This article appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The Classroom Teacher.

Attendees of TCTA’s 2017 Convention returned home with a few new teaching tools to try, including resources to help maximize student engagement and manage student behavior and the latest tools available from Google. For those unable to join us in Austin, we’ve compiled highlights from some of the CPE sessions. Members can learn more by logging in and watching the new, free videos available now at tcta.org/onlineCPE. You’ll get new ideas to try in your classroom and earn continuing professional education credits as a bonus.

Maximizing Student Engagement

The Pencil Ladies — education consultants Joan Tolle, B.B.A, and Terrie Morrow, M.Ed. — believe an interactive approach to learning is the best way to keep students engaged. Morrow demonstrated the principles of power teaching, which is modeled off Chris Biffle’s whole brain teaching method. The idea is to get students listening, moving, speaking and even smiling by incorporating left and right brain learning styles. “Movement is the brain’s most powerful stimulating tool,” Morrow said. 

All types of students can benefit from power teaching, from English language learners to gifted and talented students, in part because it requires students to be active learners as they teach each other using words and gestures. Implementing power teaching takes practice, and it can’t be done all day every day, Morrow cautions. “It will wear you out, but your students are engaged.”

Planting the Restorative Seed in Your Classroom Behavior Management Practices

Kevin Curtis, with Texas Educators for Restorative Practices, shared methods to improve student behavior. There are two ways to do this: the green method, which focuses on building relationships to better connect with students, and the red method, which helps correct behavior and holds students accountable for their actions. Restorative discipline has been used in schools for years, and it is slowly being integrated into more Texas classrooms, Curtis said.

Curtis encourages teachers to put relationships ahead of content. “Our relationships and those connections will either make or break whether (students) get that content,” he said. It’s essential to create a foundation and connect with students before correcting their behavior. One way to do this is with a classroom circle to emphasize equality and connectedness. It helps students learn empathy and respect, which goes a long way toward improving behavior. “There is no magic wand in education,” he said, but restorative discipline is a process with the potential to create a better environment for students to learn.

Get Your Google On: Google Tools from A-Z+

Monica Martinez, regional director for U.S. and Latin America, EdTechTeam/Google Education trainer and administrator, demonstrated a few of Google’s free classroom tools. Some of her favorites include Google Art Project (googleartproject.com), which allows students to explore content from museums and archives, as well as current events related to arts and culture; Color Picker (http://htmlcolorcodes.com/color-picker/), which helps teachers and students select colors to give presentations the exact look and feel they want; and CS First (https://www.cs-first.com/en/home), which helps teach students about programming and computer science. 

While there are hundreds of web tools available, teachers shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or think they need to incorporate every one, Martinez said. “Reach for the tools that make the best sense for you to use when you need to use them,” she said. “Pick what you need when it fits the task at hand.”