3 Tips for Teachers to Keep Up Their Sanity

  1. When it gets difficult and you find yourself growing restive, remember that you became a teacher because you believed you could be a noble human, a noble professional. Allow that idea to regulate your actions, to guide you. You may not always live up to the standards, but making the effort to do so is all that matters. Teaching is practice after all.
  2. Your leisure time is sacred; make the most of it. That is, do not think of work during this time. In fact, using your leisure time to focus on work is detrimental because it comes in the way of your relaxation (which is difficult to come by when you’re a teacher) and also leaves you more drained. Which in turn will affect your teaching and job performance. Relax when you must; a relaxed teacher can accomplish great things.
  3. Put your legs up and catch up on that sitcom you last watched two years go. Teachers may not have the time to binge-watch shows, but all we need is two episodes on the trot. The nostalgia, the feel-good factor will kick in and keep you kicking for a good while. In fact, Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist has this to say about “trashy” television:
    At some point you have to set aside snobbery and what you think is culture and recognize that any random episode of Friends is probably better, more uplifting for the human spirit, than ninety-nine percent of the poetry or drama or fiction or history every published. Think of that. Of course yes, Tolstoy and of course yes Keats and blah blah and yes indeed of course yes. But we’re living in an age that has a tremendous richness of invention. And some of the most inventive people get no recognition at all. They get tons of money but not recognition as artists. Which is probably much healthier for them and better for their art.”
    – From “The Anthologist” by Nicholson Baker

2 Simple Tips to Minimize Distractions

A common complaint I hear from students and parents alike is that students get distracted too easily. To elaborate, there is a feeling that students–and indeed, adults–are surrounded by distractions. It is true that the ability to focus or concentrate is being endangered. However, there are things–simple things–we can do to reclaim our ability (and willingness) to concentrate better. Concentrating can be hard work, and this post focuses on simple ways to make oneself conducive to focus/concentrate better. It does not focus on the nuances of acquiring or developing the ability to focus better. That will be a post for another day. Nonetheless, remember this: focus takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you can’t focus as well as you want right away. Keep at it, and you will inevitably get better.

  1. No matter what task you’re doing–homework, meal prep, cleaning, etc.–try to focus solely on the task. Focus on maintaining good posture, on ensuring you are not carrying tension in your shoulders or limbs. Breathe deeply to relieve bodily stress and improve posture. Carrying bodily stress inhibits our ability to perform tasks to the best of our ability. If we’re overdoing on the multitasking front, we might not be able to recognize bodily stress. Distraction does not come from gadgets alone; we tend to be good at distracting ourselves.
  2. Before beginning an important task, make sure you turn off notifications from non-essential apps: Reddit, Twitter, or your news, podcast, or banking app–whatever it may be. Turning off non-essential notifications is a good way to learn how to develop focus. Besides, reward yourself for focusing by spending some time on your favorite non-essential apps. If you’ve focused well, you will have saved time, and some of that time can be used to unwind. You will find that you are able to check your apps leisurely, that is with more focus without worrying if you are wasting time or procrastinating.

7 Study Tips for Kinesthetic Learners

Do you learn better when you are busy doing something besides focusing exclusively on the material? Are you good at sports and/or physical activities? Do you enjoy building models and other tactical tasks? Do you like taking things apart to see how they work?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you have the privilege of being a kinesthetic learner.

Kinesthetic learners

What is Kinesthetic Learning?

Kinesthetic is one of the four types of learning styles in the VARK (Visual, Auditory, Reading, and Kinesthetic) system. Kinesthetic learners like to be active while they learn. They learn better when they are physically engaged with the material. They generally have high energy levels, good motor memory, and excellent hand-eye coordination.

Unfortunately, most classrooms are ill-equipped to meet the needs of kinesthetic learners, who often struggle with staying focused in class. If you are a kinesthetic learner (or the parent of one) who struggles with grasping or retaining information or has trouble sitting still in the classroom, you will likely benefit from the following.

2. Trace and learn

Kinesthetic learners (especially younger ones) benefit when they use their hands to learn. Tracing your finger as you read, counting on fingers, spelling words in the air, and “drawing” math problems are some of the ways learning can be made more physical for kinesthetic learners.

2. Work on your feet

Standing up allows learners to flex their muscles, which impacts the way their bodies internalize information. For kinesthetic learners, standing in the classroom can lead to better comprehension, improved focus, and greater retention of information.

3. Use flashcards and highlighters

Kinesthetic learners trying to learn new information can activate their brain cells by preparing flashcards or simply by highlighting important points with a highlighter. Since you prefer movement, flashcards work as a moving memory machine that your brain will naturally favor over stationary words on a page.

4. Adopt a creative approach to learning

Doodling, drawing, and diagramming on a whiteboard can act as aids to memory and understanding. It is easy to create your own learning material with short videos, storyboards, or mind-mapping software to help you learn, memorize, and recall concepts.

5. Build models

Kinesthetic learners enjoy working with their hands, so model building and construction kits are right up their alley. Not only does model building help you become more dexterous, it also makes you a better planner, problem-solver, and logical thinker. Kinesthetic learners enjoy designing and creating physical models of things they learn about – think science exhibits, building blocks, posters, chemistry experiments, and the like.

6. Take frequent breaks

Kinesthetic learners tend to fidget and have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time. You will need to schedule regular breaks, depending on how long you can focus while studying. This will help you focus more when you are actually studying, so your study sessions will be more efficient.

7. Study and Exercise

Instead of cozying up on the couch with your notes, consider combining study sessions with short bursts of exercise. Shoot hoops, do jumping jacks, jump rope between chapters, or do burpees as your study buddy or friend quizzes you on the material. Combining study with exercise helps cement ideas in your brain and keeps you alert. Besides, kinesthetic learners need an outlet for their energy even, or especially when, they have to study.

If these study tips resonated with all you high-energy kinesthetic learners out there, what are you waiting for? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments. Let’s make learning productive, regardless of learning style!

7 Study Tips for Visual Learners

Do you often find yourself doodling and drawing study material? Do you find lectures boring but love watching videos? Are you able to quickly grasp charts, graphs, and diagrams? If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, you are a visual learner.

Visual Learning Style

You are someone who processes and retains information best when you see it. You likely find that information makes more sense when it is presented with the help of charts or illustrations. You often prefer to sit in the front of the class and “watch” the instructor as they teach. You find yourself being attracted to colors, sizes, shapes, and visual contrasts in objects.

Visual learners need to see information to learn it. This seeing can take multiple forms: spatial awareness, photographic memory, color tone, brightness-contrast, along with a bunch of other visual information.

Benefits of Being a Visual Learner

Visual learners tend to:

  • Visualize concepts and objects.
  • Have good organizational skills.
  • Have a good sense of balance and alignment.
  • Understand and convey complex ideas visually.
  • Excel at spelling and grammar.
  • Be creative and enjoy writing and art.
  • Quickly comprehend charts and graphs.
  • Use visual communication, such as sign language

Here’s how visual learners can maximize their learning in and out of the classroom.

7 Useful Tips for Visual Learners

1. Requesting a Demo

Seeing how things are done is critical for visual learners. Whenever possible, ask your teacher for a visual demonstration of the principle or concept in question. This will help you understand and recall it later.

2. Formatting your Notes

How you for at your notes plays a vital role in the learning process. Visual learners benefit from using diagrams, symbols, mind maps, flow charts, underlining or highlighting in different colors to help them remember the connections between ideas and concepts when they review them later.

3. Reviewing Notes

Try rewriting, or rather, re-drawing your notes instead of merely reviewing them later. This involves focusing on the layout of the page and not just on the content. As a visual learner, this will help you to reinforce the spatial and content connections on the page.

4. Being Practical

Visual learners learn better through practical, hands-on tasks such as conducting case studies or building models that demonstrate their understanding of the study material.

5. Sitting in Front of the Class

Visual learners take in a great deal of information from the teacher’s facial expressions and body language.

6. Using Flashcards

This versatile study tool helps visual learners engage in active recall so they can remember terms, phrases, and concepts. You can even create your own flashcard deck with doodles, drawings, or pops of color to highlight the content.

7. Using Unlined Notebooks

This is a simple but highly effective tip for studying and note-taking. All you must do is replace your regular ruled spiral-bound notebook with an unlined notebook for taking notes in class. A blank notebook invites visual learners to exercise their creativity. You can organize your notes in the form of diagrams, drawings, mind maps, or flow charts and color code them using highlighters. Unlined notebooks let visual learners unleash their creativity during the learning process.

My last piece of advice to all you visual learners out there is to embrace the strengths that come with your learning style and take advantage of the areas in which you shine.

10 Strategies for Critical Reading

Critical reading is an activity in which the reader exercises their judgment about what they are reading; they refuse to take anything they read at face value. Critical readers evaluate and analyze what they have read. In an academic sense, being a critical reader means advancing one’s understanding of a text, rather than dismissing it and thereby blocking off learning.

A critical reader must reflect on:

A – What the text says: This means they should be able to take notes, while paraphrasing the key points.

B – What the text describes: This means they must achieve a deeper understanding of the text; one that enables them to use their own examples and compare the text with other writing on the subject.

C – Interpreting the text: This means they must be able to fully analyze and explain the text, while identifying limitations, omissions, inconsistencies, oversights, and formulating arguments in support of or against it.

Strategies for Critical Reading

Below are some basic strategies for critical reading:

1. Annotating

Also known as ‘close reading,’ this is one of first strategies that a critical reader uses. Annotation is any action whereby a reader deliberately interacts with a text to enhance their understanding or recall of the text.

This action could be something like underlining important parts of the text such as the thesis statement, or the topic sentence of a paragraph. It could be circling important words or writing questions or comments about the material in the margins.

By annotating a text, the reader ensures that they will understand what is happening in the text and be able to recall it after they have finished reading it.

2. Contextualizing

Contextualizing a text involves placing it within its original cultural or historical context. A critical reader tries to identify this context and considers how it differs from their own. In order to do this, they must pay special attention to:

A – Language and ideas that appear archaic and/or foreign

B – Their own knowledge of the time and place in which the work was written.

C – How these differences impact their understanding and judgment of the text.

3. Reflecting

Sometimes a text challenges a reader to examine their beliefs and values, which might be deeply ingrained. In order to identify these beliefs and values, the critical reader needs to consider the ways in which the text challenges them. Does it disturb, threaten, or inspire them? Does it make them feel ashamed frightened? In a nutshell, does it arouse strong emotions in the reader? Using the strategy of reflection, the critical reader can do the following:

A – Identify points in the text where they feel their beliefs are being challenged.

B – Pick one or two of the most disturbing challenges and analyze the emotions that they arouse.

4. Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing a text involves putting it in one’s own words. The critical reader can achieve a deeper understanding of a difficult or ambiguous passage by paraphrasing it. This is also one of the ways in which ideas from source materials can be incorporated into one’s own work. The purpose of paraphrasing is to simplify the text and present it without additions or deletions. A paraphrase does not change what is said, it just changes how it is said.

5. Outlining

An outline is a map of the text. As a prelude to summarizing, outlining enables the critical reader to determine the basic structure of a text, identify important ideas and supporting evidence. It presents a snapshot of the information contained in each paragraph or section of the text and the order in which it occurs. An outline might use bullet points and/or numbers to arrange this information.

6. Summarizing

A summary synthesizes the key ideas contained in a text and restates or paraphrases them in the reader’s own words. The summary must not copy the exact wording of the original source. A good summary gives credit to the author of the original text, synthesizes the main ideas, and presents this information in a neutral manner.

7. Understanding figurative language

Many texts contain figurative language – similes, metaphors, personification, idioms, symbols, etc. – that the critical reader must understand in order to decode a text.

Figurative language creates comparisons between things in order to give them more detail and to help the reader better understand what the text is trying to describe. It links concrete and abstract ideas and uses words or phrases in a non-literal manner to create a specific effect.

8. Identifying patterns of opposition

All texts contain patterns of opposition that may echo the viewpoints of critical readers that the author anticipates, or respond to the views of predecessors. These patterns of opposition may even voice the author’s conflicting values. A critical reading takes a close look at a possible dialogue of opposing voices within the text.

9. Evaluating arguments

The job of a critical reader is to evaluate whether the arguments presented in a text succeed logically. Before doing this, it is necessary to identify the two parts of the argument – the claim and the support. A claim is an idea, opinion, or point of view that the author puts forward and wants the reader to accept. The support consists of the reasons and evidence the author provides as the basis for the claim.

In order to pass the logic test, an argument must be appropriate, believable, and consistent.

The appropriateness of an argument can be evaluated on the basis of the logical fallacies (false analogy, non sequitur, etc.) it contains.

The believability of an argument can be evaluated by applying reasoning fallacies (generalizations, begging the question, not accepting the burden of proof, etc.)

The consistency of an argument can be evaluated by checking for contradictory statements.

10. Being aware of emotional manipulation

Writers are sometimes guilty of using emotional appeals to manipulate the reader or to elicit a specific response. This could be in the form of false or exaggerated alarms, the use of emotionally loaded words, false flattery, veiled threats, or disparaging opposing viewpoints. The critical reader needs to be aware of emotional manipulation and take it into account while evaluating the text.

Critical reading helps build logical and rhetorical skills. These 10 strategies will enable readers to understand and engage with the text in a constructive and effective manner.

Post-Pandemic Learning Strategies

The educational vista has transformed so dramatically since the pandemic began, and now, we are all facing change yet again. We are gingerly stepping back into classrooms. While I have certainly enjoyed some aspects of at-home learning and teaching, which has not been an entirely novel experience for me even before the pandemic began, I am eager to step back into the real world, even if cautiously.

Having spent a lot of time thinking about how the pandemic has changed teaching and learning, I have often wandered off into thoughts about the possibilities of new strategies that can help learners adapt to various learning situations. Some of these are aptly discussed in this article, which I found to be an interesting read.

The return to classrooms in fall 2021 will once again be to a school year unlike any other. Education in New Jersey — and around the world — has changed through COVID-19. And while we have faced challenges that at times felt insurmountable, as educators we’ve found ways to persevere. Along the way, we’ve discovered new approaches that may better meet the needs of students, families and teachers. The question before us now is: Which of these approaches will we carry forward even past the pandemic?

Op-Ed: New educational strategies that will outlast the pandemic

Promoting and Fostering Literacy — Teaching Kit

Really enjoyed reading this wonderful blog post that talks about ways for parents, teachers and administrators to cultivate habit of reading and writing among students.

The research results are clear! It is apparent that children raised in an environment that promotes literacy become better readers and significantly perform better in school compared to children who grew up in an environment where literacy is not promoted. The child’s environment includes home, community, school. Literacy at Home The child’s value formation starts […]

Promoting and Fostering Literacy — Teaching Kit

How to Differentiate Process in Your Classroom —

Differentiating in the classroom is one of my passions. It is seriously one of my favourite parts about teaching – to get to really know my students and plan specifically for them. I love seeing students succeed and meet their own personal social, academic, or behaviour goals. Of course, when we discuss differentiation, there are […]

How to Differentiate Process in Your Classroom —

5 Challenges of Being an Online ESL Tutor

At the turn of the 21st century, most educators would have scoffed at the idea of online education taking over the conventional classroom. Driven by the Ed Tech revolution and other technological advancements in the field of communication, we are rapidly progressing towards an era where online education will be considered at par with, if not superior than, the traditional education system. Continue reading “5 Challenges of Being an Online ESL Tutor”