As any good teacher knows, all students do not learn in the same way. In addition, it is common for a class of students to be at a variety of levels in any particular subject. Teachers need to use different teaching methods in order to reach all students effectively. A variety of teaching strategies, a knowledge of student levels, and an implementation of which strategies are best for particular students can help teachers to know which teaching methods will be most effective for their class.
The first step to choosing a teaching method is to assess the students. This assessment can be formal or informal. Formal assessments include standardized tests, tests from the textbook or curriculum being used, or teacher-created tests. These assessments can give you an idea of the previous instruction that the students have received as well as their academic level. The students in your class may have undergone various teaching methods and quality of instruction in previous years.
Informal instruction is, as the name suggests, much less formal. Good teachers know their students. If you have been teaching a particular group of students for some time, you probably already know quite a bit about their interests, ability levels, and learning styles. If the group of students is new to you, you can make a point of asking them, individually or in a group, about their interests and academic strengths. Depending on the age of the children, they may also be able to write about this, or answer some form of questionnaire about their hobbies, interests, previous instruction, strengths, and weaknesses. Students generally enjoy talking about themselves and having their teacher get to know them well, as it makes them feel special, as well as directing you in choosing your teaching methods.
Once you have assessed your students, you need to plan for different teaching methods. Direct instruction is the most common form of instruction. This is the lecturing method of teaching. Many teachers use this teaching method almost exclusively, as it is considered the simplest, and you can cover large amounts of material in a short period of time. However, this is not the most effective teaching method to reach all students, especially younger ones, who often need a more engaging, hands-on strategy in order to learn effectively. In addition, it is hard for teachers to tailor instruction to students at different levels.