The life of a lesson has a cycle that is not always completed by teachers. It may be in large part due to the time constraints and limited attention towards the second half of the life cycle. In the study of life many things have a cycle that depend on closing the loop for the nutrients and recycling of limited resources. Some of the natural cycles include the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, the phosphorus cycle and the cell cycle. For example, could you imagine if water stopped converting to a gas through evaporation? It would not be long before water availability would be scarce.
A similar phenomenon can occur in relation to teaching. The teaching cycle provides information and vital energy to be successful with the next lesson. A natural and appropriate cycle of teaching is where teachers Plan, Teach, Reflect & Apply.
Teachers design lessons with developmentally and subject specific adaptive pedagogy. Asking questions such as, “How are my students going to learn this?”
When planning a lesson teachers should consider:
- The required standards
- The goals for the lesson that are based on the standards
- The desired demonstration of mastery (method of assessment).
- What do I want to record as a formal assessment for students to demonstrate their learning for this lesson?
- Consider unique information about the students as a class and individual special needs (English Language Learners, Special Needs & Advanced) considering the full range of students
- Based on the student information select appropriate instructional strategies and student activities
- Consider the amount of time necessary to include an appropriate introduction (Hook & communicate the learning goals) and a conclusion (to summarize what has learned and review how well the learning goals were accomplished)
- Consider all the necessary resources (materials and people) to teach the lesson effectively
- Design the at home practice (if necessary)
The art of teaching is taking a plan and communicating it effectively. This presentation of the material is important to the transfer of information. Teaching does not always require that the teacher is in front. Rather, designing a learning experience where, “How are my students going to learn this?” is the focus will help clarify the setting most suitable for the content. Sometimes the teacher is not the best facilitator. Perhaps a simulation available through an expert online or a radio discussion with an expert can provide the best learning environment. This can be planned but the presentation of content is part of the implementation of the lesson design.
In some ways we need to motivate and inspire students to “buy” the content that we are selling. This transaction is purchased through the successful nature of the presentation.
When teaching a lesson teachers should consider:
- How can I change the physical environment so that students can remain engaged?
- Necessary classroom management techniques
- What distractions may happen during the lesson and how should I be flexible with those? (fire drills, traveling to other teachers, missing students, late students, emergencies)
- What could go wrong with this lesson and how would I try to avoid that?
- If I run out of time or have more time how can the lesson be adapted?
- What grouping strategies would be most effective for this lesson?
- How can I check to see if students are making progress during the lesson?
- What should I do if students are clearly not understanding the content?
Planning and teaching lessons is what most consider the extent of teacher work. However, equally important and time consuming is the process of reflection and applying the analysis conducted by professional educators.
Ultimately, teachers should consider how the lesson went. This reflection can be an informal and formal effort to determine lesson effectiveness. informally, it is good practice for teachers to consider how effective the lesson appeared from their perspective. This thought and form of reflection has a tendency to be bias and subjective. However, it can help bring to light some areas of relative need or strength.
Informally teachers should reflect by asking
- What appeared to go well?
- What appeared to go wrong?
- How well
Formally teachers should analyze data by asking:
- How did the class do as a whole?
- How did my focus students do (where adaptations were made?)?
- Which of the lesson goals were accomplished and which were not?
- What data justifies successful mastery of the learning goals?
- What should I do for the students that did not meet the expected level of mastery?
- How could I teach these students more effectively?
- How could I teach this lesson more effectively next year?
- What resources (people and materials) could have improved this lesson?
- What resources would benefit these students in future lessons?
- What management techniques worked well for these students?
- What management techniques should I consider with this lesson next year?
- How could my students of been more prepared for this lesson?
- What are my students prepared to do as a result of this lesson?
- How does the data compare to my informal assumptions above?
- Should this data be communicated to anyone else? (i.e. grade level colleagues, administrators, students, families and/or myself next year)
Thinking through questions like these will help teachers reflect on the effectiveness of the lessons and what could be done to improve lessons for the current class and future students. Part of being a learning organization includes researching the effectiveness of our goals. Every class should begin with communicating the goals and should end with evaluation of the goals. Feedback that helps understand our effectiveness as educators is part of being a learning organization. However, if knowledge is power, then doing something with knowledge is even more powerful.
Upon completion of the reflection and analysis, teachers should consider the data that is worth action. Applying what you have learned to be more effective with current and future students is a critical part of the teaching cycle. Once the actionable data is determined, teachers should make an effort to communicate these effective strategies. Building a set of personal best practices in the classroom is an effective way to add tools to your educational tool box.
How can you apply what you have learned through planning, teaching & reflecting? Consider creating a calendar of notes that can be referenced each year to understand what occurred and what should be considered the next time you plan to implement this same standard. Another way to apply what you learned might be to make the changes to the lesson plans, worksheets, notes when identified so that it does not need to be thought of the following year. Lastly, consider adding a recommended changes journal that you could write to yourself and record the analysis that was worth noting. Much like a “note-to-self…”
Are you able to think of additional application strategies?
The natural life cycle of lessons should include planning, teaching, reflecting & applying.
Dr. Nathan Herzog