Is there any way that is considered the best and the most effective to teach students?
Is it random picking students to answer questions, one-by-one, or group work?
Teaching today is so very difficult (one example,schools holding teachers responsible for student state testing and firing the entire staff if they fail to meet AYP). Teachers that are enthusiastic about teaching find themselves burnt out depending on the district that hires them and the ability of the students (if the students do not care).
That being said, I think the best way to teach students is to engage them. First, you need to work for a district that supports you, especially if you take a non-classical approach to the classroom. Second, find material that students can relate to. You can teach the same basic elements of literature while eliminating the classics (not that I think they should) and using modern texts.
You must also be aware of the different abilities of your students. Not all of them function at the same academic level- a given. Modify your lessons so that all students benefit from the material and not only the ones who can "get it". When teaching novel work, sorry this is my area, choose different novels with simialr themes and plots. Yes, this does create more work for you, but isn't it all about our students?
So there you go. My belief on how to teach students. ; )
Small groups are great, as other posters have said, but really, there are days when I actually miss the clusters of 24-30 students in one room (I teach at a special school where classes are capped at 8-10 students). Yes, the classroom management is harder with bigger classes, but when everything is harmonious and it's all humming, a classroom full of engaged students is a beautiful thing. With smaller class sizes, yes, I get to teach each student on their level, but having come from the public school background, I know the rewards of having large classes all focused simultaneously, as well.
As far as one strategy being supreme, I would suggest a holisitc approach -- that is, my one strategy would be to use many strategies. I know, I know...that's cheating.
1-1 teaching would probably be everybody's ideal, and most of us cannot sustain this when we have whole classrooms of students. What I do with classes of 10-30 is put a smiley face on the whiteboard (yep, even with seniors) and I write the student's name when I feel they are contributing to the lesson. I tell each student why they are on the board: it can be answering a question, working quietly, helping others etc etc. In an hour lesson I try to get everyone on the board. It means a bit of hopping about sometimes but I have a record at the end of the lesson of who I have interacted with, and who has been involved. I can slow down those who dominate discussion and recognise who needs encouragement and focus.
This method is key to me 'knowing' my students - it is my first step into adapting my teaching styles to suit their needs.
It definitely varies depending on the subject, students, grade level, concept, and so on. Good teaching is an Art & a Science. There are certain methodologies anyone should use (ex, check for understanding) but there are many things that completely vary at any given time. This is why I am so against scripted curriculum and the likes. It doesn't allow teachers to use their creativity and decide what is best for them and their students at any given moment.
I enjoy having whole group instruction to introduce the lesson. This way each student (in theory) has taken the same notes, heard the same 'lecture', been given the same examples etc. Then I move on to independent practice or small group practice. Finally, wrap the lesson up by returning to whole group discussion and tying things together, answering questions etc.
It certainly doesn't work all the time, but in general those are the key steps I prefer to do when delivering a lesson.
I have a preference, but I don't know that I can say it is the singular best way to teach students. Some methods work very well with some teachers' individual strengths. For me, a group of 5 - 8 students around a single table is the best. I can use the socratic method. I can engage every single student, and unlike a one on one situation, they can take each other, through discussion, to a higher level. The best moments are when they take over the discussion or debate completely, and I get to step back and watch. Doesn't happen often, but I love it when it does.
I disagree that one-on-one instruction is what works best. There is no one way that works best. Each student, each lesson, sometimes, even, each class requires something different. The best way to teach is to stay well informed with regard to best practices. Use these as needed, and don't be afraid to adapt or change. Sometimes I find what is relevant to one class during the day does not work in another class. I must then adapt and find a different way to teach the same thing.
The only best way is the one that works! Seriously, though, we know that individuals learn at different rates., and through different modalities. Effective teachers will try to incorporation auditory as well as visual skills within the lesson. Whenever possible, a skilled instructor will allow for tactile. I have heard of instructors scenting the classroom (very lightly) with rose essence which would appeal to the sense of smell and contribute to a sense of well being, so that students are more relaxed. No one way works for everyone.. and that has always been the challenge. Regarding random questioning, this is a tactic generally used to be sure everyone is actually listening. It is also a way to ferret out those students who may be having trouble but are hesitant to ask for help. It should not be used to embarrass or shame a student. Group work, from what I have observed should be used sparingly because it is difficult to measure individual achievement, contribution, understanding except by testing the individual, and so what then is the point except to encourage civility and learning how to coorperate in a group. It will never measure individual ability.
My personal opinion is that this is a muti-faceted, ever-changing challenge. And I think instruction is only part of the picture: you teach kids all the time without even touching a piece of paper...through discussion, how you approach them, how you react to others in their presence, how you use teachable moments in the classroom, etc. I have groundwork I like to put in place before we start talking about content.
First, respect each students as an individual. Do not embarrass them in front of their peers, but ask to see them after class instead, and provide a pass if needed, if there is a problem. Praise them all often, even if all you can find is the color of someone's shoes or a new color of hair. "Interesting" is a great response. The positive attention is what counts.
Be a good listener.
Don't let students take advantage of your good heart or willingness to work with them: they are very savvy, very early.
Be consistent. If one student breaks the rules, if there is a consequence promised, it must be the same for all. Be flexible in extenuating circumstances, privately...perhaps with a guidance counselor if there is a serious problem.
Do not meet with students alone in a room. Stand at the door way or with seats in front of an open door.
Know your material. If you don't know the answer, promise to get back to them with it...and do so.
Try to mix your lessons up. If you do group work, give the kids ownership: we can do this only if you get the work done and follow the rules. It is becoming even more acceptable (I took several classes with the Penn Literacy Program out of U. of P., and they look to posters and projects of ways to assess without testing—less pressure for kids with test anxiety, and they can do the work alone or with a friend as you see fit. And drawing doesn't count: stick figures and speech bubbles allow their characters to explain what the student knows with great artistic talent. Do they get the concept? Then your lesson was a success, even if it doesn't have a Scantron attached to it.)
Don't gossip about other teachers or students with classes or students.
Let them know you truly care about each one, even those who make you insane. I find it easier to tell a student, "I love you dearly, but not the way you are acting right now." Or, "I really need your help to reach the goal of today's lesson"—(or "what we need to cover in class").
Don't touch kids. Women may be able to "get away" with a hug, but you need to be careful.
Don't judge kids by what you see or what other teachers tell you. Pack info away and let the student prove himself or herself to you, one way or the other. (I document everything and save everything.) Even if you cannot file all the time, have a "holding tank" where papers go: but don't put IEPs, progress reports or other timely things there where they will get lost. Even save notes from administrators or copies of disciplinary cards or letters you send home/to the office.
Let your passion show; laugh with your kids; admit to mistakes; and, praise them whenever you can. Your voice may be the only one that lifts them up all day.
Be patient with yourself, and honest. Know what you've done well and pat yourself on the back. Fix what needs fixing. Don't do it alone. Invite parents for input and help with a problem or struggling kid. Go to a trusted colleague, mentor or the guidance counselor. Good teachers are really hard to find, like every other profession...you don't want to burn out. (You'd be amazed how many colleagues may not want to share ideas or materials with you, BUT you might be pleasantly surprised about those you would be happy to help.)
Take pride in what you do. And remember your actions impact the lives of students, other professionals, etc. (No pressure here!)
Love what you do, and give yourself a break from time-to-time.
Oh, and don't believe everything kids tell you about others: they probably make up stuff about you, too. (Oh, he said we didn't have to do that work...remind your kids, if you don't hear it from me, don't believe it.)
Avoid lecture when possible. Allow students to help each other. Put students in groups where you know they will function with the least amount of disruption to each other. Try to create discussions about what you're learning to engage the kids personally. And if you can break your lesson into two parts for, say, a 50-minute period, the change will help them, which will help you.
These are things I have learned over 17 years of teaching, and they have helped me a lot.
Good teachers use a variety of different classroom strategies, a variety of research based teaching techniques, and a variety of assessment styles to acheive good teaching. One of the hardest questions to asnwer sometimes is "what do I want the students to learn and how will I KNOW they have learned it?" If you answer those questions first, then research or think about the best way to deliver the material and have it take root in the students, you will likely find a lot of success. Put the students first and you rarely go wrong.
As a practical matter, one-on-one is generally not an option. Teachers can do this via writing conferences or some other kinds of opportunities; however, time is just too limited in a typical classroom situation for such individual attention. "Random" is a little too, well, random, for my taste. I see the classroom as learning community in which all must participate. I have to tone down the "eager beavers" and prod the non-talkers to create the environment I want. It takes being willing to wait, sometimes, but it's worth it to get a variety of input and discussion generated by the entire classroom of students.
Working one on one would certainly be the best way to teach students. Of course, that is rarely possible. You can't spend significant amounts of time just one on one.
As a teacher, you have to spend so much time teaching, that you will want to employ all of the methods you mention. Of these, the one I like least is group work. I think that it leads too easily to one or two people working and the rest goofing off. I like to pick random students -- I always keep a set of cards with students' names on them to shuffle and pick from at random.