25 things to try in your classroom next year

Teachers can use the summer to identify and learn about educational approaches or tools they want to use in the next school year

As schools across the country close for summer, teachers are, understandably, breathing a sigh of relief. But the learning doesn’t stop just because students leave classrooms.

Summer is one of the most popular times for teachers to engage in professional learning. Without the daily demands of a classroom full of children, teachers can focus on instructional approaches they’d like to strengthen or can experiment with different digital resources or tools.

Do you want to learn more about coding so you can use it in your lessons in the fall? Want to become more confident applying STEM concepts across the curriculum? Or maybe you want to learn how to leverage social media to grow your network.

If you’re searching for something to invigorate your classroom in the fall, check out these new teaching tools and methods–you might find something you can’t wait to use in your classroom.

Professional Learning

1. Professional learning networks: Teacher communities are a great way to combine social interaction and knowledge-sharing, and this list offers some nice options for educators looking to grow their professional learning network (PLN). In fact, teachers who are eager to learn about new classroom strategies or resources can rely on their PLN to offer advice and best practices before the new school year starts.

2. Classroom management practices: The dunce cap, a ruler on the knuckles, kneeling on rice: Modern teachers wouldn’t think of using these methods to correct students’ behavior. But for all the progress that schools have made in understanding and implementing effective discipline, teachers can still fall into bad habits that sabotage their own efforts to stay in command.

3. Informal assessments: The great thing about informal assessments is they help us gauge students’ understanding during the learning process instead of after. Informal assessment also changes teachers’ relationship to student learning.


4. STEAM in the classroom: STEM and STEAM are all the rage these days, and for good reason–the skills students take away from STEM and STEAM classes help them succeed in advanced education classes, training programs, and the workforce.

5. Using coding in STEAM lessons: For more creativity, exploration, and freedom, educators can incorporate play into their coding and STEAM lessons.


6. Technologies for PBL: Any teacher who has tried to design an authentic project can tell you that it takes significant time, energy, and community outreach. These technologies can help PBL.

7. Personalizing PBL for STEM: How can schools and districts prepare students for college and careers in STEM? Is it by asking them to passively read a textbook or listen to a teacher lecture? Or is it by challenging them to actively engage in projects that attempt to solve real-world problems? This Texas district is getting students to become active learners, problem solvers, and STEM advocates.

8. Using PBL for engagement: One of the most effective instructional approaches toward the implementation of STEM in grade-level courses is through PBL. In this approach, instruction occurs through student-centered investigations focused on a specific topic driven by a set of objectives, culminating in a broadly-defined product or technique.

9. How to innovate in PBL: Many students struggle to learn and master concepts in traditional classroom settings. Without a hands-on connection, lessons can be easily lost and remain unhelpfully abstract. I firmly believe that PBL is one of the best ways to solve this disconnect.

10. Questions and answers regarding PBL: Some teachers jump on the PBL bandwagon—and these days it’s a loud, expanding bandwagon—because they’ve read persuasive articles, seen cool videos, heard inspiring presentations, or been swept up by enthusiastic colleagues. To these folks I’d say, don’t try PBL until you’ve done a bit more reading, gotten some training, or planned your jump with colleagues.


11. Using engineering to support STEM: “What if schools could offer a different approach to STEM education that provided students with truly immersive learning opportunities?” That question came to Ethan Berman, founder of i2 Learning, after the experience of his nine-year old daughter, who liked school but loved solving problems and making things with her own hands, especially, as she put it, “if it was something useful.”

12. Helping students think like scientists: I enjoy challenging students to engage in hands-on scientific inquiry. In fact, I’m always telling my students and colleagues that I don’t want our students to think and act like scientists. I want them to think and act as scientists.

13. Science simulations: Simulation has been around for more than 20 years, so what is compelling more science teachers and school districts to add it to their bag of resources? Just as early video games with their simply designed interfaces and limited functionality evolved into today’s fully immersive games, simulations have also evolved.

14. Taking science outside: As teachers, we’re always trying to find new and exciting ways to make our class content more relevant and engaging for our students. Fortunately, science offers many connections with what’s right outside our classroom doors. Extend your classroom walls and use tech to get kids excited about science.

Coding and robotics

15. Robotics for young students: The children we teach were born with technology as a part of their lives. They don’t know a world without touchscreen phones and computers in every room. In today’s world, saying that subjects like coding and robotics “are for ‘big kids’” is like saying “reading is for ‘big kids.’” Three teachers share their thoughts and experiences on implementing coding and robotics in early education.

16. Classroom coding: Interest in K-12 coding and computer programming has increased tenfold in recent years, due in part to the nation’s need for highly-qualified computer programming graduates to fill jobs that sit empty. One district’s summer coding program helped nurture students’ interest in computer programming.

17. Coding without screens: A few years ago, computer programming for kids was a niche subject that only children of select parents were exposed to. Fast-forward to today, where coding for kids has embedded itself into many mainstream education curricula around the world. Even though the popularity of teaching kids to code has increased, there are still concerns with screen time for young children.

18. Coding across the curriculum: By moving away from the textbook in traditional classes and instead integrating technology and projects, we are able to take our students by surprise, grab their attention, and increase their confidence in STEM-based skills.

AR and VR

19. Apps for AR and VR: Are you curious about using augmented or virtual reality in your classroom? If you’ve already tried it out, are you looking for more app and lesson plan ideas? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Start with the Google Cardboard headset (it’s only $15), and whether you’re using iOS, Android, Chromebooks, or iPads, we’ve curated an assortment of apps and lesson plans to try out with your students.

20. Using AR for ELLs: Two educators explore how AR brings fun and excitement to English language learners. One of the biggest challenges today’s teachers face is helping ELLs develop the literacy skills they need to keep pace with their peers. An essential first step in that process is getting their attention in class.

21st-Century Skills

21. Supporting problem solving: The vast majority of educators and policymakers believe students should develop creative problem-solving skills in school–but the problem, they say, is that not enough schools teach this concept.

22. Creativity in the curriculum: School leaders are tasked with infusing creativity in order to prepare our students for the demands of 21st century workforce skills. But how can this be accomplished?

23. Transforming problem solving: By integrating computational thinking into the curriculum, this district is better preparing its students for success.

24. Fostering creativity and innovation: Creativity in the classroom provides a more relaxed and open environment for the students to freely express their opinions and to learn faster. Here are some tips for helping teachers add creativity to the curriculum.

25. Media-literacy skills: Media literacy is more important today than ever. It is a critical skill for students of all ages, especially because teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day on media that doesn’t include schoolwork or homework.

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Laura Ascione

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