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Lesson planning

May 1, 2015

I have long been against traditional lesson planning. I do plan.  In fact, I plan quite a bit. But, I don’t fall victim to developing an over-planned lesson nor do I feel the need to follow some lesson plan template.  I am sure there are plenty of nice lesson templates that serve a purpose and help many educators feel confident and in-control.  For me, I measure control and confidence in my students more than myself.  Meaning, I know a lesson has gone well when my students are engaged in the activity.  My confidence is raised when student engagement leads to more questions and independent exploration.  Lastly, my confidence continues to grow when I know an objective as been met.

On Wednesday, as my students were completing another #20SheetPaperChallenge with @Stumpteacher’s class in Chicago, I was asked by an educator, how are you going to end this lesson?  What is your wrap up plan?  Truthfully, as we planned the collaboration, we did not specifically detail how we would end the Google Hangout.  Now, I am fully aware that traditional lessons have a set conclusion. The idea being to help bring the lesson to a close and make sure the students have met the objective.  I remember in graduate school, I would have to submit every lesson the exact same way using the exact same template.  It did not take long for me to see that lesson plan templates are not my thing.  This does not mean I don’t know how I want a lesson to end.  I have ideas and I move toward those ideas but I don’t force it.  I maneuver around my initial thoughts and direction to work with the directions my students take the lesson.

This week I tweeted out this thought.

Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 9.00.45 AM

It seemed to spark some interest.  For me, if the end of a lesson is thoroughly developed then there are a lot of assumptions being made by the educator.  There are too many variables during a learning period.  Students are creative.  Their creativity will lead lessons in multiple directions.  I like to move in those directions with my learners.  It helps me grow as an educator.  I would love to hear how you typically end your lessons.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2015 12:20 pm

    It’s a fascinating topic and one that’s been at the table lately. How does a teacher make their thinking visible in how they’ve designed for learning experiences within their classroom?

  2. May 2, 2015 6:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Michael- the purpose and practice of lesson design is definitely something worth wrestling with.

    I guess from a personal standpoint, I think less about how I’ll “end” my lessons, and more about how I’ll ensure some level of “closure,” some way of helping us as a community recognize some of the purpose in what we’ve just done and what we’ve learned as a result.

    Sometimes that closure takes the form of a personal reflection on what’s been learned:
    – I used to think ____, and as a result of what I did, now I think _____.
    – What I want to remember not to forget about what I just learned: ______

    Sometimes it’s more of a summary statement: How would I summarize what I’ve learned? What are the one, two, or three most important things I learned by engaging in this activity?

    Sometimes it’s about reconnecting with the original purpose: What do I understand / what am I able to do now as a result of what we’ve just done?

    In any of these, I’d also tie these some level of articulating next steps: Based on what I’ve experienced and learned, what would I see as next steps in learning more / applying what I learned?

    As the teacher, I’d want to see students’ responses to these types of questions, but not in order to “grade” them (though I would be looking for some baseline foundational knowledge / skills)…more for the purposes of checking their understanding for my own planning, and using their learning to find ways to keep pushing each student.

    Additionally, I’m most interested in the moments before this “closure,” but after the “exploration” phase. Those moments where, as students are engaged in the task of the activity, the learning is stating to take shape in an unlabeled, less-than-articulated way. For instance, in those moments during the #20paperchallenge where students no doubt IDed some specific “truths” about what works and what doesn’t in building their towers, they likely IDed some fundamental knowledge about structural integrity and understanding of forces. I think in those moments, we as teachers become the just-in-time support that helps kids to articulate what they’ve just noticed & generalize it outside of the context of the task. It’s that bridge that kicks up the relevance of the activity, where the activity becomes a learning experience.

    Thanks for sharing your thinking such that it caused me to think about this idea of lesson planning- looking forward to talking with you about it sometime soon!

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