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If Kids Planned the Lesson…

Posted by on in Student Engagement
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If you were to plug “Great Lesson Plans,” into just about any search engine, all sorts of useful information for teachers immediately pops up. Instead of going online, though, how about thinking about a great lesson from a student’s viewpoint? One good way to find out what students really want is to simply ask them how they would like to learn the day’s material. Or, administer a quick survey (www.surveymonkey.com). Solicit student advice via exit tickets or suggestions dropped into a suggestion box. All of these are good ways to find out what your students would like to do in class.

At this point in the school year, though, we probably know our students well enough to be able to predict what they would do if they were given the plan book for a day. Here are some of the essentials that many students would probably like to see included in a great lesson plan.

1. An opening exercise that allows them to chatter away while making the transition to the day’s lesson. The exercise should also be interesting while reminding them of what they already know. Something like a Round Robin exercise, for example.

2. Silly videos related to the topic are always a plus. Even better are student-made videos.

3. Games of just about any sort—low or high tech. Board games are always good no matter what. Student made board games are the best.

4. Any game that requires players to roll dice is immediately a huge Vegas-style noisy success.

5. The perfect student lesson plan will certainly include sharing, collaboration, or teamwork in every possible permutation.

6. Students like questions that they can answer. This sets the stage for activities where they quiz each other. They would also choose to hold competitions where they can answer as a team and not be put on the spot individually.

7. Beating the clock is always fun. So is setting a personal best goal and working towards it. Being able to work for a good short-term purpose is always a popular activity.

8. One possibly unexpected student preference is being able to shift partners during an activity or switching teams in the course of a lesson. Movement instead of remaining seated all class keeps everyone alert.

9. Music. Music. Music. Background music. Headphones. Just about any kind of music. Music is always good.

10. A countdown to something is always fun. Not a frantic, frenzied race, but a countdown that focuses an activity—like an online countdown clock to an activity.

11. Students like learning something interesting or peculiar so that they have a good answer to, “What did you learn in school today?” They also like learning interesting and peculiar information just because it’s fun to think about. Weird facts are always good to know.

12. Students enjoy an opportunity to write on something besides notebook paper. The more outrageous the surface the better.

13. If students were to design a lesson, there would be lots of gaudy coloring. Markers and crayons and colored chalk and neon paper. Students would be writing on the board more, too.

14. If there is a lesson with a reading component, students would design it in such a way that classmates read it together—and not in that embarrassing popcorn style either. But with friends or friendly teammates to share the reading load.

15. There would also be a lesson component where students do something to help someone else. Whether it be playing an altruistic game such as Free Rice (www.freerice.com), or just helping out classmates, students like to feel that their contributions to the world matter.

16. Having several choices of meaningful and interesting activities to do in a reasonable amount of time would also be part of a kid-designed lesson plan. Having a free choice among the choices is even more interesting for some students.

17. Manipulatives, three-D graphic organizers, paper airplanes, and squishy toys are almost mandatory in student-designed lessons. Rubber bands and paper clips would also find a way to be included as well.

18. Finally, in the ideal lesson designed by students, the homework would be something that fits in with their out-of-school lives and interests and can be done simply—without fuss—and in just the right amount of time.

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Julia G. Thompson received her BA in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. She has been a teacher in the public schools of Virginia, Arizona, and North Carolina for more than thirty-five years. Thompson has taught a variety of courses, including freshman composition at Virginia Tech, English in all of the secondary grades, mining, geography, reading, home economics, math, civics, Arizona history, physical education, special education, graduation equivalency preparation, and employment skills. Her students have been diverse in ethnicity as well as in age, ranging from seventh graders to adults. Thompson currently teaches in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she is an active speaker and consultant. Author of Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, First-Year Teacher’s Checklist, The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide, and The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide Professional Development Training Kit, Thompson also provides advice on a variety of subjects through her Web site, www.juliagthompson.com; on her blog, juliagthompson.blogspot.com; and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/TeacherAdvice.

  • Guest
    Bonny Ramirez Wednesday, 22 April 2015

    Welcome to my classroom! This IS best practice; what I call, "Riding the Dolphin." It is highly structured, has rigorous and high expectations, is student driven, and is organic and spontaneous, as opposed to linear, overly mapped out, and completely oppressive, aka "Old School Mentality." The atmosphere is charged with positive energy, high achievement, and collaborative joy! Won't you join me?

  • Guest
    Tsisana Palmer Sunday, 26 April 2015

    I agree that students' input on what makes a great lesson or activity is very important! After all, the extent to which they engage with the learning materials makes a huge impact on the learning outcomes, which, in turn, is the purpose of the lesson in the first place. Thank you for reminding! :)

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Guest Monday, 24 October 2016