These tools and tips will help take your classroom to the next level

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

I asked more than a dozen of the best teachers I have known during my more than two decades in education to share a simple and transferable teaching tool that has served them well and that could be useful to other teachers at almost any level.

Here are some of their favorite tools…

Connective/Connected Learning

My teaching experience taught me that connective and connected learning is so effective.  If I could tie what is being taught in the classroom to the child’s world, then it became relevant to them, the student became more engaged!  Not only connecting to their world, but connecting one subject to another in some way — seeing the big picture and how most everything is related!  It made learning AND teaching exciting…gets me excited just thinking about it!   

Julie Carter – Kindergarten/First Grade

Kinetic Learning Environment

As I learned when my children were small, when they stay very still for a significant time, that is when they will fall asleep. When children are physically active, they tend to remain engaged mentally.  This also seems to work in my adult classrooms.  I build in opportunities for students to move regularly, by standing to speak, writing and illustrating on the whiteboards, shifting into varying groups, changing the desk/table formations.  This is particularly helpful in adult classes that sometimes run for many consecutive hours, but could be used for most grade levels. I remember a particularly creative and engaging MBA class where song-writing and performance was used as a learning tool.  Although no music awards would have been won, it was an effective learning tool and great fun!

Dr. Mary Darden – President of Higher Education Innovation

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Set-up Scope and Culture First in Creative Works

I like to discuss the purpose and scope of coursework, establish a culture of approval, and then give students their assignment. 

Most of the coursework becomes “head work.” Once an idea strikes, then implementation becomes a matter of skill and critique. Hopefully, students produce their best work to the benefit of both classmates and clients. I like it when it happens.

Carol Perry – Senior Lecturer of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University

Using Visual Props

In teaching a second language, one of the easiest, most helpful tools we use are photos.  When learning the words for the members of the family in a beginning course, I bring a family tree with pictures of my own family and talk about them in the target language.  Then I can use my family tree as a departure point to ask students questions about their family members and learn vocabulary visually and in a more interesting way than simply reading the book.  I also use photos of celebrities when we learn descriptive adjectives and their use with certain problematic Spanish verbs, photos of food, and photos of people involved in various activities for conversational and/or composition purposes, problematic Spanish verbs, photos of food, and photos of people involved in various activities for conversational and/or composition purposes. 

Dr. Linda McManness, Professor of Spanish at Baylor University

Instructor Changing Position to Teach

This is a very simple thing, but I often find that my best teaching happens when I am facing the same way as my students, physically. If I am looking at art on the screen (I use a lot of art in criminal law), I stand in the aisle, turn around, and we are all looking at the same thing, instead of me standing in front of it. There is something powerful about that simple act.

Mark Osler, J.D., Professor and Distinguished Chair in Law at University of St. Thomas

Question: What tools have worked best for you and your students? What tools haven’t? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

President of HEI

Dr. Mary Landon Darden is President of HEI, LLC. She served in education administration for 20 years and last served as a university center dean in San Antonio, TX. Darden is the author of a book co-published with the American Council on Education and Rowman and Littlefield titled Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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