STANDARD III – PLANNING
The student teacher’s lesson plans are carefully written and detailed, noting content and skills objectives, describing activities, and noting special learning and diversity needs where appropriate. Lessons exhibit clearly focused, sensible connections from one to the next, and are designed to promote construction of knowledge by students. The student teacher takes time to explain lesson objectives to students and, using a variety of strategies, checks that students are clear about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
Teacher Education Handbook, Secondary Education 2011-2012
After 39 lesson plans and 3 unit plans, I believe I am meeting Brown University Practice-Based Standard Three: Planning.
I spent much time on my lesson plans, and I worked deliberately to make connections between lesson plans and larger units through the thread of essential questions. My lesson objectives were articulated daily and were written on the board; my unit objective was posted on the wall above the board, and I referred to it regularly to make sure the connections remained lively and coherent; I also decided to introduce the concept of the "big idea" to tie all the essential questions together. The structure of my essential questions developed from the concrete daily one, to the analytical unit essential questions, to the philosophical big idea.
One of the goals I set for my planning practice at the end of Brown Summer High School was to assist in students' knowledge transfer process. I believe I succeeded at helping the students transfer their knowledge across various historical topics and in different academic subjects. I took note of what the students said and referred to their commentary whenever a teachable moment arose.
Across disciplines, I tried to impart on the students the idea that academic writing skills are not simply for the English classroom. When the students submitted their writing assignments, I asked them to follow the SAT Timed Essay Writing Rubric, and most of them told me in a survey that they had found the rubric to be very helpful. To make history relevant, I tried to reinforce its themes with references to the books the students read in their English class. I also used familiar children's literature to draw on symbolism in both history and fairy-tales. I believe this cross-disciplinary approach enhanced learning and was an important part of knowledge transfer.
There were several areas where my performance needed improvement half-way through the semester. I tried to understand how much information I could realistically present during the 50 minutes of my class time. My lessons almost never ended according to the plan as we consistently ran out of time. Over the course of the trimester, I became more precise, and the concrete details of my plans helped me to manage my lesson time better. I tried to simplify and focus on teaching one skill and one content objective a day, and this approach seemed to have worked.
Another area where I wanted to improve my planning was differentiation. I had two different sections of the same course, and the qualities my students brought into their respective classrooms were very diverse: one group was composed of attentive listeners yet reluctant talkers; the other group was made up of avid participants who could improve their listening skills. I began differentiating my lessons in accordance with these patterns, and although there was much I could still do to improve my planning, I saw some promising patterns in students' engagement. For example, when a speaker came to talk with both sections of the class, the quieter group had more insightful and thought-provoking questions.
There is one thing I would like to improve about my planning as I think about independent teaching after Brown's program. I spent about eight hours on four lesson plans every Saturday. During the week, I continued working on the plans to make sure they reflected the pace of our classes. Overall, my lesson plans were a very large time commitment, and I cannot see it as a sustainable practice when I need to teach four or five Carnegie units independently. I do want to continue implementing Wiggins' and McTighe's ideas of backward planning through essential questions, because I find such planning to be very effective, but I need to find ways to be more time efficient.
As I think about planning in my future practice, these are my goals:
1. I plan to be very mindful of the time each part of my lessons takes. Occasionally, time may be difficult to estimate, but some of it can be predicted if I remain focused throughout the class, remind the students to stay focused, and follow my essential questions and objectives.
2. I plan to continue looking for ways to differentiate my instruction to accommodate for a wider range of learners.
3. I need to find ways to maximize the efficiency of my planning. I think that time and practice will help me in doing this, but I want to be cognizant of the current process so I can learn efficiency in the future.