Whether teaching online, in the classroom, or tutoring one-on-one, the challenges teachers face are often similar.
From experienced teachers to newly qualified teachers to student teachers, we can all benefit from a few good, practical ideas that we know have worked for other teachers.
Sometimes when you are tired, with a to-do list that won’t stop growing, and a stack of marking to do, all you need is someone to give you something different to do tomorrow - like effective teaching strategies that are actually going to bring about some change.
So let me help.
With almost twenty years in the game, I have pulled together a list of 15 of the best tips for teachers. These are effective teaching strategies that you can use today, whether you are teaching online, in the classroom, or as a private tutor.
Read on for tips for every type of challenge, from how to help struggling readers and motivate students, to tips for classroom management and strategies to help you to be a more effective teacher.
Whatever type of teaching advice you need, we’ve got you covered.
So bookmark this page, so that you don’t have to waste precious time writing things down, and enjoy a few moments away from the books!
How to motivate students
One of the top questions has to be, how do I motivate students to learn, particularly those that may appear not to care, are disruptive or lack self-motivation?
Well, fear not, try these top teaching tips to motivate students.
1. Step into their world:
How do you motivate students to learn? This sounds really patronizing, but when faced with students who lack motivation, you have to be willing to adapt your practice, teaching strategies, resources, topics, and approaches, to their world.
‘Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they are open’
You have to step into the student’s world and incorporate into your practice some of the things that interest and inspire them in their day-to-day life. To do this, you will need to have some non-academic conversations, so that you can find out where their passions and interests lie.
This is where the old: ‘talk to your students in the line' and ‘greet every student at the door’ advice comes from. You have to have teaching-free, down-to-earth conversations with your students. Let them get to know a little bit about you too, so that you both become more human. You may even find a common interest that you both share.
2. Use the power of Youtube
How do you motivate students that appear not to care? How do you motivate ESL students? Youtube and online educational games are brilliant for motivating students to learn, particularly those who are hard to engage, or appear uninterested.
I usually start a lesson with a Youtube video that features a song or rap about a concept, a funky song or a film clip. Alternatively, I use a couple of online educational games that relate to the topic.
3. Do things just for fun
Throughout the day, I make use of fun things like Just Dance videos on Youtube, as brain-breaks and rewards. Other teachers like to show their students a funny video clip that they have found. Sometimes, I’ll use a quiet game or an online logic puzzle.
We’ve all sat in a training course that was heavy-going after a carb-filled lunch, or a training course that was legislation heavy – sometimes learning can be hard-going. Sometimes, you have to recognise that you have had an intense period of learning and say: ‘now we will have a quick brain break before we move on’.
Strategies as simple as these, make a huge impact on children, you will be surprised to find out that they will come to the lesson looking forward to your next ‘just for fun’ moment.
4. Use carrots, not sticks
Additionally, if you want to know how to motivate students to learn, including those who are struggling, disengaged, or have challenging behavior, you have to think carrots, carrots, carrots. You need a tool bag of different ways to constantly make the learning a more pleasant and manageable experience for them.
So utilize the ‘just for fun’ as a reward tool as well.
5. Remember when this was fun
If you want to find effective ways to motivate your students, you both need to get back to a place where learning is enjoyable again.
‘What we learn with pleasure, we never forget’
Whether it is film clips, animated characters, young celebrities, sports, gaming, Youtubers, young entrepreneurs, pizza, the mall, bowling, making money, Smiggle, or their pet hamster, start from a place that means something to your student, something that is relevant to their world today, something that is fun and enjoyable. From images, to examples and topics, start from what the students like and find interesting.
6. Use chunking
If you want to know how to engage students, be a more effective teacher or motivate students, you have to use chunking.
If you take yourself back to that boring training course, think about how far into the session your mind started wandering. We’ve all been there - and so have your students. Don’t drone on for ages without getting your students to do something. We have all done it – in particular this is a natural tendency when a student seems to be ‘not getting it’. Hold yourself back, deliver the learning in chunks, even if the student is still unsure, and let the student ‘do something’.
You should aim for a constant mix of delivery, interaction and activity.
7. Give numerical goals:
Tasks automatically sound more achievable and inviting if you know how much you have to do. Give students time limits for activities, objectives for the number of tasks they must complete, and challenges that are slightly below what you really want. For example: ‘I would like at least three, but if you could give me four or five that would be fantastic, I’d be really impressed’.
8. Cater to a range of learning styles:
Always aim to keep things varied if you want to know how to engage students. There is much research to show that we all learn in different ways, so in every lesson, teach through a range of learning styles. Always use a multi-sensory approach to ensure that you are not alienating students because your teaching approach does not cater to their natural learning style.
9. Remember that everyone counts
If you want to know how to engage students better, or motivate students who appear not to care, the most powerful thing that you can do is to make them feel like they matter to you. Take that little bit of extra time to let your students know that you see them, and you care. Tell them when you notice them doing something great, no matter how small. Encourage them when they make steps towards achieving something new, trust them with little jobs, and consider giving them a certificate, a note home, or praise in front of their parent or carer.
10. How to help struggling readers
There are lots of things that you can do to help struggling readers, whether ESL or those with particular difficulties, but I think the single most important thing that you can do is bring back the fun.
When you are struggling to read things can quickly become very mechanical.
Spend some time together choosing and enjoying books that the child truly wants to read. Let them choose rich, interesting, exciting, texts with depth - read them to them, so that they can experience all the benefits of reading for pleasure stress-free. Additionally, use the same books for further specific work to support the child to read.
How to manage the classroom effectively
11. Create zones
One of the most effective ways to manage a classroom is to create zones. Zone each area by topic and ensure that everything is labelled and neatly stored away. Keep resources on tables to a minimum and have monitors for zones to keep them tidy and give out equipment during lessons.
How to be a more effective teacher
12. Manage your time
If you want to be a more effective teacher, you have to learn to manage your time efficiently. Good time management is really important in teaching. Have a big diary that you keep with you at all times. Write everything in it - phone numbers, deadlines, names, to-do lists. Then you have everything at your fingertips.
At the end of each working day write your urgent, necessary, and future tasks lists and plan your time for the next day.
13. Manage marking
Mark during session time as much as possible, as well as a really good tool to support time-management, this is also really beneficial feedback for both the student and you. Create a marking schedule, so that marking is achievable and you know what to mark and when.
14. How to manage disruptive behavior effectively
It is really important to remember that your students are complicated humans just like you. They have insecurities, interests, struggles and gifts just like you. Your job is to help your students to uncover those gifts and use them to their advantage.
15. What I’ve learnt from many years as a teacher
The single most important thing that I have learnt from almost twenty years in teaching, is that it’s not about you, it’s about the children.
As a teacher, our job is to do whatever it takes to ensure that every child that we are responsible for achieves their potential, that is how successful teachers stay motivated.
That too, is the real reason that you carried those books home tonight. That was the real reason that you became a teacher - it was about the children.
If you can remind yourself of that when things get tiring, tough and too-much, you’ll make it.
Seek first to inspire
To be an effective, outstanding teacher, one who motivates, inspires and exceeds their students’ targets, forget the targets when you first start to plan.
Seek first to inspire, then fill in the blanks with the targets.
I really hope these 15 of the best tips for teachers have helped to make your day, just that little bit easier and saved you some valuable time along the way.
If you have found these teaching tips useful, or have any other tips of your own, we would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or contact us here.