Tuesday, April 14, 2015

If you fail to plan, then... you fail.

You’re a teacher. You know what your students need to learn this week, and you have a lesson planned for every day.  Hopefully, you have a necessary document as well – a LESSON PLAN.

So yes, the next part of our A-Z blog challenge is the lesson plan.  The Lesson Plan is an academic buzzword, but a necessary one.  You’ve got to plan how the entire class is going to run.  Kids are involved and as any parent knows, not having a plan means you better plan for disaster. 

I’ve known some teachers who just have a general idea of what they’re going to do and then “wing it,” or worse, “just let the learning unfold naturally.”  That means the lesson doesn’t just unfold; it bends, tears, gets thrown and stomped on, and winds up wadded up in the corner while the students eye it suspiciously. 

A plan is just that – a plan.  Teachers deal with external and internal interruptions constantly and must continually adapt and improvise if the students don’t connect with the material.  Teachers also know their students and are prepared for any manner of disruptions and student habits that can affect how much of the material they’ll absorb. 

Below is an example of a lesson plan I created for a journalism class.  It outlines the steps of the lesson for that day, identifies the standards being covered, and most importantly lets the administrators see what you’re teaching.  I also included some commentary so you can see my thought process.  It isn’t something I’d include in my regular plans that I submit to the administration because I know I’d get fired.  However, know that even if it’s in italics, it’s still part of the process.   

TEKS: E3.13 – Writing/Writing Process.  Students use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing) to compose text.
IJ2. (G) – Demonstrate an understanding of the elements of news through writing.
Materials Needed: Whiteboards, markers, pens, paper, slips of paper with various story topics handed out, LCD projector

Warm-Up
·          Break up the story in the hallway – what captures your attention about the story?  Which part is interesting to you?  How will you convey the importance of this story to your best friend if she’s distracted or not paying close attention?
·          On the board – Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?  What We Need for a Strong Lead
·          Send Makesi to the office for trying to come in late without a pass.
·          Move Caitlynn, who will try to sit next to Isabel and talk the entire period.

Objective(s) (Purpose) [For the uninitiated, this is the teacher’s script.]
·     Yesterday we focused on how a news story is structured, or the inverted pyramid. Today we will focus on the lead, or the way to begin a story. Leads are important to learn because, in the news, you have to grab the reader’s attention quickly.  This will help you understand how to summarize a story quickly for a reader. By the end of this class, you will be able to understand what information you need to write a lead, and you’ll be able to write a basic, active summary lead.
·     Yes, we are going to write today.  No, we can’t do anything fun.  Today is a WORK day, so sit down. (Do not allow Tyrone to go to the bathroom, as he will ask five minutes into class.)

Learning Activities           
  1. Students will “overhear” the story about the breakup and discuss the most important part of the story with the teacher.  Students will decide how they would tell this story to a friend, and how they would NOT tell it.
  2. The teacher will explain the 5 Ws and H – who, what, where, when, why and how.
  3. Students will work with their group to take a story idea and break it down into 5 Ws and H.  Students will also repeatedly ask what the 5Ws and H are, even though it’s written on the board.
  4. Students will decide which of the 5 Ws and H is most important for their particular story.  At this point, Juan will ask, “What are we doing again?”  The phone will ring, and the office will ask if you can cover Mr. Jenkins’ class this morning because he didn’t show up.  You tell them that you are trying to teach your class right now, so you can’t cover it.
  5. Students will learn why passive voice lacks immediacy, and why it’s ineffective for grabbing attention. Mostly, they will argue with you when you tell them it’s not an effective lead.
  6. Leading questions: Which matters most in your story?  If you can only pick two elements to emphasize, which would you pick?  Is there a more effective way to convey the importance of this story?  Does the wording make it sound more important to the reader or less? Tell the class they need to pay attention, as the graded part of the class is about to start.  

Comprehension Activities
  1. Groups will formulate leads or hooks based on what they decided were the most important elements of the story sample. (Note: Separate groups for Caitlynn and Isabel, plus make sure you assign group participation grade today.)
  2. Groups will share them out to the class and receive class feedback to determine the most important element and if the sentence is active or passive.  (Tyrone will NOT be allowed to answer.)

Mastery Activities
  1. The teacher will show four photos from recent news stories to the class if the overhead bulb in the LCD projector was finally replaced.  She’ll have printed copies as backup, in case the printer is broken again.  The students will choose two out of the four photos presented and determine the 5 Ws and H in the story.
  2. Students then write basic summary leads based on the information presented, and compare it with other students who wrote about the same story to see if they agree on the most important elements. When an administrator looks in and asks what you’re doing, you’ll say, “Writing.”  She’ll say, “Then why is it so noisy?” She will then remind you about an after school department meeting you already know about. 

Closure
  • As you can see, the lead has to be strong and direct to get the reader’s attention.  It has to relate the main point of the story immediately.  To write a lead, you have to be able to answer the questions who, what, where, when, why and how. 
  • Students will take information about a local crime, and write down the 5 Ws and H.  From there they will write two leads based on the information, one that is active, and one that is passive. 
  • At least a third of the class will write nothing and claim they didn’t know they had to turn in their lead for a grade when you collect the papers at the end of class.  Two of them will try to turn the assignment in a week later and complain that you're not fair if you don’t take it.