Welcome To The Institute For Better Teaching Now.

If you are frustrated by what goes on in our schools and are looking for a fresh voice with ideas to guide classroom instruction, this website has lots of material and novel approaches for teachers and students!  

Designed by Dr. Barbara Bernstein, the video lessons on this site show how instruction can be approached for enhanced learning and understanding.  Her ideas on how to communicate with students and grasp where they are coming from generate countless helpful techniques for working with children of all backgrounds.

Bernstein was a mathematics instructor in a liberal arts college, and has also taught middle and high school students.  But her mission is to cut through convention to achieve learning in ways that are comfortable and comforting to students.   

This means recognizing that students' mistakes are their best learning tools.  Mistakes are examined in order to learn as much as possilble from them.  This also means spacing out lessons so there is constant review, rather than covering one topic fully at a time, and then going on to another topic the next day or week.  Retention and understanding are both vastly improved when teachers move back and forth between different ideas, giving the material time to "sink in."  And finally, this means making lessons pleasant and memorable by incorporating the arts and humor, so that students enjoy class and want to pay attention in class.
And note that these suggestions are ENTIRELY COST FREE.

Here are some sample ideas that can be helpful, for example, for mathematics teachers:
1. Don't allow students to write in pencil when they do math/arithmetic problems. 

Require that math problems be done in (non-erasable) ink.  If they make a mistake, students can cross through the line and move on.  But this way the teacher and the student can go back and look at what caused confusion. Seeing what was done wrong is a very big help in grasping how the student is thinking and where they need help.  

2.  Ever heard a student say that they understood the problem and did all the steps correctly but they just made a calculation error?  The implication is that the error "doesn't count" since they do know the material.

However the concept of a student understanding something perfectly well, and simply making an arithmetic mistake is actually misleading.  Sure, that can happen.  But the fact is that if a someone knows a mathematical process very well, they are less likely to make such mistakes.  

Whenever students have to think about what step comes next, their attention is on how to solve the problem.  So they aren't as focused on the arithmetic, and thus mistakes are more likely.  (Think of how much more likely you are to make a mistake when you are distracted, for example.)  So calculation errors can be viewed as a sign that the student may not be that solid on the material.

3.  Whenever possible, using humor and/or the arts makes classroom lessons more memorable and fun. The "Arts Integration" page of this website has detailed descriptions of programs that use music and dance in the curriculum.  But there are well known rhymes and chants that have helped children memorize things, and make learning fun, like learning the alphabet song.  Other facts that students have to learn, from their multiplication tables to the laws of physics, etc. can be put into verse, which is a creative exercise, and then easily and pleasantly committed to memory.  Teachers and students can participate in making up the stories or chants that help commit the facts to memory.

In this website, you will find numerous top flight ideas for bringing the best instruction to students.  And if you are interested in speaking to Dr. Barbara Bernstein about issues in your school/district that you are seeking help with, feel free to contact her at 443-773-2623 or Barb@BetterTeachingNow.com.  She is available as an educational consultant anywhere in the US.

Closing thought: "Psychology...stands in the same relation to teaching that anatomy does to medicine."
by William H. Payne, a colleague of John Dewey's
Barbara Bernstein teaching (above) and running a program for a middle schoolers (below).

Barb lecturing at American University on Mathematics Teaching Methods and how to integrate the arts into instruction. 3.21.13