5 Ways to Improve Your Teaching Strategies Over the Summer

Are you a teacher hoping to make the most of your summer "vacation?" If so, use one, or all, of these tips to make the next school year your most successful one yet.

It’s summertime and if you’re an educator, your family and friends probably expect teaching strategies to be the last thing on your mind. “Come to the wave pool!” They say, only to be dumbfounded when you sigh and explain you have work to do. Because while the general population may not realize it, summer can be a very busy time for teachers — a time for revamping lesson plans, learning new skills and finding exciting ways to make learning fun. Are you a teacher hoping to make the most of your summer “vacation?” If so, use one, or all, of these tips to make the next school year your most successful one yet.

1. Replace the duds in your lesson plan. Dust off your grade book and flip through it to find the lessons where students struggled the most. Start by choosing just one of these lessons and giving it a complete overhaul. Could you use a lesson plan based on zombies to inject new blood into a boring geography unit? Make waves by taking a new approach to the lesson that needs it the most.

2. Explore new tech tools. These days it seems like new tech tools are born every minute. When you’re a teacher, it can be hard to keep up with constantly changing technologies, and even harder to incorporate them into your lesson plan. So why not take some of your free time this summer and use it to tinker with a new gadget, device or app? Who knows, what you learn about digital badges or sites like Learnist could impact your teaching strategies and give you new ways to keep students engaged.

3. Visit local learning spots. Just because class isn’t in session, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a field trip. Explore your area’s museums, libraries and other learning centers. Do you live near Spark’s hometown of Pittsburgh? If so, you could try taking a day trip to attractions like Laurel Caverns or the Palace of Gold. Don’t forget to bring a notepad and pen — sometimes brilliant teaching strategies come from surprising places.

4. Join a new teaching network. One of the best ways to access new ideas is to meet new people. This summer, expand your network and connect with other educators who are as dedicated as you are. Try taking a digital media webinar, or joining one of the five personal learning networks recommended by Mindshift. If nothing else, get social on Twitter and Facebook to connect with other teachers who are building their skills over the summer.

5. Reach out to students. Educators are always striving to create engaging teaching strategies, but when it comes to gauging efficacy, they often miss out on a key opportunity — simply asking their students. Talk to your principal or administrator, and ask if it would be possible to conduct a poll or evaluation with parents and students before the school year starts. Survey your students to find which lessons they enjoyed or remember most. Then use their feedback to craft next year’s lesson plans.

Wanting to improve your teaching strategies is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to wall yourself away inside of a dark office while summer passes you by. Instead, try one of these 5 tips. They’ll make the biggest impact on your teaching success without sucking up every hour of your free-time in the process. Because while your lesson plans could always use a little TLC, if you’re an overworked educator, so could you.

Published July 09, 2012