Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lesson Planning 101

I love educational technology tools.  LOVE THEM.  Anything web 2.0 is my friend.  However, I can't use all of the tools, and, even if I could, when would I have time to correct comma splices?

I am trying to work out a system on preparing lessons.  There are tools that I love to use, and tools that I want students to use.

This is my system so far, but please feel free to offer advice!

Step 1: Check the Curriculum Map

We use pretty good Curriculum Mapping software at Oak Hill (Curriculum Mapper).  I am new to these sorts of tools because we don't really use them at the college level.  While there are course objectives that I always worked hard to meet, there is no real accountability.  Having one term under my belt, I realize that I need to look at that map more often.  While I was on track the whole time, I wasn't really thinking about archiving the materials there for use next year.

Lesson Plan Example:  In English 12, the students are on track to begin their unit on the British Enlightenment.

Step 2:  Break Up the Information

One of the disadvantages to being a professor first is that I have no idea what is a reasonable work load for a 10th grader.  I think it is totally reasonable to read a book in a week, but that, apparently, isn't very reasonable.  I am used to college students making stronger connections between characters and themes, but 10th graders really can't get there on their own.  It is my job to slow down and help them make these connections.  Breaking up information is a lot easier once you accept that it is OK to do it.  I don't need to cover every writer of the Enlightenment period (as I would in a British Literature I course at the college level).  I can pick one or two texts that truly exemplify the spirit of the age and help students invest themselves in learning every angle.

Lesson Plan Example:  In English 12, the students will read Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and Pope's "Rape of the Lock."  

Step 3:  Focus, Focus, Focus

Once I decided which texts we would read, I needed to think about what I really want them to know at the end of the unit.  I am not much for dates, but it is important that the students recognize the difference between an African folk tale and an Indigenous American folk tale.  It is important that they can remember that literature surfaces in different genres and in different stylistic time periods.  They need to know the difference between fiction, non-fiction, and historical-fiction.  To meet this step, I need to do a few things.  First, I need to know what students already know about a time period.  For example, students usually know something about Shakespeare.  I use the free version of easytestmaker to create pre and post assessments.  Second, I need to make sure that their textbook actually has the full text of the literature we are covering (as I found out the hard way when doing the unit of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein).  Since most of what I cover is in the public domain, I usually head over to Project Gutenberg.  Third, I need to think about the assignments and assessments that will be expected while we are reading the work.  Finally, I need to know how the unit will close.

Lesson Plan Example:  In English 12, the students will take a pre-assessment on Satire.  Students will receive printed copies of both MP and ROTL since the textbook has short versions of both.  For MP, the students will complete a reading worksheet for homework and will work in teams of 2 to create their own "modern" modern proposals.  They will use Mixbook to illustrate and publish their stories.  For ROTL, students will complete 2 reading worksheets for homework and will work in teams of 4 to create satirical skits.  These will be broadcast over Ustream for parents to view.  At the end of the unit, students will write a 500-700 word compare/contrast essay on the use of satire in MP and ROTL.  They will also take a post-assessment exam.

Step 4:  Finalize Details

Getting the materials together for lessons is sometimes challenging for me.  At the college level,  I used Wikispaces to provide materials to students (tree hugger that I am), but we don't have internet access in our dorms, so I must use paper.  I must make sure everything is printed and ready to go.  Because I work on a Mac at home and have a PC at school, I use DropBox to share files.  I organize my files for each week in a folder, zip it, and then drop it into the Drop Box.  At school, I download and unpack the zip file, print masters, and run them off. 

Lesson Plan Example:  For English 12, I have already sent my zip file to the drop box.  I will print out copies of the texts, assessments, and worksheets on Sunday afternoon.

Step 5:  Revisit the Mapper

Once the lesson is complete, I will revisit the mapper and load all of the documents into it.  I will reflect in my journal about what went well and what needs improvement.

Image Credit: Brandy Shaul

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