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How to Help Students Learn Better in Class

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We read about how schools are using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality environments to help their students learn better. One can even do dissections in virtual labs these days without actually harming a single organism! These things seem to have flown straight out of a science fiction book.

Students

Unfortunately, there is a number of schools worldwide who still do not have access to the lowest-rung of the technology ladder. These are the schools with overcrowded classrooms, no computers, ineffective curricula and inadequately-trained teachers. Billions of schools in these poor regions are still struggling with raising funds for chalkboards, textbooks, and pencils.

Here, we will discuss three time-tested classroom teaching strategies that can positively impact the student outcomes of any school – from no-tech schools to low-tech ones to the schools at the highest rung of the technology spectrum:

  1. Choral Responding
  2. Response Cards
  3. Guided Notes

Choral Responding

Choral responding is the simplest and quickest way to make sure that all students feel engaged in the class. It refers to the technique when all students in the class answer a question together – in unison. The teachers can ask the class to respond to any question together that has a single correct answer and can be responded to via brief oral answers (or a series of answers).

Primary school teachers can be used by teachers to introduce a new content, re-enforce lessons in brief doses throughout the class, and for the end-of-lesson review.

Here is a step-by-step method on how to use choral responding in class:

  • Brief the students about what question you will ask and what the students should say in response when you signal for the answer. For example, if you ask them the formula of Glucose, they have to respond ‘C6H12O6‘. If you ask them, ‘how many carbon atoms are there in Glucose’, they will answer ‘6’ and so on.
  • Ask the question and then signal the students to respond – so that they can speak in a chorus.
  • If all students answer correctly, praise them. If one or two incorrect answers are heard, confirm the correct answer in the context of the question. If many students answer the question incorrectly, you might have to explain the concept once again and break down the question in smaller chunks.

After a few trials, you may ask students several questions at once or ask random students to answer a question (instead of in chorus).

It is important to conduct this activity at a fast pace to elicit more responses from the students and not let their attention stray elsewhere.

Response Cards

In areas where schools are overcrowded and many classes are conducted side-by-side, choral responding might create too much noise for conducting classes smoothly. In such cases, pre-printed Response Cards can be used by students to answer a question.

Teachers can pre-print cards stating True/False/Yes/No, Colors, Numbers, Parts of Speech, Molecular Structures and any other brief answers customized to the lesson content, and distribute it to students in the class. Students can then hold up the response-cards when the teacher asks a question.

Students

One may also use write-on response cards which are reusable and durable with the help of laminated bathroom boards and dry-erase markers. You may ask an individual student to raise his or her response card or ask all students to hold up their response cards simultaneously. It allows teachers a bit more time to see which student has held up which answer.

Students who seem to be more unresponsive in specific classes may need to be directed to timely interventions online or offline. They may benefit from seeking help from online tutors or subject experts who can devote more time to help them with study areas which they are finding most difficult and challenging.

Guided Notes

Note-taking serves two important purposes in class. It keeps students actively engaged in class as they look at the teacher, listen to him or her, think about what is being taught in class, and write the relevant points. Once the notes are prepared, students can use them for revision later.

However, many students do not know how to make effective notes.

Teachers can help students learn the skill of making notes by distributing handouts or templates the guide students to note down important points in the lecture. These templates contain cues and spaces where students can write key facts, concepts, or relationships between two or more things.

As teachers prepare guided notes, they become more conscious of covering the learning objectives in their lesson plan and sequence the content for optimal learning. These notes help students identify what is important, and eventually learn how to make study notes independently,

Guided notes should include the important points of the chapter (with background information if necessary). It should not require the students to write too much and should include diagrams and illustrations to explain a concept quickly. Once the students get an idea of how to make notes themselves, the teacher can gradually stop doing this activity in class and replace it with quicker activities like daily quizzes and collaborative review activities.

How to digitalize these pedagogical activities?

In schools which have access to high-tech mobile and digital education technologies, all of these activities can be taken a step further.

Digital tools can be used to distribute the electronic version of a Guided Note template to students. Before that, there are applications like Guided Notes Maker (GNM) which help teachers to create these templates in the first place. The GNM allows teachers to paste their notes in the textbox and then, highlight the words or phrases which they want to blank out – and then, print the result as a PDF.

‘Handouts’ is another app which allows students to write and draw on digital pages and then, catalog and shares them. Google Forms also allows students to create self-grading guided notes. Google’s PearDeck app allows students to respond in a variety of ways including choosing answers to MCQs, sliding scales, ratings, and freehand drawing or writing scaling up the fun quotient of the note making process.

In schools where all students have access to tablets or computers or those that follow ‘Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)’ system, electronic response cards, such as Clickers, can replace pre-printed response cards and choral responding.

Digitalizing these strategies have some added advantages. Apps, which allow teachers to interact with students and elicit responses for them, also record students’ responses. The instructors may analyze these responses to compare the students’ engagement and performance in the class over a period of time and customizing the content for students more appropriately.

 

 

Rruchi Shrimalli is a Content Marketing Manager for transtutors.com, askIITians.com, GoAssignmentHelp.com and several other websites. She is a writer and a journalist at heart, and has been writing articles on various aspects of the Education domain since 2010. Her articles have been published at Shiksha.com, India.com, and Employment News among others.

 

 

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