate to it, or make a connection to the world?

    The Reading Minute: This one comes from English language arts teacher guru Kelly Gallagher. Find a passage online or in a book—an excerpt of a poem, essay, article, or story—and read it aloud. It might be humorous, interesting, angering, or beautiful, exhibiting great writing. After you read it, students open their notebooks and write either a one-sentence summary to remember what they just read, or a thesis statement.

    After you’ve modeled this for a month, have students sign up to bring in a passage to read aloud for the Reading Minute. At the end of each semester, you can have students look back at their collection of responses and reflect on what was their favorite passage and why—they learned something important, it made them laugh, etc. Check out this video of Gallagher discussing the Reading Minute

    Cleaning up and discussing homework are important routines for the end of the day, but it’s also important to give your students a chance to further process their learning, and even to set a goal. Closing routines allow students to check their understanding and create an opportunity to reflect. A routine is a great way to wrap up your lessons. Closing routines also honor your time together that day, as well as give your students an opportunity to use their voice. The following are three examples of exit slips that can be completed on a small piece of scratch paper or a sticky note at the close of class.

    Rate the Learning or Lesson: This exit slip can be accomplished in a matter of minutes. Ask students to rate—on a scale of 1 to 10—how well they understood the learning that day. If they rate their understanding low, ask them to write down what they may need (more time, more explanation, a graphic organizer to help with writing the essay, etc.). Students can also rate the lesson or teaching on a 1 to 10 scale—ask them to write a sentence or two giving feedback on the materials or activity that day.

    Collect the slips, and after your students leave, make piles of similar ratings. If you have a lot of 8, 9, and 10 ratings, the lesson went well. If you have lower numbers, it might be time to probe for further information from the whole class the next day, and then review or reteach.

    Closing Statement or Question: Ask students to first turn and talk in pairs or in a triad and discuss questions such as: What did you learn? What surprised you? What is unclear? What do you want to know more about? Then ask them to come up with a closing statement or question about the content and write it down. Collect the slips and use them for talking points the next day, answering questions and commenting on statements they wrote.

    Grab a Goal: Ask your students to think about a goal they would like to set for themselves. It can have to do with the unit of study, or it can be a personal goal outside of the classroom. Use sentence starters to prompt the writing for this one:

    Tomorrow, in class I will be ready to _____.
    Tonight, I will _____.
    By the end of the semester, I will _____.
    Have students share with a neighbor or in small groups, and ask for a few volunteers to share with the whole class. You can share your own as well. Collect the slips—this is a wonderful way to get to know your students.

    Writing their names on exit slips was optional for me. You decide—perhaps sometimes yes, and other times no. Students will be more honest if the exit slips are anonymous. Yet with goal setting, there’s more accountability if you have names, and you can check in with individuals and offer specific supports and encouragement.

    Advice I like to give to new teachers: Go out and collect opening and closing routines from fellow teachers. The internet is not always the best place to seek curricular materials—your colleagues are. Talk with colleagues during meetings and stop by their rooms to take a look at their resources and student products.

    A mistake new teachers often make is thinking they have to create everything from scratch. I explain that there are those who have been at this a long time and have honed strategies, collected data and student samples, and adjusted that activity or project to make it even better—and they are there, right next door, ready to share their expertise and resources with you.


  • Six Strategies for Building Better Student Relationships

    A teacher shares her best practices for establishing strong relationships with her class at the start of the school year.

    Here are six strategies I use to build better relationships with my students.

    1. Learn names quickly and correctly. Too often, students, especially those who are marginalized, feel invisible in our schools. Value student diversity and identity by learning names quickly and pronouncing them correctly. Only use nicknames if students prefer them; never create a nickname for a student, because this strips him or her of the identity that is embedded in a name. Every year on the first day of school, I have my students create name tents and pronounce their names correctly for me. I practice pronouncing their names often. I take up the name tents and pass them out each class period until I have learned all of the students’ names. I greet each of my students at the door by name before class.

    2. Students are never too old for show-and-tell. Help students feel they’re more than just another student by allowing them to bring in something that represents them, their culture, or some activity that they enjoy doing at the beginning of the year. Plan five to 10 minutes each day for a few students to share what they brought until you have given everyone in the class the opportunity. In my classes, students have brought in baby pictures of themselves, goggles that they use for their competitive swim team, and souvenirs from a family vacation. 

    3. Post student pictures and student work. Elementary teachers are very good at sharing student work, but middle and high school teachers often neglect this important practice, feeling that it’s unnecessary for older students. I’ve found older students still need to be reminded that you value their work. When my students participate in the show-and-tell, for example, I snap a picture of them. Those pictures are then printed and posted on a bulletin board in class that stays up all year long. The students love seeing how they have changed over the course of the year because they realize that their growth and development is not only physical, but intellectual and emotional as well. In addition, students are so proud when their exemplary work, such as individual math projects and group work on math tasks, is displayed and celebrated.

    4. Assign seats, and change them often. We all know that middle school students don’t always get along, but when students have opportunities to work together, they learn about each other and discover ways to work together even though they’re different.

    5. Find small ways to connect. In my first-period class, we often have circle time on Monday mornings or after a break. We stand in a circle and pass a ball around. The person with the ball shares a compliment about another person in the circle, what they did over the weekend or the break, or how they are feeling in the moment and why. They also always insist that I share too. Though it can seem like every minute is needed to get through the academic content, I’ve learned that a five-minute investment once a week to learn about each other is invaluable to my students and builds a better culture in my classroom.

    6. Simply listen. As teachers, we often feel like we need to keep a professional distance from our students, but I’ve found that taking time to make small talk can help break down barriers to learning. Because I’ve made myself approachable, some of my students will tell me stories about their lives during the five minutes between classes. I stop what I am doing, look them in the eyes, and listen. I love seeing their eyes light up as they tell me these stories, and these encounters always leave me a little more knowledgeable about who they are as people.

    All students deserve to have adults in their schools who care about them enough to be intentional about building positive relationships that give them the space to make mistakes and learn. If we truly expect our students to learn with us, they need to know that we care about them. They also need opportunities to learn about each other, so that they can build a community in which they grow together as learners.