Articles for Teachers

How to Reach All of Your Students During Your First Year
By:J.C. Sprenger

As a first year teacher, you will be faced with a diverse learning community in your classroom. Most likely you will have students from different ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds which impacts the way they learn. Chances are you will also have students with special needs that are mainstreamed into the classroom. In addition, the classrooms in some school districts are overcrowded with up to 40 students grouped together in a single classroom.

So, how does a first year teacher reach tackle the sea of diversity that awaits them in their new classroom?

The first step is to learn everything you can about the students that will be present in your classroom. Learn about their backgrounds, academic achievement, and conduct in the school environment. For the special needs students, learn exactly what their special needs are, as well as their academic progress up to the point where they will enter your classroom. You can achieve this by talking to school officials as well as staff members in the district who have worked closely with these students.

When it comes to reaching all of your students, you can begin by focusing on two strategies:

Learning in the Traditional Classroom Environment

Taking everything you have learned about your students, you will need to design lessons that will adapt to every learning style that exists in your classroom. The lessons should be designed to indicate an outcome which will enable you to assess the progress of the students. It will tell you who is grasping the knowledge and who will need your help and assistance. It will also serve as an indicator of learning styles and provide you with the information your need to adapt the lesson to the student's learning styles.

Integrate activities into the lessons that encourage all students to interact. You can do this by creating different scenarios and asking students to apply what they have learned to various real-life situations. Students like to know why they are learning a particular skill and applying it to everyday life sends the message that the skill is important and useful.

Vary the lesson by adapting the materials to your student's individual experiences with learning. You can do this by asking the student to apply the lesson to another learning experience they have had in the past and ask them to compare the experiences. This will tell you a lot about the manner in which the student identifies with learning. In addition, the more you integrate the learning with the student's individual experiences, the more likely they are to absorb the material being taught.

Learning in the Technology-Infused Classroom

Technology has changed the face of education and provides teachers with innovative tools for reaching students of all learning styles and abilities. Some students learn visually and technology is a really great way to engage these students by teaching through graphics and imaging with programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint among many others.

In addition, technology provides the teachers with the tools they need for a classroom of diverse learning and allows the students to learn at different speeds in a single classroom environment. This is a blessing to the educational system, especially in school districts with classrooms that are crowded with a diversity of learning, not to mention being able to reach special needs students through the invention of assistive technology.

If your student teaching experience did not prepare you to teach with technology, there are a host of instructional technology workshops and classes available to help teachers integrate technology into the classroom. Not only does technology improve learning, it also prepares the students with the necessary skills to survive in the world beyond public school education.

J.C. Sprenger has been teaching at a local high school for 6 years as a special education (inclusion) teacher. Before that, he was a university professor in Mexico (10 years) teaching English to Mexican students. He has a B.A. in psychology and a Master's in Education. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, he now makes his home in Brownsville, Texas. He has been a freelance writer for 15 years in newspapers and recently on the Internet.

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