So what are some of the qualities that all great teachers possess?
- At the risk of overstating the obvious, great teachers truly love children! If you don’t love children, you can’t be a great teacher. Period. At the risk of really overstating the obvious, if you don’t love children, you shouldn’t be in education!
- Great teachers are masters at classroom management. They understand the importance of structure. Their management plans consist of clearly stated rules that are enforced fairly, calmly and consistently and of procedures that are practiced until they become routines. Students know what to expect. No surprises!
- Great teachers are intelligent people who possess a thorough understanding of their subject matter. They are not, however, arrogant in their knowledge. Rather, they use their knowledge to simplify what’s complex and to accommodate their students’ individual abilities and levels of understanding.
- Great teachers understand that they are actors on a stage. Yes, actors. They are performers capable of entertaining, capturing and enrapturing their audiences every day. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they act as though everything they teach is their favorite thing to teach.
- Great teachers are positive, kind, compassionate, patient people. Though they are as human as anyone else, they do not allow students to push their buttons. They handle even the most challenging situations with composure, thoughtfulness and professionalism. They never compromise a student’s dignity.
- Great teachers do not allow their personal problems to bleed into their teaching. In simplest terms, they don’t impose their moods on their students.
- Great teachers are problem solvers. They don’t play the blame game. Nor do they play ostrich, sticking their heads in the sand. They identify problems and immediately get busy finding solutions.
- Great teachers don’t endure change; rather, they ensure it — not simply for the sake of change, but for the betterment of teaching and learning.
- Great teachers have a sense of humor, and they share it daily with their students.
- Great teachers continually strive to make learning fun, relevant, interesting, challenging and engaging. In the classrooms of great teachers, students are encouraged to question, discuss, debate, experiment, invent and make lots of mistakes.
- Great teachers recognize the importance of establishing positive relationships with their students. They subscribe to the belief that in order to teach a student, you must first reach a student. Thus, they get to know their students on a personal level.
- Great teachers have high expectations of all students and truly believe that every student can succeed.
- Great teachers are not perfect teachers. When they make mistakes, they act as good role models do, admitting their mistakes, learning from these mistakes and offering apologies if necessary.
The bottom line is that great teachers are some of the most dedicated and committed people you will ever meet. For them, going the extra mile is just a warm up for the marathon. Not surprisingly, great teachers are also some of the most humble people you will ever meet. They are the real difference-makers in education. Many of them do not even realize just how exceptional they really are. Or if they do, they’re just too darn humble to admit it. But we see you, we know who you are, and we thank you!
Mind maps can be used for a multitude of purposes. This article outlines how they can effectively be used to help support and develop students’ writing skills.
- A mind map is …
- The advantages of mind maps
- How to make mind maps with your students
- Choosing a topic
- Note making
- Organising mind maps
A mind map is …
A mind map, or spidergram, is a strategy for making notes on a topic, prior to writing. It is a structured strategy, which shows the (hierarchical) relationship of ideas, as opposed to an unstructured strategy, such as brainstorming, in which students produce notes at random on paper.
Having an organised display of information from the outset of the writing process may help some students, as it is more easily converted into a draft, whereas in brainstorming, the random recording of ideas might lead to problems with the structure of students’ texts.
The advantages of mind maps
Making a mind map should be a spontaneous pre-writing activity. Students start with a topic at the centre and then generate a web of ideas from that, developing and relating these ideas as their mind makes associations.
Mind maps work well as their visual design enables students to see the relationship between ideas, and encourages them to group certain ideas together as they proceed. Mind maps work especially well when created in groups, since the discussion this engenders aids the production of ideas, and makes the task livelier and more enjoyable.
How to make mind maps with your students
Choosing a topic
Traditionally, students are given a topic to write on by the teacher. However, with certain classes, students may prefer to nominate the topic themselves. This can lead to greater interest in the task on the part of the student, as well as, perhaps, greater knowledge of the topic under study.
The mind map strategy can be used to explore almost any topic, though discursive essays and narrative work particularly well as they front students’ ideas and lend themselves to discussing ideas in groups.
I usually start by writing the topic on the board. In the last writing class I taught, with a group of upper-intermediate students, I chose a discursive essay with the title “Why do people start smoking?” I chose this genre as we had recently been looking at the language used to give reasons and explanations. The discursive text is useful in highlighting this feature of English, and in raising awareness of the noun phrase, a particularly tricky area for intermediate students.
Once the topic has been introduced, I encourage my students to close their eyes and think about it for a minute or two, in silence. They then have two minutes in which to note down their ideas. If they do not know a word in English, they can write it in L1 at this stage, as dictionaries or too much teacher intervention tend to halt and inhibit the creative flow.
Then, working in groups, they can compare and discuss their ideas, perhaps adding to their mind maps as they go. This stage also provides the opportunity for peer teaching, as other students may be available to provide the English word for the idea that was noted down in L1.
The next stage, in which the teacher makes a collective mind map on the board, is optional, but is useful for students who are new to the idea of mind maps, or for weak classes. It is also in this feedback stage that any remaining language problems can be ironed out. As the teacher elicits students’ ideas, and reformulates expressions or corrects, students will learn how to express their ideas in English. Such personalisation is said to aid vocabulary learning.
The map is fluid and changeable, and new connections or subgroups can be made, or branches added, as the students make suggestions. The end result should be an organised display of information, showing the central topic, and a number of subtopics and further points that stem from it.
Organising mind maps
In the next stage the students organise their mind maps into a linear format to decide the best way in which to present their points. They should first think about the overall structure, i.e. the order in which to relay the information, and then focus on the precise function each paragraph will have in their final text, as this helps to clarify their writing. This can be done in groups, or as a class with the teacher leading the discussion.
However it is carried out, it is important to provide a context and audience. I told my class, who were writing about drugs, that they were writing for their college magazine. Having an audience in mind helps students to decide which ideas are most important, and also helps students to choose the appropriate style.
Students should then begin to write their compositions, working in pairs if they wish. After two paragraphs, they should exchange their compositions, so they become readers of each other’s work. This allows for feedback, and possible re-writing. Once they have finished, they should again exchange their texts. This gives their texts a communicative purpose, as well as developing an awareness of the fact that a writer is always producing something to be read by someone else, rather than for the display of writing alone.
Once students are familiar with the idea of making mind maps, they can be encouraged to use this skill for further writing activities. It is a useful technique and often improves the clarity and organisation of student texts.
‘Process Writing’ by Ron White and Valerie Arndt
‘How to Teach Writing’ by Jeremy Harmer
‘Writing’ by Tricia Hedge
‘Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers’ by Michael McCarthy
: “What’s your best tip that has made life better/easier?” The result was a wonderful influx of brilliant wisdom from twiter.
- Use travel delay as opportunity to stop rather than get stressed. When the world stands still, let it. [Karl Durrant]
- Whenever your spouse says something the first thing you should hear is “I love you & want to spend my life with you”. [David Inman]
- Stop clinging and embrace change as a constant. [Isabelle Cholette]
- Try and give people the benefit of the doubt if they snap at you. Might be something going on you don’t know about. [misslmdavis]
- Wash your bowl immediately after eating! [niekstarr]
- The daily practice of silence. [dimovich]
- Life is so much easier when you make a decision within 5 minutes. Longer than that and you get bogged down & never decide. [Tiffany Cooper]
- Friendship is a gift, not a possession. [Chris Reetz]
- Mostly nothing is that serious as it seems in the first moment. [Julian Pollman]
- Before you go to bed, write down only 3 things that you want to do the following day. This is how to prioritize. [Ziba]
- Do the most important task first thing in the morning. [Jordan Ayres]
- Make all driving a mindfulness practice. Well being and safety! [Branden Barnett]
- When you think you want something, put it on the planner a month from now. When that month rolls around and you still want it, OK. [connie baber]
- Smiling … seems to help with most things. 🙂 [zen fostering]
- Love where you live, and work in walking distance from where you live. [Anoel]
- Expecting less or nothing, and just being. That way disappointments are nil and you are pleasantly surprised often. Simple. [Traci]
- Allow extra time in your schedule for wandering. [dylan]
- Meditate — it makes everything fall into place. Being happy makes life so much better and easier! [Gabriel Rocheleau]
- Do something relaxing before going to bed. No electronics. [Rozanne Paxman]
- Don’t fold clothes. Saves time and hassle. [Rachel Jonat]
- QTIP: quit taking it personally. [Will Hopkins]
- To avoid cluttering: After any activity, put everything in place. It only takes 5 minutes vs. 3 hours if you allowed to pile things up. [La Piña]
- Organic steel cut oats. YUM! [Prem]
- Realizing that you treasure experiences over possessions makes life better. [Sophia Khan]
- If you lick a glass before drinking from it, your lipstick doesn’t smear the glass. [natalie fergie]
- When in doubt, take a deep breath. [Kevin Cuccaro]
- Define what’s necessary; say no to the rest. [Dana]
- Expect nothing. Welcome everything. (from a homeless man with AIDS on the streets of Vancouver.) [Sarah Chauncey]