Teacher Tips - High School

The following 61 "tips" and suggestions have been provided by high school special education teachers in Arlington ISD. The tips are a reflection of what has worked well for themselves and their students over the years. 


*For a printable version of these tips, click here.


Obtain a teacher discount card from both Barnes and Noble and Half Price Books. The savings are anywhere between 10-25% on educational items.

An egg timer, or better yet a digital timer that beeps, is a great tool to use when students are engaged in timed tests, independent reading or other activities.

Students, at any age, love “show and tell”. Try to incorporate sharing into your lesson plans and activities.
Colored paper is a great way to organize your materials by class period or by A and B day.
The following websites are very helpful:
Having your own classroom library of books is great. Especially if you keep it stocked with reading materials that students enjoy (ie. cars, skateboarding, mysteries, fantasy, etc.)
In my classroom, I use colored dots to designate the reading-levels of my books. I place the dots inside the back covers of the books so students do not notice them.
Create a classroom that is you! With approval from your building principal, consider hanging posters on the walls and adding: a couch, chairs, plants, photos, bean bags, pillows, lamps, round tables, long tables and/or cover over-lays.
Ensure that you have procedures for students addressing how to answer the door, use of computer time, use of pencil sharpener, make-up work and grading.
Grade student papers and hand them back ASAP.
Sometimes I have found it beneficial when I am talking with a student near their desk to crouch down to their level. This creates a less intimidating stance than hovering over them from above.
Recognize students for good behavior during class.
In my class, I try not to fold my arms when talking with students as this tends to make them feel as if I am in a negative mood or am defensive.
When teaching a concept, I follow the phrase, “Write it, Say it, Show it”. For example, if I am teaching a science concept, I may write the information on the board, re-emphasize the information by reading out-loud what I have written, then showing my students a physical example of what I have written in the form of a picture or object.
I have learned that if I am patient and wait at least 3-10 seconds for students to respond to a question, they usually come up with the correct response. Some days it is hard to remember the 3-10 second rule, but it seems to work. I do have to remember that students process information at different rates.
Don’t ever have students do a journal just to keep them busy and quiet. Writing should always have student purpose.
-High School Resource English Teacher
When you write information on the chalkboard/whiteboard, draw boxes around groups of similar ideas. The boxes help students visually zero in on the information.
When you create a test for your students, space-out your questions and answers. More white space on a page helps many students focus better.
Greet students at your classroom door every class period. This will create a warm, inviting atmosphere and you can also check for IDs and dress code compliance at this time.    
Have a “bell-ringer” on the board at the beginning of every class for students to work on as you take attendance. 
Create a “Substitute Binder” that contains class procedures and expectations, a school map, the school crisis plan, a school phone number list (with the most important numbers highlighted - i.e., APs, Security), referrals, hall passes, MAC passes, class lists and anything else that may be important for the sub to have. The substitute binder can also contain emergency lesson plans in case you are out unexpectedly.
Encourage your students to understand what they will be facing in the future. Also, relay your own personal experiences of high school to them as examples. Tell your students they are no longer “students” when they engage in science experiments. Rather, they are all “scientists”.
-High School VAC Science Teacher
When my students enter my room, I already have their first box job sitting on their desk. Students go right to work and don't have time to focus on other things.
-High School VAC Teacher
Be consistent in whatever you do. It may be hard from the beginning, but you’ll spend less time re-teaching something when you are consistent.
-High School ABLE Teacher
First, fall in love with poetry no matter what subject you teach. Second, read and know the stories you teach, along with some interesting "juicy" background information on the author, or the time period. This gets students interested. Third, hand out awards to students as they love to receive praise. My prize bin has won over reluctant learners. Visit the Dollar Store and load up once a semester. Students in my class earn tags to write their name on throughout the period and then I draw one or two names/tags at the end of class. It is great to walk around and monitor positive behavior, or good work and give them a tag (slip of paper). If a student walks in the door with an ID on, grabs their journal and gets busy without being told, follows directions, or comprehends the daily task(s), etc., I hand out these tags for potential rewards.
-High School Resource English Teacher
Assign students a specific numbered calculator to use during his/her class period. Keep the calculators in a see-through shoe holder by your desk. By placing them there, you can quickly glance between each class period to see if all of the calculators are returned and you can identify who used the calculator last, if any problem arises.
-High School Resource Math Teacher
Form meaningful and working relationships with your school’s secretaries and custodians. They are an invaluable resource.
Proximity control addresses most behavior issues. If an issue arises in the classroom, move close to where the action is occurring. Your presence in the classroom means a lot.
“Visual Schedules” with students who are cognitively delayed are a must. Just because it appears that a student understands his/her schedule does not mean that he/she does not need to follow his/her visual schedule. Visual schedules are comforting and the only form of reading some students understand.
-High School Senior Alternate Curriculum Teacher
Parents desire to hear positive things about their child. For a student who is struggling academically or behaviorally, make it a point to call the parents when positive things occur.
Create structure and consistency within the classroom. For example, when your students enter your classroom, have them get their spiral/notebook, sit down in their assigned desk and read what is on the board. This example of a routine allows students to know exactly what is going to be expected from them at the beginning of each class period in your room. Structure and consistency decrease anxiety for the student.
-High School Resource English Teacher
Be consistent in your classroom rules and procedures
Get to know each of your students’ interests. In turn, allow your students to get to know you, within professional boundaries. Talk to them about their interests, even if it means you have to learn about cars and trucks!
Teach by example using demonstrations daily (ie. how to write an outline, how to edit one’s paper). You can use the white board, overhead, and/or digital presenter for your demonstrations.
-High School Resource English Teacher
Clearly explain to your students what you want them to do or be doing and let them know what they are doing right.
Regularly emphasize the importance of learning and doing well, as well as how learning benefits them for their futures.
Use humor in your teaching!
Be a cheerleader; encourage your students regularly and help them see their self-worth. Provide positive feedback to them.
Know where your students are academically (ie. reading, writing, and math-levels).   Adjust their work, as needed, based on their individual needs.
Students need continual repetition and re-teaching to learn and master objectives.
Contact parents with positive comments about their child.
Attend the extra-curricular activities of your students.
Say something that is sincere and positive to each student every day.
Prepare completely for the next teaching day before you leave school.
I start my math classes with a "POP QUIZ." My quizzes are actually activities that range from popular teen text messages such as BRB (Be Right Back) or a review concept from the previous class. These activities engage my students the minute they walk in my room.
-High School Resource Math Teacher
When dealing with a particularly "reluctant learner," sit-down in front of them or to the side, and just calmly talk for a moment. This action may help them to re-focus.
Visually structure your classroom and label everything. Get rid of all clutter.
-High School Senior Alternate Curriculum Teacher
When speaking to parents, make sure that you use the sandwich method (good things, not good things, good things again). Parents are a valuable resource. They desire to hear both positive as well as constructive comments about their child. When you have new students and need information, parents should be one of the first people you call for information. 
In my classroom, I use the phrase, “caught being good”. My students like it when they are caught being good. It encourages good behavior.
-High School Senior Alternate Curriculum Teacher
Always use effective, specific praise with students. Generic praise does not have meaning.
When you speak with a student about a behavioral issue, it might be best if you talk to him/her away from their peers.
-High School Science Co-Teacher
Call home to parents to let them know when their child is really working hard and doing great in class. Encourage the parents to give their child some type of praise in turn.
Set the tone for acceptable behavior from day one.
List your classroom rules and consistently enforce them.
Let your students know that you care and in turn they will care about what you teach.
Organize as much as possible. Always have a plan.
Allow students to become physically involved in learning.
Engage your students in the use of technology: computers, appropriate software, graphing calculators, data projectors, etc.
Manipulatives are a must-have for subjects – especially math and science. Get your students engaged in hands-on activities that relate to the text-book content.
Make learning fun and keep your expectations high.     
Students are oriented toward novelty. Surprise students with change. Here are some examples:
1. Have students do math problems using several different colored pencils.
2. Have students do a collective essay using markers on butcher paper. 
3. Cut up an old map of the U.S. and place in a “grab bag”. Have students blindly select a state. Then each student creates a one minute report on a state after 10 minutes of computer research. Have a timer and limit each presenter to exactly one minute. 
4. When you do the “3 Minute Reading Assessments”, hand the timer to the student to start it and keep it until it goes off in 3 minutes. 

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