Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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  Workshop 3: Public Policy & the Federal Budget  
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Workshop 3

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Teacher Perspectives: Using a variety of teaching methodologies

Leslie Martin: I use hands-on activities as much as possible, but as much as possible could be day in and day out [and] I don’t think that’s truly possible. Teaching is a balance between routine--knowing what to expect in a classroom both for the students and the teacher--and variety. There is a spectrum. I sometimes lecture. I sometimes say, “Here are some things that I have to get you to take some notes. We will build on it.” Sometimes I say, “Here is a free-form writing experience. Throw your thoughts on paper.” Then we have small groups. Sometimes we literally discuss an issue. Sometimes we actually debate an issue. I have to consider where we are in this school year [and] what is going on with the students. Occasionally, I will assign a reading. I will say, “Tomorrow we are going to answer these five discussion questions in a round-table discussion.” If the kids come in and maybe they all had to go to a soccer game or there was a band concert [and] half of the group hasn’t read it, I literally will change in the middle. I always have a backup plan.

I use textbooks as a diving board. They are the tool, the board that gets you out over the pool, and once you are out on the edge of the diving board, you dive into the rest of it. I use textbooks to give overviews, outlines, vocabulary--a base for what we are going to talk about. I will ask the students to read a chapter focusing on certain things. I may give them a worksheet because I think that it helps them structure their learning and find out what’s important. From there, I take that chapter and I say, “What is this really about? Give me five ways it impacts your life.”

To say that I choose the methodology is much broader than what I really do. I am not aware of the questioning piece of it. It doesn’t work with all my students and it doesn’t work every time. I use simulations, particularly when I find something that I personally know I can recreate into a simulation. Some activities or processes call out to be simulated and they are easier to set up.

The other [thing] I will say [is], “Let’s do something different. This is a really dry process or a dry subject and I don’t like it. I don’t want to teach it. I want different ways of helping the kids learn.” Sometimes I will say, “You guys teach this to each other. I’m getting old and tired of the subject. It’s too routine for me.” I learn from them when I see them teaching each other.


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