TikTok Teaching and Learning

TikTok! What a revolutionary way of engaging students in learning.

Goodbye to the past curricular days where students sit quietly at their desks, completing endless worksheets until the bell rings for the next class, possibly, completing the similar, tiresome assignments.

Hello to a more upbeat social media platform that allows students to get out their seats to generate excitement for learning—TikTok.

TikTok allows its participants to be creative by posting videos that illustrate hilarious or meaningful content. Almost everybody likes to be amused, and more than not like to learn new, beneficial lessons. TikTok welcomes these opportunities.

If perusing videos on TikTok—warning: much of its topics can be provocative, perhaps excessively so, for high schoolers, and for this reason, some educators prefer to stay away from TikTok; yet, with careful monitoring, the unsavory topics can be waived by teachers and responsible students.

TikTok pulls viewers through its magic, and, if not mindful, TikTok can hold the attention of viewers for an inordinate amount of time. This revelation is good news for classroom teachers looking for innovative ways to engage their students in learning “until the bell rings.”

In sooth, many students are already a participant on TikTok, for TikTok conveys the language that young students speak–jargon, slang, opprobrious in some cases, and TikTok’s language is what many participants prefer to spend their time listening to. Participants are smitten with watching, creating, learning.  

Regardless of the reluctance on some educators’ parts to use TikTok in the classroom, some students will stealthily watch videos on their cellphones. Therefore, since TikTok is a hit with young students, teachers would be teaching in the zeitgeist by adding TikTok to their lesson plans.

In an article from Education Week, “TikTok: Powerful Teaching Tool or Classroom Management Nightmare” (Klein 2019), https://www.edweek.org/technology/tiktok-powerful-teaching-tool-or-classroom-management-nightmare/2019/11,  “TikTok video-sharing platform is becoming increasingly popular with tweens and teens, and some teachers have started using it in their classrooms.”

However, what do educators need to know about TikTok before they add it to their lesson plan?

First, teachers should be cognizant of the need for TikTok: If the platform will not engage students in responsible learning, if the platform will not aid the teacher in instilling knowledge about a subject matter, if the platform will bring anarchy to the classroom, for these few reasons, TikTok might not be a clever move to enhance student learning.

On the other hand, if students are already familiar with TikTok and enjoy its purpose, if students can learn subject matter through their creativity with the use of TikTok, if teachers can manage classroom management while synthesizing TikTok’s influence, then, to entertain the idea of implementing TikTok in the lesson plans, is a sensible decision to embrace.

Jeffrey Young (2021) via EdSurge shares, “Some teachers have gone viral on TikTok.”
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.edsurge.com/amp/news/2021-01-26-teachers-are-going-viral-on-tiktok-is-that-a-good-thing. TikTok has brought forth a revolutionary style of showing what teachers execute in the classroom and how they transport their jobs; TikTok has also brought forth “fun” in the classroom, an element often found missing in the classroom, according to seminal research.

Thus, TikTok can be a positive or a negative instrument for classroom teaching and learning, depending on teachers and how they convey TikTok into classroom instruction for student learning.

Educators might consider conducting research on TikTok to determine the validity of its platform and its appropriateness for classroom instruction.

In the end, what matters the most is that students learn assigned standards for teaching and that teachers continue to be accountable for meaningful instruction.

Cynthia Mathews

Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction

Classroom Teacher

Professional Development Presenter


Teacher Self-Care by Sharpening the Saw

Cynthia Mathews: Doctor of Curriculum and Leadership, Author, Teacher, Playwright, Blogger.

As a school teacher, you endure a lot, don’t you? You most likely embrace the  responsibility of managing 25 to 100 students on a weekday basis and are responsible for students’ safety and their developed mindsets, yes? These pertinent responsibilities stand in front of the spread umbrella that hosts numerous other mini-scenes in education that you as teacher are evaluated by your school administrators, yes?

If duties are neglected, you, as teacher, could bring about serious trouble for yourself and possibly endanger your tenure teaching career. Yet, in spite of the monumental tasks that you endure continually, the one crucial scene necessary for a full successful act in your school day is teacher self-care.

You, as teacher, are human. You may relent on your superpowers occasionally—without losing total control, of course—when you are pushed in a no win-win situation by attending mandatory staff meetings, by motivating ongoing student apathy, by enhancing curriculum for rigor, and by participating in employee collaboration that may or may not be effective in school decision making [?].

An awareness of a sharpened saw relies on the quality of your students, your instruction, and your professionalism. Your responses to students shoud depend on situations. Not every situation deserves a response: Some responses are better left unsaid, and a swift turn back to instruction is more productive. Instruction is the goal, for students must learn, so revert to instruction whenever the feeling of a rift raises its head, for it is professionalism that will save the day when the ambience becomes uncouth. Professionalism–proper dress, proper speech, proper student direction complement the “sharpen the saw” concept. If the sharpened saw method is midway or lesser in these areas, you may find it helpful to step back to reflect on the actions necessary to take for self-care to spring forward.

“Sharpen the Saw,” coined by Franklin Covey (1989), is a strategy for you to recharge yourself. Your greatest asset is YOU, right? Thus the renewal in your physical—eating sensible meals and exercising regularly by walking or stretching—and resting by sitting quietly or napping—is crucial to your serenity in life.

Equally, the renewal of your social/emotional mindset—your connecting with positive individuals, ones that will promote your excellence as you promote theirs—your connecting with time for reading, writing, learning, and teaching–ideas that will promote cognitive growth–are imperative for your social and emotional well-being.

The renewal of your spirituality—your spending time in nature—enjoying the sun, the breeze, the climate—will provide the energy you need to meet your daily goals, and your meditating for soul direction and your listening for complete understanding are ingredients necessary for you to sharpen the saw, for you to take good care of yourself, for you to manage the many scenes you encounter under the umbrella of a school day.

Sharpening the saw increases your capacity to produce and handle school challenges. If a student disrespects you as teacher, for example, your understanding the physical tenet of “resting” from the situation, especially, if the disrespect can be channeled through effective, moral guidance, is the key you need to unlock the disrespect before you react. Simply teach to correct, not to complain or to overreact.

Moreover, sharpening the saw gives you a balance in nutritional value. Taking the necessary time to renew yourself through proper eating gives you space for learning about the foods to eat and the foods to avoid . . . Taking care of your body is a blessing to the Almighty who bestows strength in you to appear fit and capable of maneuvering throughout your life. You must be able to move about with agility and grace when the time presents itself to do so. “sharpening the saw” will help you be poised in this manner.

Ideally, a healthy self-care strategy should include an activity of sharpening the saw. You can make sure that every element of your overall health and beauty routines are well taken care of by providing your body and mind the nutrients necessary for you to be at your best.

Research reveals 40 percent of teachers report feeling high stress everyday during the school year, and few of the causes of the stress include lack of resources for teaching, student behavior problems, administration expectations, or your own personal weight and health problems, which can slow the process of your high-performance (education article).  As a teacher, you have the choice of going through life oblivious of your well-being or partaking in healthful activities to live an energized, vibrant life.

Every day provides a new opportunity to recharge yourself, for there is no need to hit the wall with frustration. It takes desire, knowledge, and skill to be in charge of your life physically, socially/emotionally, and spiritually.

In essence, be aware of your energy levels and realize action steps that work for you, and use them to sharpen the saw and to maintain the self-care that is necessary to be your best self, to be your best endorsement of being a teacher.

Below are 12 simple, useful strategies that will help teachers look and feel great.

1. Do not take personally every negative situation that happens during a school day.

2. Keep a full length mirror in classroom to remind yourself of your professionalism, your health, and your physical appearance.

3. Take vitamins as an added boost.

4. Walk briskly to appear busy: It sends a signal of importance.

5. Be a lifelong learner—especially learn about Health and Mind fitness.

6. Train yourself to remain calm in all hostile or troubling encounters.

7. Read “Ecclesiastic” and “Proverbs” of the Bible for quick tips to live by.

8. Dress professionally and stylish where appropriate.

9. Wear colors that enhance your appearance.

10. Take naps.

11. Reflect on self-care strategies that will work for you.

12.  Sharpen the saw.


7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Franklin Covey (1989)

Why Teacher Self-Care Matters and How to Practice Self-Care in Your School (Education)






Romancing the Classroom

Romancing the Classroom: Teacher honoring Student

One big problem that is obvious in some classrooms is that love is lacking between the teacher and students.

On some school observational occasions, a teacher may be seen or heard disparaging her students, speaking to them as if students are inept or unlovable.

While some students may be unruly or lazy who challenge teachers to persevere under stringent conditions, many reasons, nevertheless, may provide understanding for some students’ erratic behaviors.

According to research, statistics show that teachers indeed care about their students and do strive to motivate their students, yet research also reveals that teachers rarely extend themselves to every student to show that they care about each and every student in the classroom.

This lack of attention can leave some students to depend on themselves to be motivated about their own learning. However, some students rarely motivate themselves, for they do not realize how to keep themselves charged for learning.

In the report, “12 Powerful Statistics that Prove Why Teachers Matter,” https://www.weareteachers.com/teacher-impact-statistics/, 94 percent of Americans say people should do more to recognize good teachers.

Good teachers, yes, but what contributes to being a good teacher, and how many students are enrolled to good teachers? Reasons are galore that students are disinterested in school because many of them do not encounter good teachers.

Another exploratory study of student misbehavior in the classroom reveals student problems include daydreaming, playing games on computers, and disrespecting teachers by talking back inappropriately.

Fortunately, these problems can be lessened through effective classroom management. Yet, not the typical management style, but the atypical style—the style of academic romance.

For a visual approach, consider any type relationship—client/customer, parent/child, friend/friend, or student/teacher, the relationship strives when romance is applied to it.

Dictionary.com defines romance as “to treat with adore or chivalrousness; to make overtures or play up to.” To keep students attuned to behaving and completing their classwork, students must care enough about the teacher to desire to please the teacher. To aid this matter, students need overtures from teachers that will incite students into learning.

This realization is important, especially if the student does not care enough to perform diligently on his or her own while learning in the classroom.

To build a good relationship between teacher and students, a special type of relationship must be developed. Teacher and students must court each other through use of delicate student/teacher dialogue.

Words exchanged between teacher and students should be gentle and flattering. For example, the teacher or the student should acknowledge the other when first seeing the other for a particular day.

Because a teacher must teach students how to be polite by speaking to others when entering a room, the onus falls on the teacher to take the initiative to begin the relationship:

“How are you, this morning, Edward? Are you ready to learn today?” (Smile at student). This initiator is a good start for the student to respond in a cordial manner because the teacher speaks to the student in a personal, recognizable way.

The teacher, being the leader in building the relationship with students, will need to maintain the dialogue of trustworthiness. To keep classroom romance alive, the teacher should consider keeping communication open and forthcoming so that students will feel free to talk about ideas on their minds.

Without communication, a relationship is nonexistent. To keep communication open, both teacher and students should continue to “ask questions” of the other in order to probe deeply in getting to understand each other. As a probe for planting goals in students’ minds, a teacher could ask, “What do you plan to do with your life after you graduate from school, Edward?”

By asking no threating questions, the teacher can learn about his or her students and create a bond between them that may promote academic growth within the students.

When a valid communication takes place between teacher and students, their relationship grows in positive ways. Students learn to trust teachers to the point that students may share with teachers their successes and failures.

While the idea of romancing the classroom may be an odd concept upon first thought, a deeper look into the idea will prove to be sensible since romance in appropriate classroom forms is the ‘object of desire’ among human beings–teacher and students. Almost all humans desire a little love and tenderness.

Research is replete with proof that human are social species, and social connection is essential to humans’ health, self-esteem, well-being, and cognitive development.

Research also stipulates that a lack of connection in human interaction can lead to loneliness and has been linked to reclusiveness, demotivation, and even suicide. Furthermore, students and teachers are starved for a romance that will help them both achieve satisfaction in teaching and in student education.

In essence, proximity in the classroom is important. Standing next to, kneeling beside, talking directly to students—one-on-one as on a first date—“getting to know you,” students need the attention, and teachers need the respect from students by students illustrating that they appreciate the teacher’s interest in them and that a golden bond is set between them that they both—students and teacher—will work toward making their relationship special.

To help teachers implement romance in the classroom, the following tips may be helpful:

  1. Learn students’ names quickly, and use their names when addressing them.
  2. Smile every time a student is seen.
  3. Ask students about their day.
  4. Encourage students when they appear apathetic.
  5. Share inspiring events about your personal life.
  6. Give students simple gifts—cookies, Hersey kisses, unique pens and pencils, and certificates of excellence in academics and in good behavior.
  7. Call students’ parents to brag on students.
  8. Get close to students whenever possible, such as when students have questions or when circling the classroom.
  9. Attend students’ programs in which they participate. Make sure students notice your presence.
  10. Tell students, “I love you.”

Cynthia Mathews, Ed.D.

Teacher / Instructional Leader




Leaders Leading Learners

Could It Be?

Could it be possible that instructional leaders make the mistake of explaining and illustrating lessons to learners too soon rather than extend the challenge for learners—at the optimal age—to explore answers on their own? Would it be feasible for instructional leaders to begin coaching elementary learners—fourth graders—for example—to ask questions so that learners may discover possible answers to complex questions on their own?

Albeit, some young learners may not be cognitively ready to explore answers on their own, especially for subjects such as math and science; they should, nevertheless, be exposed to the challenge of learning. Yet, during learners’ rudimentary ages, subjects of math and science entail absolute properties and must be illustrated; yet, how much sooner after direct instruction of a complex lesson is beneficial for learners to comprehend by applying critical thinking concepts to solve problems?

Is it feasible that young minds of human beings are underestimated and are capable of more profound learning at a young age than that which instructional leaders may have inadvertently entertained of learners in schools?

Before continuing reading this article, take four minutes to watch the video below. The video conveys a story of how some leaders mistakenly take charge to solve problems for others when in hindsight they should empower learners instead to take charge for themselves; in this video, a lesson teaches vicariously through the example of a blossoming butterfly: Watch [4 minute video].

Lesson from a Butterfly:

In the video, leaders learn that they are conditioned to solving problems for their learners, and by doing so, they inadvertently interrupt the important process that beginning learners develop by struggling on their own. Through struggle, learners are strengthened.

Leaders learn that they should apply diligence by being watchful over their pupils yet not by being problem solvers for them as learners. Leaders should be patient for learners to evolve into their own innate intelligence. Of course, unlike the video, where it reveals the human helping the butterfly, which a butterfly has its own innate manner of developing–unlike the development of a human–leaders, dealing with humans, should step aside as they watch and encourage growth among their human learners.

In complex cases where illustration is mandatory—such as when leaders teach a learner how to fish or how to perform CPR, (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a life-saving procedure), at an early point of coaching, leaders should allow the learner to demonstrate his or her knowledge by practicing the steps instructed, even though the learner will indeed make mistakes.

Learners Ask Critical Questions:

Given the mistakes that learners will encounter, leaders should prepare themselves to coach learners by teaching critical thinking questions . . . What happened? Why did I fail? Why did I succeed? What else could I have done to expedite success? Questions may be ongoing to locate logical answers to problems. By the learner asking critical questions, he or she substantiates the experience and grows from it, thereby understanding that many concepts may develop to solve a particular problem.

Learners need Motivation:

While important to introduce novel ideas through illustration, equally important is to allow early practice and failure or success to prevail while entertaining questions to further understand the implications of the learning. The realization about learning is that learners will make mistakes and that they will be able to conquer mistakes through problem solving.

Leaders can illustrate to students that failing is not fatal: failing is succeeding because another chance has been given to triumph. Watch the video below on “learning from mistakes.”

In the manner the video illustrates, leaders may incorporate motivational assignments for learners to contemplate their prowess to achieve their educational goals. Leaders may further motivate learners to initiate action of failing forward—to manifest their eventual success.

From an early age, leaders should lead learners into meeting direct challenges and to solve problems by employing creative strategies for solutions.

To view as an example to apply when motivating learners, watch the four-minute video on “learning from mistakes” before continuing reading this article:

Effective instructional leadership motivates learners to attempt lessons on their own after learners have received proper instruction by their leaders; Likewise, learning vicariously, that which is derived from indirect sources—hearing or observation—such as the “Butterfly” video example, rather than learning by direct, hands-on, instruction, can be empowering to young learners. (See link below for examples of VICARIOUS learning)

Learners may Learn Vicariously:


Leaders and learners both must be problem solvers, and by applying innovative means as a stimulating assurance that other outlets to problem solving exist, leaders and learners may realize that problems can be solved if action is placed as the carriage to transport the ideas for problem solving.

In the article “6 Techniques to Better your Problem Solving Skills,” steps to solutions are shared, and the article promotes that learners should read and react to the article’s message. Learners’ developing as a reasoning creature to the point that they believe, “This problem can be solved,” ensure that they will be able to tackle complex problems as they matriculate into higher education.


Learners Should Understand Problem Solving Techniques:

The message of “6 Techniques . . . “ is to project effective leadership by introducing and illustrating assignments for students to demonstrate as soon as possible so that they may begin the fail / forward process: Allowing learners to fail at their own accord, yet motivating them for continue for success, is the instructional leader’s responsibility.

What would happen if instructional leaders allowed students to begin thinking critically at a young age (fourth grade)? How much better will leaners become at thinking in higher grades if allowed to be trained as critical thinkers in lower grades?

Research shares that young individuals—elementary middle school—benefit most effectively when they are taught formal principles of reasoning, and that the elementary grades and middle school students are not too young to learn about logic, rationality, and the scientific method.

The link below leads into a research based article that provides reasons to teach critical thinking skills at a young age, and the article shares innovative ideas to help leaders guide their own instruction for coaching their learners.

Learners Should Apply Critical Thinking:



In essence, young learners will be equipped with reasoning tools to use for solving problems and for motivating themselves to persevere if they encounter instructional leaders who will exercise their rights to teach learners concepts necessary for success.

Still have questions about teaching learners about critical thinking, about their asking questions, about their practicing and failing, about their learning at a young age?

Each article and video in this post attempts to support the notion that teaching learners to be problem solvers at an early age is helpful on many levels of theireducation.

To reiterate the ideas shared in this post, below are five reminders to help leaders empower their learners to become critical thinkers and problem solvers:


  1. Realize a person may begin exploring questions and answers at a young age.
  2. Illustrate how to solve a problem and immediately allow the learner to try to emulate the leader’s example to solve a problem.
  3. Motivate the learner to continue to fail forward toward success.
  4. Be patient with learners while they learn to absorb new ideas.
  5. Promote leadership strategies through motivation and critical thinking concepts.


About Writer of this Post:

Cynthia Mathews is Doctor of Educational Leadership and Curriculum and Instruction and may be reached at lukeandlezz.com

End Notes:

When students are given a fair and early opportunity to evolve into their own, to learn, their instructional leaders will witness student learning at an extraordinary pace, much faster than they may have realized, and instructional leaders will perceive that young persons are intelligent beings and can solve any problem through reasoning skills.

Further, learners benefit exponentially when they emulate the support they are given from their instructional leaders, for when young people receive instruction from leaders who teach them within their innate abilities to receive knowledge, young learners strive.

Effective instructional leadership leads learners toward success—



Before, During, and After Learning

Carol Moody, seasoned high school English teacher, illustrates a day of learning in her class. The student body consists of eighteen black students, three white students, and five Hispanic students. Today’s lesson is “Smart Goals.”


The students will watch a three-minute video on “smart goals” to help students plan goals with a path to accomplishing their goals.

“Good morning, students” (the class continues to talk. The teacher picks up a miniature amplifier to speak).

“Again, good morning, students. I am your teacher, remember? You are supposed to listen when I speak. I need to explain what you will learn in class today, so listen attentively, okay?” (The class quiets but not completely. The teacher continues by walking the room, holding amplifier to her mouth as she speaks with volume.)

“Before we begin with ‘smart goals,’ let’s review the vocabulary we studied yesterday [precise, concrete, attainable, relevant, goal] . . . Thank you, students. I am so happy for your participation, and I am very PROUD that you remember the words we discussed. You will see these words in the video. Knowing the meaning of these words will help you understand the importance of the video’s message. You must also remember that a goal is a plan you write with a date attached to it to achieve, okay? Now, let’s watch the video” (A student bemoans “Ah, man” and turns to another student to talk. Let’s name this student Charlie.)

“Charlie, remember rule number three: listen to the teacher. Please turn around in your seat. Watch the video, as it will help you set goals to be successful in life.” (The class stirs with murmurs.) Teacher turns off lights for a serious tone to appear for the students to watch the video. The teacher walks room, looks at each student, smiles, and compliments students by expressing encouraging words: “Watch the video. It’s only three minutes. You can do it. . . You are smart and can do anything you put your mind to . . . Thank you, Charlie. . . Thank you, Caleb. . . Thank you for watching the video, Kaydence. . .” (Video starts and ends).


With amplifier to her mouth, the teacher stands in the middle of the classroom to instruct students the lesson for today.

“On your desk is an article about ‘smart goals.’ Take five (5) minutes to read or scann the article. Then, turn to your assigned student buddies—buddy to your left, buddy to your right—to asks your buddies to decode [student vocabulary] the acronym S. M. A. R. T. G. O. A. L. S.”


“While you are reading / scanning the article, the instrumental songs by Justin Bieber will play in the background. The music will play softly. I will also set the timer for 5 Minutes for your reading. . . (Charlie raises his hand) “Yes, Charlie?”

“May I go to the bathroom?”

“You may go after the lesson is over.”

“But it’s an emergency.”

“Just hold patiently out of respect for learning, Charlie. This assignment is only 20 minutes. Please wait. Participate in class. You can do it. (The student pouts and places his head on his desk. The teacher ignores the incident and continues with instructions—) Once you have read and discussed ‘smart goals’ with your assigned buddies, students, please return your individual attention to write a paragraph of a varied sentence structure—simple, compound, complex, compound-complex—to express what you understand about ‘smart goals.’ Remember to apply critical thinking to the sentences you write so that the sentences make sense. You may refer to your notes to refresh your memory of sentence structure if necessary. Justin Bieber’s instrumental music will continue to play. The timer will be set for 15-minutes.”

Once students are on task, the teacher whispers into student Charlie’s ear: “Step outside: I need to speak with you.” Charlie reluctantly obeys.

“Charlie, I feel disrespected when you interrupt me while I am teaching because you are breaking my rules for learning. Please, tell me, now, what’s wrong, Charlie?”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“You ask to go to the bathroom, often, Charlie, especially during class assignments. I cannot always allow you to interrupt my teaching. If you have a particular health problem I need to know about, please have your parent notify me of such a problem, and I will adapt. In the meantime, I expect for you to participate in my class because participating to learn is the very reason you are in school, understand? . . . May I count on you to not disturb my class during instruction unnecessarily, Charlie?

(Reluctantly) “Yes, Mam.”

“Okay. Thank you, Charlie. Your word means a lot. Now, go on to the bathroom and hurry back to catchup on your work.”

“Yes, Mam.”


Circling classroom with amplifier to her mouth, the teacher captures students’ attention: “Time is up. Please end this lesson on ‘smart goals’ by illustrating a picture of yourself five years from now. Who will you be? . . . A high school graduate. . . A medical student . . . An entrepreneur [student vocabulary] . . . An architect . . . A renowned public speaker . . . A music director . . . A plumber / electrician . . . What will you be? Illustrate by providing an example–or by drawing a picture of yourself five years from now. When you have completed your illustration, please place your work in the basket for grading.”


To elaborate on the strategies teacher Carol Moody uses in her classroom during instruction, an annotated version of her management ideas are discussed below. Relevant links pertaining to the actual strategies are also provided to aid the intention of this post, which is to demonstrate, to explain how a real classroom transpires through a framework of before, during, and after tactics.



Learning about reading and writing and arithmetic is important—and more sectors of it should continually be explored—yet an even more effectual learning idea than merely the typical required learning objectives is that of knowledge about real life taught in every class offered in schools. Lessons on personal career goals, self-management, critical thinking—just to name a few, are critical to students’ cognitive development as well as to their emotional well-being. (More ideas for teaching life skills are offered herein the article “10 Life Skills that Should Be Taught In School but Aren’t.” See above link). To maintain students’ interest in learning, educators must engage students in learning by creating lessons mixed with a school’s learning objectives and with life skills. Students flourish as human beings by learning a multitude of concepts and by applying many of these ideas to enhance their personal lives. With creativity, a teacher can teach his or her students lessons that students will appreciate. Teaching lessons of relevance has always been a component of student learning and has been for more than half a century. Adhere to a school’s learning goals, yet make learning relevant by including personal interests and achievable goals.


Every opportunity, students should encounter new words and understand the words’ importance. The more words a student knows, the better he or she understands complex topics. Research reveals vocabulary transports an important role in learning to read (review percentage of importance of vocabulary in link above). Beginning readers must use the words they hear in conversations or in teacher instructions to make sense of the words they stumble upon in print. Vocabulary is key to reading comprehension. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. Therefore, a direct instruction of vocabulary is critical for teaching in math, in science, in history, in English—even in electives—music, physical education, health, and others. Research explains learning 10 vocabulary words a day (author of this post says 10 words a day per class) will significantly enhance a student’s understanding of novel concepts, concepts learners have not necessarily learned but can reason through recall by possessing an extensive knowledge of vocabulary. Teachers may illustrate the importance of vocabulary by reviewing words students will encounter in assigned readings. When students read confidently with understanding they develop a sense of “smartness” and will look forward to their own extended reading because they believe they can “do it.” Teachers may strengthen students’ power for reading through direct instruction as well as through context methods: Include vocabulary in every taught discipline.


Teach students how to receive and give compliments. Expressing goodwill is an effective way to add to students’ satisfaction with themselves. Because everyone appreciates a compliment, teachers have the prime opportunity to exploit this motivational tool and use it for broadening relationships with students and for students to remember the compliments to help build their self-confidence. The link below provides research strategies teachers may apply to benefit their students.


When students perform a good deed, a teacher should recognize it immediately and promote the good deed in front of others. If known that some students shy away from public compliments, however, determine another method to compliment them, yet make sure to do so. A teacher may use animated stickers to apply to completed assignments or may write positive notes on assignments or may extend small gift surprises for student excellence and for student good behavior. Make sure to call students by their names when complimenting them: Research shares teachers referring to students by their names is a compliment to students. Students feel complimented when teachers say their names. Every chance a teacher encounters is a good chance to provide a compliment that is sincere, worthy, and honored. A compliment is a boost to many students’ cooperation and learning.


For others to listen, one must be heard. Thus, be heard so that students will listen. The use of an amplifier will help instruction flow and will add a tone of seriousness to teaching. Students can be naturally loquacious and may need a strong sound to command their attention. If a teacher can manage to hold a megaphone in his or her hand and speak and move about simultaneously, a megaphone would be ideal to command attention. While many other amplifiers exist, most amplifiers are designed to wear over one’s head, which may conflict with a person wearing eyeglasses or face masks (covid-19). Moreover, enduring material excessively about the head and face may obstruct one’s ability to speak and teach effectively. Yet, if practical for a certain ilk of instruction, use an amplifier that supports a teacher’s comfort during instruction and calls for the attention of students to listen. The link below provides suggestions for amplifiers and markets to purchase them.



Music is a winner in almost every setting. Without over playing its power to learning outcomes, where appropriate, add music to instruction. Music without lyrics may provide the best learning so that the lyrics will not interfere with the students’ concentration. The above link shares myriads of other links teachers may access to obtain seminal research on music and its benefit to instruction. A teacher who occasionally weaves music into instruction realizes that not only does music motivate students to action of completing their class assignments but also titillates students to enjoy listening to music and sets forth their best behavior for learning.


Misbehavior will transpire in almost every classroom setting. Whether or not a teacher is instructing an advanced class or a general class, the teacher will almost inevitably encounter students who will be defiant or will renege on class assignments. When defiance of any degree happens, a teacher must address it in a most professional yet dominant manner. I-Statements is a research based strategy that has supported classroom instruction for decades. (See link below to learn more about I-Statements.) Teachers must realize when to ignore minor behavior yet contend with misbehavior at convenient times. I-Statements, however, can be settled immediately in the classroom by providing a ripple effect so that other potentially defiant students will receive the teacher’s message loud and clear. I-Statements are best used in private: teacher to student. A teacher may firmly ask a defiant student to remove himself or herself from class, to wait outside the classroom door—and go no other place—until the teacher has the time to speak with the student. At this time, the teacher should begin reprimanding the student by using I-Statements—“I do not appreciate it when you interrupt my class with your inappropriate remarks, for your remarks cause the class to lose time in learning while they wrestle with your interruptions”. . . I need for this behavior of yours to stop.” . . . Explaining to the student how it feels to be interrupted and why it needs to stop gives the student a clear awareness of the problem that he or she can resolve . . . I Statements is a student management strategy that is powerful and necessary (link below) . . .


Carol Moody, although a seasoned teacher, recognizes that a year of new students brings about a year of new experiences and learning. Yet, maintaining a grip of mixing life lessons with learning objectives, teaching vocabulary in every discipline, using a megaphone or amplifier for instruction to be heard, complimenting students for small successes, applying music to instruction, and using I-Statements are relevant in all classroom instruction. Students are human beings first before they are students, and the lessons that matter most to them are the lessons that students deem relevant, fun, and beneficial to their livelihood. Teachers may also benefit from these aforementioned strategies because they apply to learning instruction and to student behavioral dispositions, which will help teachers manage many facets of classroom instruction.

About the writer of this post:

Cynthia Mathews is a Doctor of Education, a specialist of Curriculum and Instruction, and may be reached at lukeandlezz@gmail.com.








Four Strategies to Motivate Students to Participate in Learning

Cynthia Mathews is Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership. Mathews is also a published author of education topics and a life-long learner who spends her leisure conducting professional development workshops and researching ideas for helping amotivated students to complete their classroom assignments. Mathews may be reached at lukeandlezz@gmail.com.


With so many students disengaged from schools for a myriad of reasons, trying to figure out how to keep students in school and engaged in learning is every teacher’s challenge. While many motivational strategies are available to promote student learning, not many of them seem to work for amotivated students. As a leaf of hope for students’ motivation to complete their class assignments, the four strategies below are offered yet are different from the typical strategies supportive of the mainstream students. The strategies below work best for the unmotivated, misunderstood, and timid students. The strategies entail employment of benchmark awareness, awareness of life’s purpose, discernment of health benefits, and awareness of self-image. While these ideas are unique and are the brainstorms of the author of this post, there is some educational research that supports the ideas.


An 8×5 benchmark board will help to keep students motivated to complete assignments since few students rarely not prefer to be left behind (Hutson 2015 ). Students having their names highlighted same or similarly as their peers is a major learning jumpstart for students and is the right ilk of competition that many students crave (Hutson 2015 ). Students do not necessarily compete with the other students yet compete with themselves to ensure their names are recognized favorably. The benchmark board idea needs to be large and wide and impressive enough to add bold and calligraphic font the names of students that excel. Adding to the benchmark board white lights that flicker will promote attention to the board. The teacher needs to draw audible attention to the board, adding congratulatory remarks (Bennet 2020 ), “I am proud that you have been maintaining your name on the benchmark board, as it reveals to me, your teacher, that you are a dedicated student who is aware of school’s purpose, which is to learn.” Any amount of timely and appropriate remark about the benchmark board and the student’s learning will boost student engagement in learning.




Depending on the teaching situation, a teacher may include a “show and tell” segment at the beginning of a virtual instruction. Before moving into the lesson for today, the teacher may bring attention to the benchmark board, congratulating students, highlighting the areas pertinent to instruction and student perseverance or whatever else is notable for school success. The teacher who is savvy in using technology and software programs can make a BIG deal about the benchmark board, applying the latest gadgets and animations that will usurp students’ attention. Even the teacher not familiar with the navigation of technology and glories may effect positive change to activate and maintain student engagement by accentuating the positive in the most animated and appropriately designed by the teacher. Not every glory must be a source of fireworks ( Student Data). With changes in classroom instruction due to the zeitgeist foisted upon education, a teacher must prepare for entertainment in ways that will capture students’ willingness to learn, and this urgent awareness is especially true for K to 12 instruction ( Student Data). Virtual instruction can be fun on the outset with a little creativity delivered on the teacher’s behalf.


Using Student Instructional Decision Making (2009) Achievement Data to Suppor


Students attend school yet few understand the reason for school, as its purpose may have never been connected to life (Sloan 202 ): “Why am I alive?” What am I supposed to do with my life?” How may I live a happy life?” While exploration of these questions may be a different set of teaching and learning goals, these questions are valid to the human heart and exhibit a yearning for student satisfaction; hence, life questions should be asked and answered (Sloan 2020 ). Teachers may easily help students understand why they as students should work diligently toward their goals. An introduction to career choices is one way to stimulate students’ minds for career growth. The constitutional declaration, “life, liberty, and happiness,” is a helpful declaration for students to discern that their living rights are supported through the promise of a legal and a monitored infrastructure that highlights, “You matter, and the constitution will support you.” Teachers may introduce students to career choices. Students may be given descriptions and monetary values of their possible career interests. When students discern a means for shaping the lifestyles they desire for themselves, they will venture toward taking the necessary steps in school to flourish toward their life goals. Because students are young in age, they need ideas to promote their innate interests in making career choices for a fulfilling life. The teacher needs to ensure that students understand that attending school and applying effort to succeed are necessary ingredients to finding purpose and meaning in life. Eventually, students will develop the compass necessary to guide their own lives because they would have been shown a pasture that is green and inviting and possible to live into. Enjoying a happy life is meant for every willing person. Thus, understanding “purpose” helps to make goals for students come to fruition.


The prevalence of obesity in children ages 2 to 19 is well over 13 million. This alarming number attests to the ignorance of many young people unaware of proper nutrient and its ultimate health issues. Many students do not realize the eventual danger of consuming unhealthy products, such as colas and burgers and chips and cookies and saturated fats and processed foods—potato salad, turkey dressing, fried foods, ice cream and other unhealthy foods. Students’ unawareness of these potentially poisons bring about health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease ( CDC Guidelines). While young children may not exhibit health problematic symptoms at an early age, they most likely will exhibit these symptoms at a later age, and these health issues may compromise the successful life styles students may have set for themselves. Being able to work productively and happily require a significant stance of health awareness. Once becoming ill or incapacitated due to health issues students may inadvertently impede their career growth—much too soon. Research reveals that most—not all—states require health education in all public schools, and state laws have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex (CDC Guidelines ); yet, placing this important responsibility only on health teachers is unsound and is underrepresented, as studying the importance of health is a continuum and is every teacher’s responsibility to help build a community of students that understand the value of food and its adverse effects of improper eating. Starting early—kindergarten and beyond—teaching students the value of healthy eating will help curtail obesity and a host of other health problems. Thus, if every teacher, regardless of subject taught, would highlight the urgency of proper eating, many students would be spared the chronic problems of a potentially sufferable, health possibility, and because students look good and feel well, they may be better inspired to complete their class assignments than they would be if they did not feel good about their image or their poor eating habits.




Likewise, as health awareness is important, so is image awareness important. The negative manner a student may be perceived by teachers may potentially thwart the proximity necessary for teachers to endure while helping some unkempt students learn. While this rationale may be difficult to hear or accept, as fallible human beings, people understand that many other people preclude a presence that is not appealing to them. An unattractive image may be obesity, poor posture, belligerent attitude, untidiness, apathy, poor language acquisition (Fitzpatrick 2020 ). Some teachers prefer to teach students similar to their own personas, unintentionally or not. Their neglecting those students who do not mirror their same backgrounds or conversations is prevalent ( Fitzpatrick 2020). While teachers may camouflage their true feelings toward students they perceive as unworthy of their teacher prowess, they nevertheless, hold such negative feelings about some students, thereby not supporting an education of image enhancement that could easily alter negative conditions. Rectifying a student’s poor image may be aided through proper education. For example, the obesity issue may be enhanced with continual feeding of proper nutrition and its health reasons for not complying: Similarly, all other atrocious intents that some teachers may hold against students, may also be conquered through appropriate education, and where such image factors may not be easily remedied, there is the offered virtue of kindness or understanding. A person’s image is important to society—education, intimate relationships, careers, and individual self-esteem. Students should be aware, therefore, as examples, that hanging T-shirt, saggy pants, unattended hygiene, aggressive and inappropriate behaviors are not welcomed by many educators and should be recognized and adjusted in order to invite teacher proximity. Then students will receive the fair opportunity of proximity in order to be taught the pertinent lessons to develop cognitively. By teaching the importance of self-image, teachers may help solidify the idea that students should project a positive, healthy self-image to be invited into the space for learning taught by those persons who teach. (Student Appearance and Academic Judgments)



Learning strategies are important to understand in order to teach a diverse student body. Benchmark boards are useful in promoting student participation. Albeit in-face-classroom-instruction or virtual-learning may be the norm, benchmark boards are powerful tools in motivating students to complete class assignments. Understanding the purpose of living and realizing how to make career choices to make a good life are important lessons for teachers to teach students. 👌🏽

References Highlighted in Context







Research Motivation and Strategies to Apply

The following is a review and synthesis work by Ames and Ames, 1984; Brophy, 1983; Cornp and Rohrkemper, 1985; Deci and Ryan, 1985; Keller, 1983; Keller, 1983; Kolesnik, 1978; Leper and Greene, 1978; Maehr, 1984; Malone, and Lepper and McCombs, 1984; Nicholls, 1984; Wolodkowski, 1978, and Mathews, 2020.   (http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el_198710_brophy.pdf)

Cynthia Mathews is Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction and author of education books. She is secondary public school teacher and consultant for motivating students to complete their classroom assignments (Dissertation, 2010). Mathews may be reached at lukeandlezz@gmail.com

Research Motivation and Strategies to Apply

Review / Synthesis:

If activated in particular learning situations, motivation to learn may function as a scheme or script. Motivation to learn may also function as a cognitive element—such as piercing goals and associated strategies for accomplishing the intended learning; when applied appropriately, motivation can entice the spirit of learners to receive knowledge.

If teachers could solve motivation problems merely by finding out what their students like to do and arrange for them to do it, students would be inclined or motivated to take action.

Strategies for motivating students to apply lessons not only to perform on tests or assignments but also to effect information processing activities are necessary and attainable by students if students pay attention to lessons, if students read for understanding, if students paraphrase ideas, and if students learn contents or skills.

Students need motivation to complete a task. Two concepts are the norm: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation, whereas an important understanding of Expectancy X Value Theory helps to position motivational strategies—intrinsic or extrinsic—in appropriate perspectives.

Intrinsic motivation is the liking for enjoyment of an activity. However, intrinsic motivation, even for academic activities, does not necessarily imply motivation to learn.

Students may enjoy participating in an educational setting without trying to derive any academic benefit from it.

Students can try to gain knowledge or skills that an activity is designed to teach without enjoying the activity.

Extrinsic incentives and competition are more effective for stimulating intensity of effort than for inducing thoughtfulness or quality of performance. Rewards and competition are best used with practice tasks designed to produce mastery of specific skills rather than within incidental learning or discovery tasks, and with tasks where speed of performance or quantity of output is more of a concern than creativity, artistry, or craftsmanship.

Additionally, development and organization of the loss of strategies has been guided by Expectancy X Value Theory, which posits that the effort people will expend on a task is a product of the degree to which they value participation on the task itself or the benefits or rewards that successful task completion will bring to them.

This theory assumes that no effort will be invested in a task if either factor is missing entirely, no matter how much of the other factor may be present.

People do not invest effort in tasks that do not lead to valued outcomes even if they know they can perform the task successfully, and they do not invest effort on even highly valued tasks if they are convinced that they cannot succeed no matter how hard they try.

The Expectancy X Value Theory of Motivation implies that, in order to motivate students to learn, teachers must both help them to appreciate the value of academic activities and make sure that students can achieve success on these activities if they apply reasonable effort.

Motivational Strategies from Synthesis of Research on Strategies for Motivating Students to Learn

Importantly, no motivational strategies can succeed with students if the following non-annotated preconditions are not in effect:

(1) Supporting a conducive learning environment.

(2) Presenting an appropriate level of challenging difficulty.

(3) Supplying meaningful learning objectives.

Furthermore . . . Preconditions for students’ learning compliance consists of

4) Setting goal performance appraisal, and self-reinforcement skills helping students to recognize linkages between effort and outcome.

(5) Promoting remedial socialization.

(6) Offering rewards for good or improved performance.

(7) Structuring appropriate competition. 

(8) Calling attention to the instrumental value of academic activities.

(9) Adapting tasks to students’ interests.

(10) Allowing choice of autonomous decisions.

(11) Providing opportunities for students to respond actively.

(12) Providing immediate feedback to student response.

(13) Allowing students to create finished products.

(14) Including higher level objectives and divergent questions.

(15) Providing opportunities to interact with peers.

(16) Modeling interest in learning and motivating.

(17) Communicating desirable expectations and attributions about students’ motivation to learn.

(18) Projecting intensity.

(19) Projecting enthusiasm.

(20) Inducing task interest or appreciation.

(21) Inducing dissonance or cognitive conflict.

(22) Making abstract content more personal, concrete, or familiar.

(23) Inducing students to generate their own motivation to learn.

(24) Stating learning objectives and providing advance organizers.

Mathews Motivational Theory

After teaching many students over the years and asking students on a continual basis, “Are you interested in learning?” the writer of this post attests to the response of every student, “Yes.” Through students’ written assessments–after they have completed instructional assignments–students have revealed they wish to be shown how to learn. Students have shared that they hope to believe that others will believe in them and be willing to teach them without robbing them of their self-respect.

Having taken seriously students’ willingness to learn, the writer of this post has developed practical steps for teachers to take to help ensure that their students learn. By following the simple approach as illustrated herein, teachers can motivate their students to learn. The first step begins with the teacher: The development of a professional stance:

The teacher’s prerogative is to present himself or herself as a professional. A presentation of professional dress—for a male, slacks, coat, and tie are necessary to invite order and respect into instructional teaching; for female, a sleeved dress or skirt, blouse, blazer, closed-in shoes.

Research supports professional dress to induce students to accept instruction as businesslike and serious (https://www.hindawi.com/journals/edri/2019/9010589/ The Effect of Teachers’ Dress on Students’ Attitude and Students’ Learning). Research further reveals that students’ views of teacher professional dress correlates to students’ classroom performance, reporting that students believe teachers are smart and organized when they dress professionally, opening the classroom environment to student motivation to learn.

Recognize students as human beings who deserve respect. All student deserve to be treated as if they matter (https://www.verywellmind.com/social-psychology). People feel special when they receive eye contact from teachers and are addressed by their names when called upon. Students appreciate being included in instruction even though they may not participate fully and prefer not to be heckled when reluctant to respond yet placated and inspired to participate in activities because teachers believe they are worthy and add value to classroom learning. Being treated respectfully as a human being is an important step to take when gaining and maintaining students’ motivation to learn.

If teachers teach lessons of value, teachers will witness their entire class participating happily. Students may not realize their purpose in life at an early age (K-12) and may show signs of pessimism if they view their lives do not matter.

When instruction of the virtues, for example, becomes a standard for learning and living, students will begin to view school as valuable, for without realizing reasons for living, without understanding how to live their best lives, students may feel a void, an empty space that twirls into apathy, losing motivation to learn the required national standards that they fail to see the value from the outset.

This empty space in students’ lives can be filled with lessons of how to be good, decent citizens in their societies. For few examples, lessons on self-reliance, patience, kindness, and perseverance are lessons that add value to students’ lives.

Teaching virtues will help students situate their lives: teaching virtues places students on a scaffold of support while they navigate through life’s journey.

Once students discern that they are learning necessary life skills, they will partake in classroom instruction because they will be motivated to learn the national school standards while they are simultaneously being directly taught the virtues of life.

Virtuous concepts are valuable to students; the concepts motivate students to learn intrinsically, which is the ultimate goal of many pedagogical classrooms.

Relevance is another effective motivational tool. Many students do not care about learning teachers’ provided instructions because students fail to visualize the relevance for their attention to be held.

A lesson of relevance is akin to life skills—how to do this; how to do that; why to do this; where to do that. Students desire to know about job opportunities, about moneymaking schemes, about living a prosperous and happy life.

Teachers may easily add life skills in their lesson plans by connecting real life scenarios to instruction. What is necessary for teachers to contemplate is the importance of students’ interests and to add students’ interests to activities disseminated in the classroom.

Reading the strategies this author shares meshes with the synthesized motivational strategies shared above. Lessons must be of students’ interests and benefit, and the cost factor of students’ efforts must be an assurance of their success, coupled with the Expectancy-Value Theory that warns, “Unless students view success for themselves in completing assignments much work on their parts may be held in abeyance.”

Mathews Delineated Student Motivational Strategies:

While many motivational strategies exist, the bottom five strategies are unique because the strategies directly entail the influential value of the student as a whole, as a person.

The strategies recognize the person as someone to support to catapult him or her to realms where education is not only motivational but also meaningful, knowledgeable, and prosperous for the student. The Mathews Motivational Strategies are as follows:

  1. Be professional in appearance and attitude so students will view you as a smart and trustworthy teacher.
  2. Treat students as respectful human being by projecting eye contact and calling affirmatively their names when addressing them.
  3. Teach students values that will help them develop into good, successful individuals.
  4. Add relevance to lesson plans to include career ideas and moneymaking concepts so that students may develop a life plan for a successful life.
  5. Make lessons interesting, keeping learning challenging yet achievable.


Cherry, K. An Overview of Social Psychology (2020). Verywellmind.

Expectancy-Value Theory: Educational Psychology. (ND).

Mathews, C. How to Motivate Students to Complete Their Classroom Assignments: Dissertation. 2010.

Synthesis of Research on Strategies for Motivating Students to Learn. Jere Brophy. Educational Leadership. (ND).



Mathews’ Strategies for Student Management and Success

Photo of Dr. Cynthia Mathews

ABOUT: Cynthia Mathews is Doctor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership. She conducts professional development workshops and teaches English in secondary education. Mathews is author of Cynthia Mathews on Curriculum and Instruction, A Nice and Nippy Discourse (letters for school leaders), GramSlam (grammar lessons), Life Is How You Punctuate It 2! (punctuation practice) and Book of Imperatives (living life maxims accompanied by Book of Imperatives Workbook). During her leisure, Mathews Blogs on education topics and writes and produces education forums and general stage plays. Mathews lives in Dothan, Alabama, and may be reached at lukeandlezz@gmail.com.

Mathews’ Strategies for Student Management and Success

Teaching can be rewarding if you understand how to approach it. You must remember to place ‘yourself’ in order before you can expect your students to follow your orders.

Student-followers happen when students admire you, when you have invaluable lessons to offer, when you have a style of delivering; only then will student-followers listen to learn:

Thus, as a teacher, you must have a plan to succeed. You must deliver your plan with dominance, with expertise, with professionalism, and, most importantly, with heart.

Below are 30-simply-stated-tips I, myself, have applied over the years and have been immensely successful using them: The strategies work and are as follows:

  1. Dress professionally. When you look like a leader students will treat you like a leader. In fact, seminal research stipulates professional dress correlates with student learning.

2. Decorate classroom for an inviting, learning environment. Most students appreciate a feel of “comeliness and color.” An appropriately decorated classroom promotes an unspoken trust between student and teacher.

3. Be prepared with materials ready. Make extra copies or ensure computers are working. Never not have enough of what is needed; it makes those left out feel overlooked. 😞

4. Treat every student as a human being. Regardless of appearance or ethnicity or complexion or gender, approach every student as a child of a Supreme Being. Making students feel special inspires them to learn.

5. Address student by name. A student feels special to hear her name, and practice enunciating the student’s name accurately.

6. Give student smiles. No one should learn without receiving a smile; therefore, if you see a student without a smile, give her one of yours.

7. Compliment student where appropriate. Remember that a compliment can last for years, and if you search for something nice to say, you will find beauty in every assignment and in every person. Acknowledge it.

8. Motivate student by offering opportunities for him to analyze positive quotes. This assignment will also help strengthen the student’s critical thinking skills.

9. Teach social skills that the student lacks. A morally developing student needs help with propriety; therefore, make a point to include in your lesson plans life skills that would be beneficial for the student.

10. Explain lessons and mention reasons the lessons will be helpful. Don’t just say it, explain it. This way, a student will understand.

11. Accept the assignment a student presents and provide precise, constructive feedback. A student must learn within her own being, and a teacher must enhance, not change, the student’s innate abilities.

12. Ignore few misbehaviors that appear minor. Yet, redirect the student with management strategies of proximity and withitness. Student will then witness that you as teacher are in control.

13. Remind the student of due assignments. Ask student to write himself a note and to place the note in his bookbinder so that he will be reminded of his assignments to complete.

14. Provide teacher constructed handouts rather than allow student to use regular paper. This idea sends a signal of seriousness.

15. Teach the student organization skills: Explain how to head paper, how to remain within red margin, how to write on front side of paper only, how to add whitespace for clarity. Orderliness will help the student feel better about his presentation skills and will provide him with confidence that he is completing his lesson attractively and as instructed.

16. “Chuck” a lesson to ensure completion of its whole. Serve portions as desired by the student.

17. Forego the “F.” Reward positive grades with helpful tips for improvement. If a student completes the work—correct or not correct—that is passing, not failing because the student tried his best.

18. Support student autonomy in completing daily assignments. Perhaps the student, himself, knows how to construct the lesson: Allow him.

19. Use Scantrons for major tests. Again, for “seriousness.”

20. Encourgae student to sit-up, pay attention: provide a helpful reason. “I want you to understand this lesson so you’ll perform well on the ACT / SAT, so please situp to learn, okay? Adding “okay” gives the student a chance to honor his response. 👩‍👩‍👧‍👧

21. Use a smiley sticker on any assignment that shows student-improvement. Nobody doesn’t like a smiley sticker, and recognition is vitally motivating for a student’s continuance.

22. Text student-parent a short, complimentary message about his child: “Charley completed every assignment today: Proud.👌🏽 Thank you for your good parenting assistance.”

23. Review Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) to remain abreast of a student’s needs. Remember, you are accountable. Know the law.

24. Keep a folder of student assignments to show parents and curriculum specialists the progression of the student, and to make accommodations if necessary.

25. Remember the smart, well-behaved students, for they often get left behind in the “recognition” department. Showcase their works. Publicly thank them for their “excellence.” 🙌🏽

26. Ask a capable, reliable student to teach a lesson. Research stipulates a significant number of students learn better from classmates than they learn from teachers; moreover, a capable, benevolent student would appreciate helping others. It indicates he is “smart.” 😀

27. Allow a capable, reliable student to circulate the room to determine who needs one-on-one aid, and give permission for student to illustrate how a problem is solved as you monitor the situation.

28. Review classroom rules often and at every appropriate opportunity. The more students hear the rules, the more they will Remember and obey the rules.

29. Apply Depth Of Knowledge Questions to reonforce learning standards and skills. Allow 10-15 seconds for students to respond.

30. Generate an end of year money / trophy award program. Acknowledge important categories of learning, and make the event decorative with music and acceptance speeches. ⭐️

In essence, the above ideas will work if enforced with professionalism and “heart.” The goal is to teach, to guide, to motivate, to empower your students.

Be consistent with innovative teaching and learning strategies, and your students will prosper, and so will you. 👌🏽








How to Help SPED Students

About Writer of this Post: Cynthia Mathews is a Doctor of Education per Curriculum and Instruction and Education Leadership. She is a school teacher of English secondary education, and she spends her time creating and conducting professional development workshops for educators. Mathews creates and promotes education forums, stage plays, and directs students in leadership. She is author of several education books, including Cynthia Mathews on Curriculum and Instruction and A Nice and Nippy Discourse.

How to Help SPED Students

Scenario of a Teacher and Students

Many students sit there. They stare into my teacher face with little facial expression of their own. I find it difficult to discern if they are listening to my lecture. I try not to lecture often, yet when teaching a new lesson, my lecture is necessary. Yet, many students stare into my face, wanting, I suppose.

What are they thinking?

After the lecture, I ask, “Any questions?” Not one student raises his or her hand to respond.

I wait 15 seconds: Again, “Any questions?”

“Great! Let’s practice.”

Students slowly borrow a piece of paper from another classmate or they slowly take out their computer to proceed.

Again, students sit there, staring now at the paper or the computer.

I walk around and witness nothing on the paper or on the computer screen.

I ask, “Do you understand?” Finally, an answer. “No, I don’t” . . . Or, the student passes me an up and down movement of his shoulders, indicating—Well, I am not sure. . .

I venture to calm the other students who are currently talking disruptively to other students. . . .

“Class, shhh. I am trying to help your classmate.”

I hear in the back ground, “For what? He’s slow.”

Without thinking–“And what does that make YOU saying such a thing?”—

“Class, listen. Focus on your work. I will make my rounds to help everyone one-on-one.”

The interruption continues.

“May I go to the bathroom?”

“No. You know the rules.”

”May I work with a partner?” (Impossible. New lesson).

“Noooo. Look at rule #3 on the wall: No interrupting instruction.”

Okay, back to the student I am helping.

“Yes, your response is correct. The manner you have shown is how to complete the problem. Now try another problem on your own while I help another student.”

Student pauses. He stares at the paper.

When I return, the SPED student has not worked a problem on his own, yet when I nudge him, “Yes! Now circle the the subject of the sentence.”

Subject? (Wait! Did he not know what a subject meant?)

“Yes, I mean, circle the person or thing that the sentence speaks—I mean, is talking about”

Blank stare.

I search for words to reach him. “You know, who is doing the talking?” He understands, and points at the subject. He looks up to me for validation.

“Yessss! That’s correct. . .”


“Teacher, someone is throwing spitballs.”

“Okay. Wait! Students. Please. Be mindful that you are in school to learn, not to play.”

Students’ voices drown my voice, and I result to—

“Okay. SILENCE. Speak nothing! (My right eyebrow raises.) This assignment is now a test. Complete as much as you understand. End of test, write a message to me to explain what you have learned.”

With “This is a test!” directive, students begin to listen, to complete their work. I walk the isles for the remainder 20 minutes of class, forbidding anyone to speak.

In reflection, I begin to think about how my SPED student was able to understand the lesson while I was within proximity to teach him. He listened, he reasoned (with my probing) and he figured out the answers.

I suspect that many SPED students need one-on-one instruction from teachers. When a teacher is nearby to confirm right answers or to gently guide a student toward the right answer, the student tends to learn.

Unfortunately, many SPED students are placed in general classes, usually with other students that are playful and less concerned about completing assignments.

Placing a SPED student, especially the ilk of sped students who show promise for learning, in a general class of nonchalant studen, is not a best practice.

A better alternative is to place the willing to learn SPED student in an honors class where the classroom environment is more conducive to learning. The teacher will have time and noise free space to provide one-on-one aid for the inclined SPED student to learn.

The suggestion for placing SPED students in honors classes is specifically for helping. Other SPED students, ones that create a problem in the classroom, might be better working with a SPED teacher in isolation, in another room where the number of other students is limited. Or, problem SPED students may be placed in general classes where they may receive instruction on learning the standards and also receive instruction on proper student behavior. Many students in general classes—SPED—or not, can benefit from lessons on “civility.”

Student Civil Behavior

A SPED student’s misbehavior could be due to his or disability. An Individualized Education Plan should accompany the student’s learning plan and should be followed precisely. Nevertheless, a lesson in civility—how to behave in a learning environment, how to respect self and others—is a lesson to be added to class instruction to help improve the overall behavior and learning of students.

Lessons that support the morals of individuals are very important. Civility lessons may be drawn from many sources of etiquette. A recommended book for class instruction is Civility by P. F. Forni.

In this book, lessons abound on civil behavior. Students will benefit, and lessons may be incorporated with the school’s learning standards.

To have a major impact on student civil behavior, civil lessons should be taught in every classroom with some time spent on completing exercises of civility by students.

When students learn how to behave in a learning environment they will be able to learn free of disruptions and will provide SPED students the opportunity of having a teacher to work with them in proximity.

All students deserve the right to learn in the utmost, learning conditions; yet, SPED students need every opportunity to operate in an environment that is helpful and attentive to their special needs. Allowing for a civil behavior lesson plan in all classes, yet especially in general classes, can be extremely helpful and may allow room for learning strategies that SPED students need.

Research Based Learning Strategies

Children have different developmental issues, and teachers that apply different teaching strategies can help SPED students learn appropriately. Naturally, a plan for student learning should be followed, yet being cognizant of research based strategies for learning is also useful. The link below provides SPED strategies for instructional purposes:

A Different Scenario for a Teacher and Students

“Good morning class. Today we will learn about subject-verb-agreement; you will learn how to identify the subject and the verb to make both words agree in syntax.

. . .Before we start the lesson, let me remind you of the classroom rules: Do not interrupt instruction for any reason. Your listening to my lecture will help you understand how to complete the lesson on subject verb agreement.

. . .No conniving. No bothering other students. If caught, you will be identified. Lastly, remain quiet and civil while I walk around to help each student. Understand?”

Students acquiesce.

To a SPED student: “How may I help you?”

“I dunno.”

“Okay, first find the subject, you know, the person who is talking in this sentence.”

The student points at the subject.

“Great. Now, remember, Jason, ususally the verbs comes after the subject. . .so what is the verb?”

He points.

“Yes?” You have identified both the subject and the verb. That is awesome! Now, see if you can find the subject and the verb in the next lesson, and I will be back to check, okay, Jason?”

The student smiles.

“Class, thank you for your fine behavior. I am able to help each of my students when civility is in the classroom . . . “

Research supports setting goals and expectations at the beginning of a lesson. Then the teacher may proceed to teach and to help. The teacher should remain cognizant of SPED students and provide them with one-on-one instruction under feasible circustances.

Below are strategies for teaching SPED students developed by the writer of this post:

  1. Recognize SPED students in the classroom.

2. Seat SPED students in front of the class.

3. Make a point to ask SPED students, “Do you understand?

4. Stand next to the sped student for a full minute or longer while teaching him or her.

5. Recognize mistakes but do not make a big deal about it. Just correct and explain.

6. Work two problems with the SPED student and then ask him or her to work the next problem on his or her own.

7. Compliment work progress of the SPED student.

8. Refer regularly to the SPED’s Individualized Education Plan, and follow it precisely.

9. Teach civility and self-improvement lessons.

10. Smile while referring to a SPED student by his or her name.