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Educational tools come in all shapes and sizes, from curriculum to methods and mindsets. The modern teacher wields all of these to bring about solid learning outcomes. As a beginning teacher, I listened to every bit of professional development and tried my best to implement it. You can guess what happened—I burned out quickly. The amount of advice and new methods was dizzying and often paralyzing. Consequently, I reverted to doing what was familiar.
Everything that teachers utilize to enable learners to great heights are educational tools. Coming in many forms, these tools are indispensable and worthwhile. There have been many fly-by-night fads and "latest innovations.” That's why it’s good to know which tools never go out of style, no matter what changes.
This post is all about those techniques, tools, and mindsets that have stood the test of time. As a result, they will likely continue to be a part of teaching in the foreseeable future. Here are 3 categories comprising 13 essential educational tools for your teaching toolbox.
Educational Tools: The Controversial
This article highlights a few seemingly forgotten or abandoned strategies that still hold their value. They may even seem controversial in the light of today's innovative practices. We could argue that they can be updated while still retaining their rightful place in the teaching canon.
- Teaching word roots—This facilitates the honoring of origins and the past life of a word. Be it Greek, Latin or other language, the study of word etymology creates connections between seemingly unrelated words and gives depth to the English language.
- Memorizing multiplication tables and math facts—Perhaps the most basic thing to remember is that higher-order thinking has to start with pure knowledge. It is still worthwhile to practice these crucial math skills. Like the nuts and bolts of a table, they need to be ready at a moment's notice to create a stable foundation.
- Handwriting—This is a sadly dying art. However, we can say a lot about the firing of neurons and the connecting of synapses when writing by hand. It is a practice in mindfulness, patience, and attention to detail and aesthetics.
- Argumentation (Rhetoric)—This concerns how to formulate your opinions using logic, and avoiding the pitfalls of bad arguments. Forming good constructive arguments is an essential skill for any student. It's a part of preparing to join the massive global community. Misinformation and wrong paths need to be avoided. This is a timeless skill for building confidence and character.
- Reading aloud—I can attest to what reading to my children affords them. They get an experience of hearing something with enthusiasm and drama; sometimes subdued and subtle, other times fiery and exaggerated. They can be moved by perfectly chosen words. Reading aloud forms those brain connections that you wouldn't have if you read silently.
Educational Tools: The Modern
These are more recent developments, but research-backed and sensible. You'll find them mentioned in this article.
- Defining objectives and showing examples—Beginning with the end in mind has been a mainstay in the art of getting things done. Be clear to your students where they are going.
- Classroom discussion—This technique has taken on a whole new significance in recent years. Tied directly to argumentation, students are interacting with each other in real time, in person, or long distance through on-line conferencing apps.
- Feedback—Indeed, your students will need constant guiding. Good feedback is essential to assessment methods that turn students into leaders.
- Formative assessment—Assessments are not so much the end game as they are stepping stones toward a goal. They tie in with using good feedback, as mentioned before.
- Metacognitive strategies—This involves moving forward from rote learning to applying, understanding. It's about the skill of taking a problem apart, putting it back together, and synthesizing knowledge into products.
Educational Tools: The Essential
These mindsets we should never forget. They are the basis of our craft, always guiding every teacher throughout all time. From this speech:
- Child success-focused—It's all about the kids. Show them where they need to be and then give them strategies to get there.
- Trust and bond—These are tools that a teacher wields to create a connection with the student, allowing them to feel safe in your classroom.
- Independence—Eventually the time will come when the student no longer needs the teacher. By keeping their independence as a worthy goal, you embrace a mindset of instilling confidence and courage in all your students.