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Teacher's Corner

Teaching tips from the Teacher's Aide Newsletter.

2015 December

From the 2015 Dec issue.

Test-Taking Tips for Students

2015 November

From the 2015 Nov issue.

Exam Security and Mixed-Seating Testing

Brent Jackson, Massage Therapy Program Manager at Central Carolina Technical College shared this tip that he found useful:

Susan Caulkins, Central Carolina Technical College Nursing Instructor taught me this on Monday. It really did help! To ensure students are not tempted to sit next to someone or develop co-cheating plans, take two matching sets of paint swatches. (Even with different test versions.) Have one swatch at each test. When the students come in give them a swatch from the other set. The student will find the swatch that matches and sit at that seat. This method ensures that the assigned seat is random for both student and instructor.

This is a great idea! If you don't have paint swatches, you could use other matching items like colored index cards or post cards. The possibilities are endless!

Thanks for sharing, Brent!

2015 October

From the 2015 Oct issue.

Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, so we are sharing with you some of the tips that came from our recent Teacher Web Conference discussion regarding Learning Disability accommodations:

2015 September

From the 2015 Sep issue.

Tips for Reaching Gen Y Students

Generation Y, otherwise known as the "Millennials," are filling your classrooms. That's a great thing, if you know how to communication with people who are tech-saavy, have short attention spans, can multi-task very well, can filter information quickly, and want it now and fast. Yes, using technology in your classroom helps, but that's not all they are about. Here are some other ideas for reaching them:

  1. Keep it short and to the point. They are used to Google and getting answers fast, so they will be bored if you take too long to explain a concept.
  2. Don't get upset by their multi-tasking. They are better at it than you, it's second-nature to this generation. If you must lecture, give them something to do while you talk (take notes, Google ideas, etc.).
  3. Think of yourself as the guide, not the expert. We (teachers) used to be the ones who delivered the facts and information, but this generation can web search anything they want to know. Our role has changed to that of a guide. So, help them know where to find good information. Better yet, help them think critically about all the information that you do share and that they gather. Help them move past simply looking up facts and into actually thinking for themselves.

2015 August

From the 2015 Aug issue.

Use Textbook Treasure Hunts to get Students to Read their Textbooks

Are you having trouble getting your students to read their homework assignments? You know the information is important to their future success as a practitioner, but students don't always see the value of real books in today's technology-heavy environment. So, send them on a textbook treasure hunt. Choose a chapter or section and have students find the most important idea or scenario in that section. Direct them to actually write it down and explain why they think it's the most important point of the section. (Do this for homework to be discussed later in class, or use it as a classroom activity.)

2015 July

From the 2015 Jul issue.

Prepare Your Students for the Real World

While we have focused lately on preparing students for licensing exams, we know what you really want to do is prepare your students for the real world. In doing so, you will naturally be preparing them to answer those thought-provoking, scenario-type questions on the MBLEx (or any other licensing exam) that require judgment. So, here's a tip for planning activities that actually require students to use critical thinking skills"? show them what NOT to do.

For example, give them a real life situation before you teach them a particular topic, and ask them to choose from 2-4 possible scenarios. (You need to have a plan for how each of the scenarios plays out.) However, unlike multiple choice questions, make each of the scenarios plausible, but not really that good. In other words, don't even make the ideal scenario available to them (but don't tell them that). Have them vote as a class on the "best" scenario.

Then, for each scenario that is chosen, play it through as a class, learning why it ends up being a bad idea. Once you have gone through each of the not-so-good scenarios, don't even come up with an ideal scenario. Instead, talk about what could change in each of the sample scenarios to make it a better choice. Because sometimes in real life, the not-so-great scenario is not so bad either, with just a bit of tweaking.

2015 June

From the 2015 Jun issue.

Preparing Students for MBLEx (Summary)

This month's Teaching Tips focus on the things we learned during the "Preparing Students for the mblex" discussions in last month's web conference. We had our largest attendance yet with several hundred participants.This topic was very timely for teachers in our massage and bodywork programs. Mary O'Reilly, Exam Director for the Federation of Massage Therapy Boards, joined us for a discussion of the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam. Mary shared a lot of valuable information regarding some recent changes in the testing process, and many participants have asked for a summary.

In addition, we have asked Mary to answer some of the questions we did not have time to address on our call. We will get those answers to you as soon as they are available.

General mblex Information

Visit our website to see more information from the call, and a list of the questions that we sent to Mary.

2015 May

From the 2015 May issue.

Make the First Day of Class Count

How do you start your course? Do you make introductions, go over the syllabus, set expectations, and create a classroom agreement? This is the average protocol that most teachers use. But if you teach an ancillary course (like business, ethics, communication, even science or research), you need to show students right off the bat that this course is worth their while. If you struggle with student engagement, try the following

Jump right into the curriculum the first day by introducing a typical problem or a core idea, or doing a group exercise that illustrates a core objective of the course. When I teach Anatomy and Physiology, I show them some really cool stuff about the nervous system on the first day, even though that won't come up until halfway through their program. It's fun, engaging, and keeps them on the edge of their seats.

I make sure to carefully plan the day so we also have time to go over the typical first-day business (e.g., syllabus). This demonstrates to your students that your course is well organized, well paced, and worthwhile. Hook ’em that first day!


2015 Apr

From the 2015 Apr issue.

Managing Disruptive Behaviors

In light of our March web conference discussion involving Difficult Students, we thought we would include a few tips for handling those relatively mild disruptive behaviors that take us off topic.

Managing Questions

Managing Disruptions (cross-talk, texting, argumentative)

2015 Mar

From the 2015 Mar issue.

Attention-Grabbing Presentations

Are you struggling to liven up your presentations and grab student attention? The bells and whistles of new technologies aren't going to do it for you if you don't understand the principles of making a memorable presentation. It's actually not about the presentation, it's the message they connect to and remember “if it's a good one.” Here are six tips for making your message a memorable one:

  1. Keep it simple. What is the essential bit of your message that you need them to understand?
  2. Surprise them. Everyone's attention perks up when you do or say something unexpected.
  3. Make it real. Use physical actions or specific images to place your idea firmly in their minds.
  4. Make it real. Use physical actions or specific images to place your idea firmly in their minds.
  5. Use emotions. Make them feel something.
  6. Use stories. Illustrate your message with a story, not a hypothetical theory.

2015 Feb

From the 2015 Feb issue.

Engage All of the Senses

Utilize handouts, graphs, charts, pictures, and bright, bold colors to get the learners? visual attention. Incorporate music, singing, chanting, varied speaking tones, reading aloud, and lectures for auditory engagement. Have some examples, activities, or rewards which include food and scent involving the senses of taste and smell in the education process.

For kinesthetic learning, have students present material in a game show format to get their classmates moving and active in the learning process. Use items with different textures to stimulate tactile sensations. The more senses you involve in the learning process, the more likely your learners’ brains will work to move that information into memories.

2015 Jan

From the 2015 Jan issue.

Using Blogs to Enhance Classroom Learning

Consider creating a blog that only your students can access. This can serve as a classroom portal for posting assignments, resources and notices, as well as a way to promote active learning. The majority of current students are tech savvy and are very comfortable communicating in online formats.

Blogging can make students more active, encourages writing, and fosters critical thinking. Find ways to encourage collaboration. Each week, post a question, a short passage from the required reading, or a link to an important article. Require that each student posts a comment, either directly about the original posted material or a response to another student's comment. You can also encourage students to directly post valuable content (e.g., resources, website links). A good follow-up is to use the blog responses to spark a classroom discussion.

2014 Dec

From the 2014 Dec issue.

Holiday Spirit and Paying it Forward

Get students into the holiday spirit by discussing the people who have shaped your profession. Personalize it by sharing about some of the people whose contributions have impacted you. Encourage the learners to acknowledge the people in their lives that have gone out of their way to support them in their schooling (e.g., specific teachers, staff members, family, and friends).

Next, have learners choose a "holiday spirit" good deed (to perform individually or in groups) that they can complete them before the class breaks for the holiday. In an informal setting, the class shares their good deeds and how they felt these acts changed their views, made them feel, or added to someone's joy.

2014 Oct

From the 2014 Oct issue.

Taking Attendance

Some of the student response tools (e.g.: PollEveryWhere) can be used for taking attendance. All you need to do is designate any question to be an attendance question, and run a report to see who was there. Or create a dedicated attendance question that you leave open for the first part of your class

2014 Sep

From the 2014 Sep issue.

Measuring Student Learning

An option for measuring student learning is to have students take the final exam during the first week in class, without grading them on it. At the end of the term give them that same exam again and compare the results. According to Linda B. Nilson, PhD, founding director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University, that while letting students see their final exam makes some teachers nervous, most students don?t remember any of the questions, and if they do, it simply helps them focus in on what you feel is important for them to know.

2014 Aug

From the 2014 Aug issue.

The Technology Gap

Consider the potential technology gap if you have a mixed age classroom. While it's important to appeal to the technologically savvy students, be sure to include learning options for students who are not as comfortable or proficient with technology.

2014 Jul

From the 2014 Jul issue.

The One Who Does the Teaching, Does the Learning…

An educational axiom is: To best learn something, one should teach it.

Well, that means that teachers are always the ones learning, especially if they do most of the talking and demonstrating in the classroom. Try turning your classroom into a teaching clinic. Give your students a few basics to get started toward your learning objective(s), and then pair them up (or place them in groups) and have them teach each other. Tell them that you expect them to come up with at least three different ways to learn each objective. Getting it “right” is not the point here, so let them experiment.

The real objective, of course, is the critical thinking and attention required in an experimental environment. And you up the ante when you make the students responsible for each other's learning by teaching it.

2014 Jun

From the 2014 Jun issue.

Avoid Copyright Issues by Taking Your Own Photos

Encourage students to take their own photos when creating multimedia presentations. Also, consider creating a classroom gallery that everyone contributes to for the purpose of sharing and re-using with classmates. This gallery can be housed in a shared online platform such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Flickr.

2014 May

From the 2014 May issue.

Taking Notes by Hand Benefits Recall, Researchers Find

In the March 28, 2014 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education, Danya Perez-Hernandez posted the following:

“Distractions posed by laptops in the classroom have been a common concern, but new research suggests that even if laptops are used strictly to take notes, typing notes hinders students' academic performance compared with writing notes on paper with a pen or pencil.”

Visit the site for more information about the research and its potential impact.

2014 Apr

From the 2014 Apr issue.

Countdown for Activities

One of the distracting parts of classroom activities is calling out the time left before the learners need to complete their tasks (e.g., "You have 5 minutes left," "30 seconds left to finish."). Instead, consider using a countdown timer that is projected onto a screen. It's handy for learners to look up whenever they want and see exactly how much time is left, instead of looking at their watches or phones, or waiting to hear you announce the time left.

Go to the Google search bar and type in "set timer" followed by an amount of time (e.g., "set timer 3 minutes"). A timer is displayed and an alarm beeps when the time is up. There are other online timers, such as Online Timer and Teachit Timer (which also offers a choice of alarm sounds).

Have fun!

2014 Mar

From the 2014 Mar issue.

Walk Your Ethical Talk

Every day our actions either promote or diminish an environment of integrity. Consider the following: Are your course materials, current, competent, and accurate? Do you approach teaching in an open manner and address a variety of learning styles? Do you maintain confidentiality in terms of grades, attendance, and private communications? Are your assessment methods valid, open, fair, and congruent? Do you respect copyright guidelines? Do you maintain appropriate boundaries with learners and co-workers? Do you model integrity and honesty?

If you are experiencing an environment where students are disrespectful, breaking rules, cheating, or stealing, evaluate your organization's culture to see where learners might be picking up mixed signals"

2014 Feb

From the 2014 Feb issue.

Amish Barn Building

Kris Bour, instructor at Georgia Career College, shares this analogy to describe how muscles work:

When the Amish are going to build a barn it is a community event. The women busy themselves with preparing a meal for all while the men work in teams, much like muscles, to raise the barn. Ropes are attached to specific areas on the barn wall for an optimal, smooth rising. The man in the middle is in the best position for leverage in raising the wall. A muscle that is in the best position to do the primary action is the Agonist or Prime Mover. The man in the middle cannot alone raise the wall; he needs the assistance of the men on either side of the wall. These men use their ropes to stabilize the wall from any unnecessary movement such as wobbling, and still help pull up the wall. The muscles that act as assistants in the movement, and prevent unnecessary movement from occurring are called Synergists. They are not in the best position to make the action occur and can substitute if the Prime Mover is injured, but they cannot do the job as efficiently as the PM. The man on the opposite side of everyone else is there to stabilize the wall from going too far. He works in opposition to everyone. Muscles that work in opposition to the Agonist/Prime Mover are called Antagonists.

This can be made an interactive project with some ropes and an old pallet. Fixators can also be placed at the origin of the PM at the bottom of the wall.

2014 Jan

From the 2014 Jan issue.


Whenever you divide the class into groups of three or more to do an activity, be sure to assign a scribe. The scribe's job is to take notes and present a summary of the group's activity to the full class.

2013 December

From the 2013 Dec issue.

Foster Feedback Between Students

After a group assignment, ask students to do a self-assessment on how well they performed the task, and assess how the group performed as a whole.

This tip was adapted from a seminar by Alice Cassidy, PhD, in Faculty Focus, May 23, 2011.

2013 November

From the 2013 Nov issue.

Holiday De-stress

Holidays can be particularly stressful for students. In addition to taking major tests at schools, they are experiencing the same challenges as the rest of the world in preparing for the holidays—especially if they have children. Find ways to combine themes with their work. Consider assigning projects such as designing a holiday special for clients or creating a protocol using aromatherapy that evokes the scents of the season. Another suggestion is to provide free student clinic sessions for those in need.

2013 October

From the 2013 Oct issue.

Designing Sides to Match Multiple Intelligences

According to an article titled MI & Technology: A Winning Combination! typically 30 percent of students prefer learning visually, 34 percent auditorily, and 36 percent kinesthetically. Follow the formula when creating slides to accompany your class.

For instance, if you plan to have 40 slides, approximately 30 percent of the slides (12) should contain graphics, 34 percent (13 slides) should have some type of sound element, and 36 percent (15 slides) should have some type of interactive content (e.g., animations, quizzes, and exercises).

2013 September

From the 2013 Sep issue.

Reward Desired Learning

Enhance students' learning retention by rewarding desired learning outcomes or behaviors. Praising your students' successes associates the desired learning goal with a sense of accomplishment and growing competence. Also, when you acknowledge students' success, they are more likely to repeat the desired behavior.

2013 August

From the 2013 Aug issue.

The Technology Gap

Consider the potential technology gap if you have a mixed age classroom. While it's important to appeal to the technologically savvy students, be sure to include learning options for students who are not as comfortable or proficient with technology.

2013 July

From the 2013 Jul issue.

Social Media Platforms

Use social media platforms as learning tools in your classroom. This could include sending out reminders, posting homework notes, and organizing projects or events such as revision classes.

2013 June

From the 2013 Jun issue.

Dynamic Discussions

Discussions can be an effective tool to build rapport among students, inspire the class to learn more about a topic, encourage critical thinking skills, and gauge what students know. They incur little or no cost and are easy to organize. Discussions range in scope from simply posing a question to facilitating structured exploration. They may be done in small groups or with the whole class. The most productive classroom discussions are those in which students talk to each other and not just a series of exchanges between the teacher and students.

2013 May

From the 2013 May issue.

Schwartz's "One Minute Paper"

Susan Beck, BS, NCTMB, Coordinator/Instructor for the Massage Therapy Program at Idaho State University, submitted this tip.

Concluding a lecture-lab class with a reflective exercise can assist students in summarizing their experience. Students are asked to take out a blank piece of paper (putting their names on the paper is voluntary). Two questions are asked:

  1. What was the most significant thing I learned today?
  2. What question is uppermost in my mind after this class?

Papers are folded and given to the instructor.

This exercise allows students a chance to reflect on their learning experience and also get to mention anything that is concerning them. Instructors have the opportunity to get honest feedback which can be utilized in the next class.

This is extremely useful for novice instructors, as the feedback can give clues to what instructors may need to review or fine tune their delivery of content.

Adapted from Schwartz, Charles, 1991, An Academic Adventure

2013 April

From the 2013 Apr issue.

Integrate Material

Provide opportunities for students to reflect and integrate the material covered in class. This could be an activity that is done at the end of each class. Also, before asking students to participate in a discussion, give them time to write ideas in response to a question or a problem about a specific topic.

2013 March

From the 2013 Mar issue.

Building Feedback Into Your Course

(Adapted from a post by Alice Cassidy, PhD, in Faculty Focus, May 23, 2011.)

Get feedback from your students by assigning a one-minute paper. Some of the questions you could ask are,
"What is the highlight of what you learned in class today?"
"What is one topic discussed today you would like to explore in more detail?"
"What is one idea from today's class that you can implement immediately?"

2013 February

From the 2013 Feb issue.

Gaining Clarity

When you answer a student's question, be sure s/he understands your answer by having the student repeat the answer in his/her own words. This is also an effective communication tool to use when requesting a behavior change or giving a complicated assignment.

2013 January

From the 2013 Jan issue.

Getting Feedback on Confusing or Controversial Topics

If you have been covering a particularly confusing or controversial topic, end the class by having each student write what was the most unclear or most controversial aspect of the topics covered in class. Next, divide the class into small groups to discuss their lists and rate them. Then have a representative from each group share their top item with the class.

Note: If it's a small class or you have extra time, you could cover more (or all) of the items, and re-rank them according to the group submissions.

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