Letting students develop their own podcasts is a great way to spice up your teaching practice.
Tips for School & District Administrators

Four Great Ways to Spice up Your Teaching Practice

By Brian Gatens

Is your classroom, well, boring? Do you find your school year has become a series of individual activities strung together to eat up an entire year? Maybe it’s time to use the summer break to rethink some of your more common practices and try something new.

How about a podcast?

Letting students develop their own podcasts is a great way to spice up your teaching practice.In the not-so-recent past, it was nearly impossible (or at best cumbersome) to have students record and publish their own voice broadcasts. But everyone can do this today with the explosion of recording and editing technology.

Students can research, write, record and report on any classroom topic, which provides an excellent opportunity to rethink classroom assessments and how a podcast can be used to show student mastery of a topic. Creating and publishing podcasts encompasses many of the skills we want to see in today’s students:

  • Being a productive member of a group.
  • Making smart editing decisions.
  • Pursuing topics of personal interest.
  • Publicly displaying their work.

Why not give it a try?

Eliminate the comfortable but ineffective

As a classroom teacher, I found myself addicted to the Friday quiz. It was a nice break to have my students working quietly while I straightened my desk for the weekend, moved around the room cleaning things up and otherwise wrapped up a busy week.

Yes, this was somewhat effective as it enabled me to collect grades, but it also made my class boring and predictable. Students would be close to rolling their eyes when I announced the quiz on the blackboard earlier in the week, and I knew that my regular pattern wasn’t helping spark their learning.

To switch things up, I began to alternate the days that I would give pencil-and-paper quizzes (and slowly began to eliminate them) and made sure my questions were as interesting and engaging as possible. Rethinking how you assess student learning is always an excellent topic to pursue.

Shake up communications with parents

Many of the common practices in schools — report cards, interim reports, etc. — are holdovers from a time when parents and teachers communicated only intermittently. With the rise in communication technologies and push-button conveniences, now is the time to reconsider how you make contact with your students’ parents.

A class blog with regular updates, text messaging through Remind.com or a class Instagram/Twitter page (with administrative approval) are excellent ways to tap into how today’s families learn about the world. On that note, be cautious in getting into pitched email exchanges with parents. My general rule of thumb is that once an email passes three exchanges it’s time to pick the phone up and call the other person.

Let students self-report their progress

Do your students understand how well they are progressing in your class? Are they aware of their steady growth, or is it all based on your reporting? An excellent way to answer these questions is to ask them what they think their grades should be.

Let them own their grades by:

  • Distributing rubrics to measure their performance.
  • Giving them the chance to consider what their earned grades should be.
  • Sitting with each of them to review their progress.

This helps push back against the idea that school is something that is done to them, and not with them.

All good teachers have steady and productive practices. Those same teachers also take the time to assess the quality of those practices and change them as necessary. Take some time this summer to keep what you love, try something knew and do away with things that are no longer useful.


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