Teaching in Elementary and Secondary Classrooms: Building a Learning Community

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9780130976956: Teaching in Elementary and Secondary Classrooms: Building a Learning Community

This interesting, informative book addresses the increasing diversity in today's student populations by portraying the classroom as a community of learners, emphasizing responsibility, respect, cooperation, involvement, reflection and caring. It assists the reader's understanding of the need to reflect on what was taught and how it captured their students' attention, allowing them to learn what to teach (or re-teach) next. It describes, in easily-accessible terms, how to integrate new technology into the curriculum, covering the pros and cons of using the Web as a tool for teaching and learning. Highlighting simple methods for teaching topics or handling the various situations that can arise, this book focuses on the needs of learners (both students and teachers); the author shares her experiences in democratic classroom environments, exploring how they can be recognized and created. Chapters are linked with one another to present a continuous flow of information, and includes such “hot” topics as motivation, culturally-responsive education, cooperative learning, professional ethics, and accountability. A valuable resource for teachers of children from all backgrounds, this book can also serve as an important part of any educational administrator's library.

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The theme of this text is teaching for learning in the classroom community. As an educator for more than forty years, I have found teaching personally rewarding and challenging. When teaching, I am learning from my students—by the questions they pose, the discussion that is stimulated, and the expansion of knowledge that occurs. I detect learning in students by observing their active engagement and participation, the spark that is visible in their eyes, the questions and insights they share, and their interest and excitement when clearly expressed.

Learning is natural for all individuals, but some experiences offer more opportunities for learning than others. The old adage that "teachers are born, not trained" has not been corroborated by research. Underqualified and unprepared teachers result in chaotic and rigid classrooms and unplanned and thoughtless curricula.

This book is written for novice teachers, be they student teachers, beginning teachers, or interns. Teachers who fail or quit the profession do so primarily because they do not feel successful in helping students read, write, or achieve the standards deemed appropriate. Sometimes teachers give up because they have not learned to balance their personal and professional obligations. In my work with students in the public schools in grades K-12 and my students at the university, I have learned that when students (of all ages) work together in democratic classroom communities and are supported by teacher and administrative efforts, the classrooms become exciting environments, with students and teachers more engaged in meaningful activities.

When teachers and students are able to share their zeal for learning, teaching is not burdensome; it is not routinized; it is not dehumanizing. Instead, teachers feel fortunate to be in a profession that emancipates the spirit and thoughtfulness of all individuals. In addition to sharing my experiences in democratic classroom environments, I show how such environments can be recognized and created. I focus on some of the dilemmas teachers face in dealing with students who lack self-discipline or who have not experienced a supportive environment or an engaging curriculum. I describe successful teaching lessons—techniques and strategies implemented every day by thoughtful, accomplished teachers.

This book is what is professionally described as a methods text. It focuses on the learner (both the teacher and the student), the environment for learning, and the process of teaching. Lesson examples or teaching episodes are content-based in order to demonstrate understanding and implementation of pedagogical content.

I believe that, to be a good teacher and to enjoy the profession of teaching, teachers need to be competent in the following areas:

  • Establishing a classroom community
  • Knowledge of their subject matter and how to plan appropriate experiences for students' learning
  • Delivering instruction for students' learning (pedagogical knowledge)
  • Ability to understand students' differences in experience, culture, language, gender, family, and community
  • Understanding motivation—what kinds of experiences stimulate learning and how to use motivation for different types of learning—including classroom management
  • Assessing what students know and don't know-strengths and weaknesses
  • Seeking information, assistance, and resources when needed
  • Ability to analyze and reflect on their own teaching and students' learning

We live in a very diverse pluralistic society, and as teachers we must strive to teach all students to the best of their abilities. To do so we must continue our own learning. My goal is to contribute to learning about teaching.

Special Features in the Text

  1. Teaching Hints. Critical content, such as teaching English language learners or differentiation of instruction, is followed by a box entitled "Teaching Hints." The hints abstract the key information into simple methods for teaching.
  2. Did You Know That . . . ? These boxes identify significant research that relates to the content of the chapter. Again, it is done in abstract style so that the reader recognizes the important information without a lengthy explanation.
  3. Teaching Scenarios. Using fictitious teachers' names, classroom episodes are presented in every chapter. The scenarios are referred to as the content of the chapter is developed.
  4. Advance Organizer and introductory paragraph. These elements begin every chapter. The advance organizers are in question form to assist the reader with an outline of the chapter and to serve as an overview. The introductory paragraph is another means for providing an overview of the chapter topics.
  5. The Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) issues and standards are addressed in each chapter. The specific standards dealt with are listed at the beginning of each chapter.
  6. Teaching Problems. These end-of-chapter exercises relate to the content of each chapter. They can be used as lead-ins to class discussion or as individual or partner challenges to think about and work out.
  7. Lesson Plans. Both daily activities and long-range teaching units are presented, with special hints for creating a teaching unit.
  8. Help and Support. Chapter 13, "Growing as a Professional," shows new teachers how to obtain help and support from colleagues, mentors, and administrators. In this chapter suggestions are made as to whom to go to and what you can expect from these three groups in the school community.
  9. Professional Lexicon. This glossary, which defines key words that are boldfaced in the text, appears at the end of the book.

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