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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in lesson planning

Posted by on in What If?

happy kids

I once taught in a school wher we had to use a standardized lesson plan template that was a helpful guide, but was pretty limited to just the basics. What was missing from that lesson plan template—and indeed from any lesson plan template that I have ever seen--is a section devoted to adding in enjoyment. We all know that when students enjoy their work, they perform better, stay on task, learn more, forge stronger connections, and tend to stay in school longer. If these are the benefits, shouldn’t we plan activities that will allow students to enjoy their work?

I would love to see a lesson plan template with a space dedicated to activities that students can enjoy.  It would be easy to add in activities that are enjoyable if a space for it appeared somewhere between the opening of class activities and the close of class activities. If this was a part of a lesson plan template, the implicit message would be clear: it’s important to consider the fun factor when planning lessons.

If you are fortunate enough to make up your own lesson plan template, consider adding in a space for fun in each lesson. You don’t have to devote lots of time each class to fun-filled activities but do consider formalizing your plans for it. Even just a quick little reminder to yourself to add a bit of joy into the school day would make a difference. Luckily for teachers everywhere, it’s not hard to plan classroom activities that students enjoy. Here are some simple, low preparation activities that you can adapt to make syour students smile as they go about their work:

Writing with markers

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

As I was watching my favorite hockey team the other day, I noticed something that struck me during one of the brawls that (for whatever reason) still occur in the almost every game. I was amazed as the guy wearing the black and white striped shirt held two huge athletes at bay and got them to stop fighting without even being phased. He calmly talked to both players, they released their stranglehold on one another, and the game continued (after penalty minutes were distributed, of course). I immediately thought about so many issues that I've seen with classroom management, and how this guy might have the solution.

I know what you're thinking: "what does this have to do with me, my students, or my classroom?" 

Let me explain. The ref was able to calm down two extremely angry players, and continue the purpose of the event because he didn't get emotionally charged, maintained his expectations, and focused on getting the game going again. This is exactly how we as teachers need to address disruptions and management issues in our classrooms.

Before I get to far, I want to point out that there are systems, routines, procedures, and a myriad of other pieces that go into good management, such as building relationships. For right now though, I'd like to keep talk about re-focusing students and reducing the stress level of a situation that has gotten 'out of hand'.

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Posted by on in General

It's almost here!

As the days grow longer, the students in your classroom get more volatile, and the smell of Summer break is in the air, I want you to STOP. Right now, as you decide not to finish that lesson plan and just play Kahoot with your students tomorrow, I want you to consider the opportunity being wasted. The opportunity to end your school year stronger than ever and set yourself up for an amazing Summer. Here are 3 things you can start doing today to make that happen.

1. Plan Ahead / Make a List

The easiest thing you can do to make the end of your year better is to plan ahead for the end of year hustle and bustle ahead of time. You are probably making a mental list of all the things you need to do, whether it's cleaning up your classroom, putting in your final grades, filling out that paperwork that's been in your mailbox for a few days, or signing up for your Summer professional development training. Don't be that teacher running around on the last day of school trying to figure all of this out at once. Make a list of everything you need to get done, prioritize it, and knock out at least 1 task every day. Start with anything that can take less than 10 minutes.

There may even be a few things that you're thinking, "I'll do that over summer, or get to it at the end of the year." This is a dangerous game and I would bet just about anything that when the time comes and you are staring down that mess of lesson materials in the back of your classroom, or getting those books organized, or handing back the student work that's been on your wall since first quarter (yeah, it's ok we all do that sometimes), you won’t have the time or energy to do all the things you put on that "Summer" list. Make sure you get ahead of these things so you can divide up the workload over the last few weeks instead of the last few hours.

2. Don't Stop Teaching

Ok...so I know this sounds simple. It's so easy at the end of the year to start "filling up time" instead of focusing on student learning. In your head it's very easy to think: "just get through these last few days." I get it, and this is normal, but here's a secret: students know when you're phoning in your lesson. If students feel like your just getting through the day, or have given up on learning for the year, they will give up too.

I know it can be difficult, but stay focused, stay committed, and continue doing what you do best: teaching kids.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies


As the students were working on their bell ringer today (recalling radioactive decay equations), I stood in the middle of class and read the following to them:

He was the only person making his way into the city; he met hundreds and hundreds who were fleeing, and every one of them seemed to be hurt in some way. The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands. Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns—of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbed it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos. Many, although injured themselves, supported relatives who were worse off. Almost all had their heads bowed, looked straight ahead, were silent, and showed no expression whatsoever. - "Hiroshima" by John Hersey

Then, I showed them haunting imprints of people killed by the blast...

This was my prelude to starting the discussion on nuclear fission and fusion in chemistry today. And, while the images students undoubtedly saw in their minds upon hearing the above story were gruesome, my purpose was clear. I wanted to evoke strong emotions.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

A good story often contains some kind of dramatic tension.

We see freedom and oppression play out in Cinderella. We see the idea of known and unknown worlds play out in Jack and The Beanstalk. We see safety and danger play out in Hantzel and Gretel. Dramatic tension is not only the stuff of children’s stories, myths, or fairytales however. Read an engaging news article and there will be some tension within it that you feel. For example, I just read a vivid account of what can happen when an underwater oil pipe ruptures; I was captivated by the sense of potential explosiveness that can occur. The hidden is revealed. The silent suddenly screams.

Imaginative teachers shape their lessons and units in ways that evoke a source of dramatic tension or, what we call in Imaginative Education, an Abstract Binary Opposition (ABO). (Check out the YouTube video about this teaching tool at the end of this post!)

Some examples for primary/elementary teachers:

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