Barbara Blackburn’s Best Advice for Beginning Teachers

Barbara Blackburn

Teaching guru Barbara R. Blackburn shared her first how-to article at MiddleWeb way back in early 2014. The combined readership of her MiddleWeb contributions is approaching 500,000 pageviews. And little wonder.

Dr. Barbara Blackburn

Her articles – often written with new and novice teachers in mind – are crisp, succinct, practical, filled with examples, and respectful of teachers’ time and the challenges they face.

For this compilation we combed through her many posts with two criteria in mind: (1) a focus on things new and novice teachers want to know; and (2) high readership. Here are summaries of the dozen most-read articles we came up with. We’ve linked another two dozen popular articles at the end, just by title, to expand your choices!

5 Things Every New Teacher Needs to Know

Over a career of teaching, mentoring and networking with novices, Barbara Blackburn has learned five key lessons about being a new teacher. Here she takes the butterflies churning in newbies’ insides and suggests ways to line them up in formation for a strong first year.

The 6 Characteristics of Effective Praise

Most educators use praise in their classrooms. However, students can interpret praise positively or negatively, and teachers need to know the difference. Author and consultant Barbara Blackburn looks at six characteristics of effective praise that can motivate students to strive and thrive.

Creating an Inviting Classroom Environment

New school year? Time for a fresh classroom environment! Consultant and author Barbara Blackburn shares ideas and resources we can use to create a learning space that will be positive for all students, build strong relationships, and offer a pleasing place to gather.

8 Strategies to Quickly Assess Prior Knowledge

Assessing students’ prior knowledge allows you to customize your teaching by anticipating their needs. Consultant Barbara Blackburn provides 8 simple strategies to help you gain an understanding of what your students do and do not know before launching into a lesson. It’s her most popular article.

Get Students Working Effectively in Groups

Effective group work sparks student engagement and builds communication skills for the future. But how do teachers structure teamwork activities so kids are cooperative and everyone learns? Instructional expert Barbara Blackburn offers a step-by-step blueprint.

3 Ways to Encourage Ownership of Learning

Ultimately, teachers have the final say in the classroom. But when they share some ownership with students, they create a true community of learners and reap benefits for themselves. Expert Barbara Blackburn shares three ideas about building student ownership.

7 Ways to Help Students Self Assess Effectively

Although our assessment of students is critical to learning, we also want students to learn to assess themselves, writes teaching consultant Barbara Blackburn. Encouraging students to take measures of their own progress is both more rigorous and more empowering.

5 Keys to Motivating Struggling Learners

Supporting and motivating struggling students is a challenge that seems to grow over time. In this article, author and engagement expert Barbara Blackburn looks at five keys that can help teachers build motivation and persistence while also setting high expectations.

Do We Really Have High Expectations for All?

When it comes to high expectations, learning consultant Barbara Blackburn says actions speak louder than beliefs. Using her own classroom mistakes as a backdrop, she points out the teacher behaviors that signal to struggling learners whether we mean what we say.

Helping Students Track Their Own Progress

Tracking progress toward a larger goal helps adults build a sense of achievement and the courage to keep going. “That’s the same cycle you want to build in your students,” says Barbara Blackburn, who shares ways to help kids see their growth and recall their victories.

Use Writing Activities to Bond with New Students

“One of the most important factors in student achievement is a positive connection with the teacher,” says teaching consultant Barbara Blackburn. “An easy way to bond with kids is through writing.” She suggests two activities students will enjoy and you will learn from.

New Teachers: Don’t Forget 7 Grading Essentials

Some aspects of grading, such as whether to grade homework, are individual choices for a teacher. But never lose sight, says expert Barbara Blackburn, of seven essential practices that determine whether grading will be fair and meaningful – or ultimately pointless.

And here’s more help from Barbara . . .

8 Flexible Strategies for Formative Assessment

5 Cool Ways for Students to Show What They Know

The 5 Rules of Student Engagement

What We Risk When We Jump to Conclusions

3 Strategies for Teaching Academic Vocabulary

Rigor Made Easy: 3 Ways to Go Deeper

The Eight Essentials of Good Student Feedback

How to Improve Your Questioning Techniques

5 Ways to Strengthen Student Resilience

7 Time-Saving Ways to Balance Teaching Tasks

How We Can Assure Rigor in Our Lessons

How to Teach Them All Without Sacrificing Rigor

Put Some Bang at the Beginning of Lessons

2 Key Math Strategies for Students with Disabilities

Modeling: What Students See Is What They Get

Assess Students Using Projects & Performance

To Understand Learners, Use Portraits Not Profiles

Adding Simulations to Your Lesson Plans

Start the Lesson Strong with Pre-Assessments

3 Ways We Can Offer Students More Choice

How to Keep the Rigor in Differentiated Lessons

Literacy for Students with Special Needs

Learning Portraits Help Differentiate Teaching

Barbara R. Blackburn, a “Top 30 Global Guru in Education,” is a bestselling author of over 25 books and a sought-after teaching and leadership consultant. She was a successful classroom teacher and an award-winning professor at Winthrop University and has taught students of all ages. In addition to speaking at conferences worldwide, she regularly presents virtual and on-site workshops for teachers and administrators on the best ways to blend equity, academic rigor, and student support and engagement.

Barbara is the author of Rigor and Differentiation in the Classroom: Tools and Strategies and Rigor in the Remote Learning Classroom: Instructional Tips and Strategies from Routledge/Eye On Education. Visit her website and follow her on X-Twitter.

See an annotated index of all of Barbara’s MiddleWeb posts, including her ongoing leadership series with professor and former AMLE/NMSA executive director Ron Williamson, here.


MiddleWeb is all about the middle grades, with great 4-8 resources, book reviews, and guest posts by educators who support the success of young adolescents. And be sure to subscribe to MiddleWeb SmartBrief for the latest middle grades news & commentary from around the USA.

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