Effective teachers are always on the prowl for new and exciting teaching strategies that will keep their students motivated and engaged. Whether you’re a new or experienced teacher, you may feel inundated by all of the new educational buzzwords, theories, and new strategies that are out there.

With all of the information available, it’s hard to decide which teaching strategies are right for your classroom. Sometimes, the old tried-and-true ones that you have been using in your classroom just happen to work the best, and that’s okay. Teaching strategies that are considered “new” may just not fit into your teaching style.

Here are a few teaching strategies that are a staple in most classrooms. Depending upon your style, preference, and your students, choose the ones that suit your needs.

1. Differentiated Instruction: Learning Stations

Differentiated instruction strategies allow teachers to engage each student by accommodating to their specific learning style. According to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory, every person has a different mind, and therefore each person learns and understands information differently. Differentiating instruction offers a way to meet all students’ needs. One helpful strategy to differentiate instruction is learning stations. Learning stations can easily be designed to enable students with diverse learning needs to learn at their pace and readiness level. Teachers can set up each station where students will be able to complete the same task, but at the level and style that is specifically designed for them.

2. Cooperative Learning: The Jigsaw Method

Cooperative learning gives students the opportunity to work with others and see different points of view. Students learn more effectively when working together rather than apart, and it is also known to improve self-confidence in students. The jigsaw method is especially effective because each student is responsible for one another’s learning, and students find out quickly that each group member has something equally important to contribute to the group in order to make the task a successful one. Students are exposed to and use many skills throughout this strategy: communication, problem-solving skills, cognition, and critical thinking — all of which are essential for a successful academic career.

3. Utilizing Technology in the Classroom

Integrating technology into the classroom is a great way to empower students to stay connected in this technological era. Technology-rich lessons have been found to keep students motivated and engaged longer. Some examples of utilizing technology in the classroom are to create web-based lessons or multimedia presentations such as a video, animation, or some type of graphic, utilizing a tablet or an iPad, taking your class on a virtual field trip, participating in an online research project, or even creating a class website. Any of these technology integration strategies will have a positive impact on student learning.

4. Inquiry-Based Instruction

Inquiry-based learning implies involving students in the learning process so they will have a deeper understanding of what they are learning. We are born with the instinct to inquire — as babies we use our senses to make connections to our surroundings. Inquiry-based learning strategies are used to engage students to learn by asking questions, investigating, exploring, and reporting what they see. This process leads students to a deeper understanding of the content that they are learning, which helps them be able to apply these concepts in new situations. In order for our students to be able to be successful in the 21st century, they need to be able to answer complex questions and develop solutions for these problems. The inquiry-based learning strategy is a great tool to do just that.

5. Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are a simple and effective tool to help students brainstorm and organize their thoughts and ideas in a visual presentation. Simply put, they help students organize information so it is easier for them to comprehend. Graphic organizers can be used for any lesson, to structure writing, brainstorming, planning, problem solving, or decision making. The most popular organizers are the Venn diagram, concept map, KWL chart, and T Chart.

An experienced teacher knows that not every teaching strategy that you use will be an effective one. There will be some hits and misses, and depending upon your teaching style and the ways your students learn, you will figure out which strategies work and which do not. It may take some trial and error, but it doesn’t hurt to try them all.