Sunday, January 31, 2010

Writing Lesson Plans

The reality of teaching 6-8 classes a day means that seasoned teachers often do their best to condense what's required in a lesson plan to the bare minimum. This makes it difficult for someone just learning to write lesson plans to decipher what should be in them and why. There are some components of lesson plans that seem repetitive until you look more closely at what is being asked. Lesson plans keep a teacher "honest." Are you teaching what you think you're teaching?

The following information came from the web-site:

I have not yet explored this entire site but there may be further information that you might find helpful in the coming weeks.

A "play by play" of a lesson plan- you may not need all of the components but it is good to know what each one is.

Lesson Plan Format:
Teacher_______________________________________ Subject_________________________

Grade Level_________________ 

I. Content: This is a statement that relates to the subject-matter content. The content may be a concept or a skill. Phrase this as follows: I want my students to: (be able to [name the skill]) OR (I want my students to understand [a description of the concept]). Often times, this content is predetermined or strongly suggested by the specific curriculum you are implementing through your teaching.

II. Prerequisites: Indicate what the student must already know or be able to do in order to be successful with this lesson. (You would want to list one or two specific behaviors necessary to begin this lesson). Some research indicates that up to 70% of what a student learns is dependent on his or her possessing the appropriate prerequisites.

III. Instructional Objective: Indicate what is to be learned - this must be a complete objective. Write this objective in terms of what an individual student will do, not what a group will do. Limit your objective to one behavioral verb. The verb you choose must come from the list of defined behavioral verbs on my web site. Make sure your objective relates to the content statement above.

IV. Instructional Procedures: Description of what you will do in teaching the lesson, and, as appropriate, includes a description of how you will introduce the lesson to the students, what actual instructional techniques you will use, and how you will bring closure to the lesson. Include what specific things students will actually do during the lesson. In most cases, you will provide some sort of summary for the students.

V. Materials and Equipment: List all materials and equipment to be used by both the teacher and learner and how they will be used.

VI. Assessment/Evaluation: Describe how you will determine the extent to which students have attained the instructional objective. Be sure this part is directly connected to the behavior called for in the instructional objective.

VII. Follow-up Activities: Indicate how other activities/materials will be used to reinforce and extend this lesson. Include homework, assignments, and projects.

VIII. Self-Assessment (to be completed after the lesson is presented): Address the major components of the lesson plan, focusing on both the strengths, and areas of needed improvement. Determine here how you plan to collect information that will be useful for planning future lessons. A good idea is to analyze the difference between what you wanted (the objective) and what was attained (the results of the assessment).

This also came from the same site and is a list of common mistakes in lesson planning.

1. The objective of the lesson does not specify what the student will actually do that can be observed. Remember, an objective is a description of what a student does that forms the basis for making an inference about learning. Poorly written objectives lead to faulty inferences.

2. The lesson assessment is disconnected from the behavior indicated in the objective. An assessment in a lesson plan is simply a description of how the teacher will determine whether the objective has been accomplished. It must be based on the same behavior that is incorporated in the objective. Anything else is flawed.

3. The prerequisites are not specified or are inconsistent with what is actually required to succeed with the lesson. Prerequisites mean just that -- a statement of what a student needs to know or be able to do to succeed and accomplish the lesson objective. It is not easy to determine what is required, but it is necessary. Some research indicates that as much as 70% of learning is dependent on students having the appropriate prerequisites.

4. The materials specified in the lesson are extraneous to the actual described learning activities. This means keep the list of materials in line with what you actually plan to do. Overkilling with materials is not a virtue!

5. The instruction in which the teacher will engage is not efficient for the level of intended student learning. Efficiency is a measure that means getting more done with the same amount of effort, or the same amount with less effort. With so much to be learned, it should be obvious that instructional efficiency is paramount.

6. The student activities described in the lesson plan do not contribute in a direct and effective way to the lesson objective. Don't have your students engaged in activities just to keep them busy. Whatever you have your students do should contribute in a direct way to their accomplishing the lesson objective.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thoughts on what to do

Jamie kindly shared some of her perspective on student teaching and the first year of teaching.

I have so much to say, but not enough room to write. Please feel free to contact me at anytime: jamieruckerATmacDOTcom

The first day/week:

I would recommend sitting in with the kids rather than sitting off in a corner for the first week.....Don't be afraid to sit on the floor with them! You will get to know them by "playing" and they will respect and look up to you. You will learn from your cooperating teacher by being engaged in her music class....And like Molly Weaver always says "We learn by DOING". She is absolutely correct.

Make it a personal goal to learn 1-5 names each class. Take notes... draw pictures if you have to. Associate them with a trait they posses like "Booger Bobby" or" Jumping Jillian." Finally, ASK QUESTIONS... Ask them even if they feel simple.

Repertoire and Paperwork:

Learn where to find repertoire. Trust me, you didn't get enough pieces to fill a year with k-5 at WVU. Ask your co-op about good publishers, arrangers, arrange something yourself and try it out, ask him/her to leaf through his/her pieces, and make yourself a binder of good repertoire. In that binder, take notes on why they are good pieces. (EX: good for steady beat, good for rhythmic notation)

Learn how to fill out paper work and do administrative things. Ask if you can fill out some of your co-ops paperwork. Get used to doing it because sometimes it seems like that's all you do when you get a job. Talk to him/her about budget. Although not all schools are the same, it is nice to know how some schools budget for music. Then... ask what are good ways to use the budget.... especially if you walk into a situation with NOTHING.

It's all about the kids:

This is my 3rd year of teaching. I taught elementary music for a year and am now teaching high school band. No matter the age, kids need us. Especially in music because it is the one time of week or day that they get to express themselves and get away from all that is standardized testing. This is the best thing I can leave you with... and I remind myself of this EVERYDAY... " It's all about the kids!" This is why we are teachers... cause we all know it ain't about the money!

As a student teacher, you are learning too. You learn from the kids and you are learning from your co-op. Sometimes I think student teachers (I know I did) get so wrapped up in themselves. Asking questions like:
How am I teaching...
Was it ok to say that?...
Hows my singing?.....
Do I look dumb?...
Is my personality to lax or too bubbly right now?
The kids are talking... I must suck.

But when it comes down to it... IT'S ALL ABOUT THE KIDS.
(say this everyday!)

Rephrase these questions:

Did the kids learn from me?
Is my personality/energy appropriate for this lesson and for the kids?
Are the students engaged?
The students are acting a little wild, is it because I am talking really loudly today?
Are the kids talking right now because of my pacing?


Be on time!
Be flexible!(it's kids!They are totally unpredictable so, adapt)
Do your job!

Good Luck to you!!!!

Jamie Rucker (Groves)
WVU '06

Jamie, thanks so much for taking time to share!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Planning and Organization

Once it has been determined which class you will pick up first, it's time to start planning and organizing.

Get a calendar and block out how many lessons you will need for this grade until the end of your placement.

Begin filling in those blocks with a possible sequence of lesson ideas around a theme/concept. These plans do not need to be fully developed but by searching out and plugging in material at this early stage you will find yourself less overwhelmed as you begin to pick up more classes.

Share these ideas with your cooperating teacher to be sure that they are grade appropriate concepts and materials. Don't be discouraged if you don't have a sense of what is appropriate for a given age level/class. This knowledge comes from experience and practice. If something you select doesn't work for one grade, you may find that it's good for another and can put it in the "maybe later" file!

Continue this process as you pick up more grades.

Monday, January 25, 2010

First-time teaching

So, one of the things I've observed in 20+ years of having student teachers is the shock and surprise after the first real-non-methods class teaching.

You can't really know something until you do it. Watching someone who's been doing it for a long time doesn't really tell you much about where the stumbles and bumps will be when you begin.

I've invited former student teachers to share some first month moments to let you know how others felt along your same journey.

Glen writes:

I remember coming home several times during my elementary placement feeling like a failure. There were hundreds of things I didn't know when I first began teaching and it was eye opening. I would walk into my apartment and wonder why my cooperating teacher could get the kids to play simple borduns with ease but I struggled, or why children need to hear a song at least six or seven times before they can begin to sing it with fluency.

As I progressed in the placement, I learned why the abovementioned situations were not successful and I learned what I needed to do to make the lessons meaningful for the students. It was only through my mistakes did I really learn anything.

Understanding that body percussion precedes instrument playing or that kids need time to process information may or may not be common knowledge to you, but it definitely will be by the end of your placement. It's tough getting started, but everything does pay off if you put in the work.

You'll be surprised at how rewarding a successful lesson with kindergarten or first grade feels (to be honest, it feels good with any grade). Just remember you're teaching kids, not music. That may sound weird, but it's true.

Good luck with your placement!

P.S one word of advice: Make a list of every piece of repertoire you know share it with your co-op. That's a nice way to get a head start on planning.

Thanks to Glen for sharing his words!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

some thoughts

These come from the book Mindful Teaching and Teaching Mindfulness- A Guide For Anyone Who Teaches Anything by Deborah Schoeberlin.

And I came to see that students learn as much if not more from what we do as teachers and how we are, than from what we say. (p. xv)

Mindfully noticing the discrepancy between what I wanted to accomplish and what I actually achieved provides useful information without the distraction of unproductive anger, frustration or disappointment. (p. 4)