Cooperative grouping. Direct instruction. Use of manipulatives. Technology infusion. I’ve often heard teachers argue that one kind of lesson is better than others. Personally, I believe there are merits to each of the aforementioned types of lessons and that teachers should use all of them. Using only one type of teaching strategy is like taking only one type of vitamin. Sure it’s good for you, but your body needs a variety of vitamins to keep your body healthy.
While it is definitely important to vary our teaching strategies to ensure our students “get all their vitamins,” it is just as important (if not more important) to remember one thing – it all starts with classroom management. One of the first pieces of advice I like to give to new or prospective teachers is this:
If they aren’t listening, it doesn’t matter what you’re saying.
Sometimes it’s easy for us as teachers to fall in love with the lesson, neglecting the question – “Are the students engaged?” I know I’ve been guilty of it. I could have crafted the “perfect” lesson, but if my students are doodling, spinning rulers on their pencil points, talking with classmates, or simply staring out the window, how perfect is my lesson, really? Think of it this way. One could spend two or three hours writing amazingly detailed sub plans. But what happens if the substitute teacher doesn’t read them? All that hard work went for nothing. In the same way, spending two or three hours on a lesson that is delivered without effective classroom management can lead to teaching without learning.
Should we strive to craft great lessons that incorporate a variety of teaching strategies? Absolutely. But let us not forget that a lesson is only as good as the atmosphere in which it is delivered. It’s been asked, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Allow me to put an educational spin on that question…if students aren’t listening, does a teacher’s voice make a sound?
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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