Tony Gurr

Posts Tagged ‘Classroom management’

To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question! (the RE-boot)

In Classroom Teaching, Teacher Learning, Teacher Training on 02/07/2013 at 5:51 am

big bad İSTANBUL

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Continuing with my series of 500K bloggery RE-boots here!

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This one was one of my very earliest posts…from all the way back in March 2011. This probably accounts for it being one of the top posts I have ever done…despite the fact that it used very few images and I was still LEARNing how to “highlight” on WordPress.

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Now, I’m not sure…but I think the element of this post that people seem to like is the “personal touch” in the two stories that the post uses.

You decide!

The VERY best TEACHers

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An old friend of mine caught up with me on Facebook the other day. He was a great “natural” when we worked together in Dubai…a few years back – he was a bit of a “maverick”, an architect who taught maths and computing, and enjoyed taking risks.

My kinda teacher…

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In his Facebook message he made a “confession” – in all the time we worked together – he had never prepared a “lesson plan”.

He explained that it was “against his religion” and noted:

I always hated the idea of lesson plans…because lesson plans are about what the teacher wants, not what the students need. Education should always start with students’ learning, not teachers’ teaching.

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I pointed out that lesson plans were actually quite a good idea – if they were LEARNer-centred.

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TEACHing is not LEARNing

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His reply:

Sorry! I assume lesson plans to be TEACHer creatures that often have very little to do with students. I should have been more specific! Yes, ones that focus on students – good!

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3 Lessons (of a TEACHer) Ver 03

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It’s often said that every TEACHer teaches 3 lessons (in every lesson they do);

the lesson you plan to teach (Lesson #1),

the lesson you actually teach (Lesson #2) and

the lesson you wish you had taught (Lesson #3).

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It always made total sense to me that if I wanted to see the difference between these 3 Lessons, I had to have some form of “lesson plan” for the first of these – so I would get better at the second type by reflecting on the third type.

Reflective Savvy (3 slides) Ver 02

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Does that make sense – to YOU, too?

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The problem was, as my friend noted, when I was TRAINed (as a TEACHer) I was asked to jump through all sorts of silly hoops and prepare 3 or 4 page lesson plans for every single “dreaded” observation.

Now, I know this was probably not the intention of my teacher trainers (we wrote on slates in those days and the LEARNing rEvolution hadn’t quite “kicked off) because we spoke about this – a lot!.

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A typical conversation went something like this:

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Tony: Come on, this is just a waste of time – you can’t seriously believe this is going to help me be a better teacher.

Trainer: Look, I know it and you know – but this is what {INSERT name of exam board} want. If you don’t do, they’ll fail you.

Tony: You mean YOU will fail me!

Trainer: YES!…just get through the observation…you can do what you want when you get the bit of paper!

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I actually liked the trainer!

And, did everything she saidespecially the last bit!

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When I started teaching full-time, I quickly realised that it was not what I wanted to do (as a teacher) that was important – it was what I wanted the students to do that really “mattered”!

It also dawned on me (some time after the fact) that everything my trainer had LEARNed me was not that stupid – the one thing on the lesson planning form I had to repeatedly complete in my training emphasised “objectives”.

The problem was that {INSERT name of exam board} defined these as TEACHing objectives”  – notLEARNing outcomes” (I think they may have evolved since then…but then again).

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3 FQs (purpose)

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OK – I had “translated” that to mean purposeand brought it together with the idea of “what will the students be able to do with what they LEARN”.

This focus on “purpose” led me to another discovery – that in every “lesson”, I should have a “big idea” that students would “get” and take away with them.

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It was these three things that always formed the basis of Lesson #1 – the written version.

Rather than writing down every single “step” I was going to do (with “specific timings” and “classroom interaction patterns”), my lesson plans were about the steps the students would take (the “stuff” they would “do”) – and how I would know if the steps students were taking actually helped create LEARNing.

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Engagement Ver 02 (credit)

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This actually meant that Lesson #2 started to get better – I was more relaxed, I didn’t have to keep looking at my notes (written on a slate, of course) and I could focus on “BEing with” my students much more (rather than “TEACHing at” them).

The beauty of this approach meant that I was more willing to focus on Lesson #3 – and got better much faster.

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And, you know what else? 

Observations stopped being so “dreaded”!

LEARNers and non LEARNers (Barber quote) Ver 02

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So, to sum up:

YES, lesson planning is important and useful (when you focus on “purpose”)

YES, lesson plans should be about what the students will do (and what they will be able to do with what they LEARN “with” you)

YES, lesson planning can help you become a better TEACHer

NO, format does not matter – and size certainly doesn’t…

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For those of interested in getting better at planning (and reflecting on) your lessons, why don’t you take a look at one of my libraries:

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Tony’s LESSON PLANNING Library

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Motivating our LEARNers…or “Co-Creating” a CLIMATE of LEARNacy?

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Our Schools, Our Universities, Teacher Learning on 12/06/2013 at 1:51 pm

YES (red exlam tilted)

…I know!

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A few of you are saying things like:

The SECRET (Expletive)

Hey…do not shoot the “postman”!

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OK…let me call on a few “bigger” guns…to convince you:

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Motivation (and fishing)

What? 

You want a “bigger gun”?

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The SECRET (Covey)

Go ondisagree with my favourite rahmetli hocam – I dare you!

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Yes…

I am BACK

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Let me tell you…some of the real “secrets”

but...

we have to go a bit negative on our own asses (or “arses“)…just for a wee minute (go on…guess away at my cultural heritage there)!

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Firstly, “motivation” in the classroom (or out of it for that matter) is not about:

Motivation (sweeties)

Dentists just hate us when we do that!

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Nor is it about:

The ABCDs

No, you cannot watch another movie for 2 hours…Zeynep!

It’s not Friday, yet!

It ain’t

It ain’t even about the TECHnology we use:

Is is the TECH or the QUESTIONS

My “digital cheerleader” pals are gonna hate me for throwing that one in!

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It should also never be about…

Motivation (abdication and Darth Principal)

Darth…is that a “carrot” or a “stick” in your mechanical hand?

…or are you just happy to see…my kids in detention again? We call that strategy “abdication of responsibility” (where I come from – did you guess, yet)…and you’ll never pass probation like that!

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Good TEACHersGreat EDUcatorsjust know:

Classroom Management (feet)

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Oh, yes…and, always make sure this is LOUDest message in the room:

Success (in my classroom)

…through who they are, what they do and how they LEARN themselves!

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The alternative…?

Ms Pushover

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But, motivation is about sooooooo much more than “classroom management” – perhaps, we should say CLASSroom LEADERship“…

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Besides, didn’t we already say:

The SECRET (Really, really)

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As I hinted, in my post early last week:

3 things from 30 years

…that last one is kinda important, esp. the bit about the “voice“!

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When we ask “kids” and I have worked my way through pre-school to supporting PhD candidates – they frequently tell us they want certain things…things that do not vary that much:

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GREAT TEACHERS 04

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Yes, that one at the top of list…is the one they say the most (esp. when they are not very “happy”).

Time we start to “hear” it…

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OK – don’t believe me and my preference for very unscientific methods…other “big guns” (female, this time – to show you I am an “equal opportunities” blogger):

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TEACHing and LEARNing

Told you so!

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Take a closer look at MY list again – yes, I know that Julia and Jean’s has a sexier “soundbite” quality to it – but mine is also based on what kids and young adults have told me again and again…and again.

Honest – look at that face of mine…you could buy a second-hand car from me!

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What other elements do you see?

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John Hattie (quote)

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What’s all that stuff about “real”?

Yes, I know Julia and Jean said that, too!

But what does it mean for YOU…for your LEARNers?

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Another “big gun”, anyone?

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Palmer QUOTATION - Circle of Trust

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A “cannon”, perhaps?

Rogers QUOTE (Facilitation of LEARNing)

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…and three cannonballs, me thunks:

3 cannonballs (quotes Carl Rogers)

I know…another “guy” talking about “guys”!

But…he is “THE guy”!

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Yesterday, Laurence talked about “allowing” kids to keep in touch with their “childlike heart” duh…they are kids…and even young adults (and TEACHers) respond to this approach.

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It’s about being “real”NOT just “covering” the curriculum!

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It’s about LEARNingNOT just “TEACHing at” them!

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Learnacy ZONE

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It’s about LEARNacy

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Back To School – CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT

In Book Reviews, Classroom Teaching, Our Schools on 05/09/2011 at 10:56 am

If you are anything like me (gosh, I hope not…well, not too much), you’ll love the Dummies series.

Did you know they can learn you just about anything from these – from Taxidermy to Blogging?

OK – the “taxidermy-thingy” was just mean, sorry!

 

But, they have “Dummies” for everything – everything it seems, except:

They just do not stock this title!

 

Now, this struck me as a little strange. Remember, I told you that I got to my 100th posting earlier this week? While I may have given up counting how many words I have used across all those postings – I did not give up on the most popular “internet search items” that brought people to allthingslearning.

The Top 12 search items (in order) were: 

  • classroom management
  • teaching
  • evil yoda
  • assessment for learning
  • classroom cartoon
  • jedi
  • yoda
  • sith yoda
  • classroom
  • teaching cartoon
  • lesson plan
  • classroom management cartoon

SERIOUSLY! These 12 items alone account for 35% of the traffic to this blog – again, these “Happiness Engineers” at WordPress give me such useful data! 

 

Now, this showed me a great many possible things: 

  1. I clearly write far too much about Star Wars on my blog!
  2. Lots of educators are just as interested in “Evil Sith Yoda” – as I am!
  3. Teachers and educators just surf the net for cartoons

The one thing it did highlight for me was the interest in classroom management.

 

In the past, I have done a couple of posts on classroom management (these have, again, been some of the most popular posts we have on the blog):

 

Now, apart from re-blogging these – I wondered what else I could do (until “Classroom Management for Dummies” is published) to help all those teachers that are getting ready to “go back to school” this week…in this part of the world!

I have also complied a list of my favourite Classroom Management resources in a “new” library (hot off the press – see below). It contains a number of the books I talk about in the two posts above!

Enjoy! 

But, hey – if you just came for the cartoon, here it is:

I really wish I could remember where I found this one. I came across it many, many years ago – and it was just sitting in a folder…till allthingslearning.

Seriously, if you know where it comes from, let me know!

 

The new library is here: Tony’s CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT Library

Are we on the right “track” with CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT? [Part TWO]…

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools on 04/04/2011 at 5:52 pm

When we hear some of the “horror stories” about classroom management, we could be forgiven for believing that every classroom looks something like this:

In truth, most classes are nothing like this…but if they do exist, it probably has more to do with the layout of the room and the fact that the teacher is “rooted” to her chair – than the kids!

Yes, it’s true we all have the odd student or group of students from “hell” – but it’s important to remember that most of these kids are not “bad” per se (they simply “do” some “bad things”).

…And, mostly because we, as teachers, have not done something “right”.

That’s right! Kids learn the “rules of the classroom gamefrom teachers, they take their lead from what their teachers have “learned” them over their school careers – and most of this happens on an unconscious level.

For example, teachers often complain that all kids want to know is “what is on the exam”. The problem is that it is largely teachers who have “created” this type of approach to learning and study – parents, too. But then, we need to ask who also taught the parents?

It’s exactly the same with classroom management.

As I hinted in Part One of this post, teachers who equate classroom management with “discipline” are more likely to rely on a “bag of tricks approach” to running their classrooms – and these tricks are more likely to be similar to the following:

  • The adoption of “overly-strict” approaches to interactions with students
  • The use of “scare-tactics” and forms of “cruel-and-unusual punishment
  • The “abdication of responsibility” and processes of “passing-the-buck” to HoDs or principals

Now, I do not know about you – but when I was a “kid”, it was teachers that loved these “techniques” who did not “learn” me very much at all (in fact, I can hardly remember their names)!

I remember (and respect) the ones who took a real interest in me, who engaged me, who recognised my achievements and challenged me to live up to my potential (I even remember – over 30 years later – some of things they actually “learned” me)….

The “disciplinarians”, in contrast (and as I learned as a young teacher), were also more likely to be “grumpy“, not pull their weight in a team and suffer from stress, premature aging and illness – even run the risk of “karoushi“!

On the other side of the coin are teachers who opt to pull “the ABCD’s” from their “bag of tricks” – a set of techniques that do little more than:

  • Amuse
  • Bribe
  • Comfort
  • Distract

And, by doing so, these teachers end up doing little more than “teach” their students even more “bad habits” – bad habits that reach over from the realm of formal education into “real life”.

Nearly all teachers work with a “bag of tricks” – and not all of these are “evil”.

The problem is that these tricks are usually based on one-off or stand-alone techniques, many of them are “reactive” and most of them tend to be in response to bad behaviour or discipline issues.

The thing is that not all teachers are created equally. I have met many great teachers who simply do not seem to have very many classroom management problems at all – and it does not seem to matter how big or small their classes are or how many “trouble-causers” they have in the room. They seem to be able to manage any class the school might throw at them – many of them even ask for the most difficult groups and the lowest-achieving classes.

Apart from being some of the most optimistic teachers I have met – they all seem to understand the golden rules of effective classroom management:

These are the “real heroes” of the profession and they recognise that it is the value you add to a student that is importantnot the “credit” you cream off from students with natural talent or a stack of family-based advantages. These teachers often get really cool Hollywood “film deals”but there are more of them than you would imagine!

We need to remember that “discipline” is not “classroom management” – we step into “discipline mode” when (and only when) classroom management systems have “failed” to produce the results we want.

The key word here is “system” or “procedure” – systems and procedures that proactively prevent challenges with behaviour and keep the focus on getting-things-done (and by “things” we mean “learning”)!

This “difference” is the whole basis for Harry K. Wong’s observation that:

Effective teachers MANAGE their classrooms. Ineffective teachers DISCIPLINE their classrooms.

The lack of attention to creating these systems and procedures prompted Fred Jones (Tools for Teaching) to note that:

No one enters the teaching profession wanting to “nag” and “criticise”, but many teachers end up doing so every day

The “secret”, it would appear – is that if a teacher wants to break the vicious cycle of “nag & criticise” and move away from a discipline-driven approach to classroom management, s/he needs to focus on developing procedures that help him/her deal with the day-to-day challenges they face with their students

 

Tomorrow, in the final part of this “trilogy”, we will:

Are we on the right “track” with CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT? [Part ONE]…

In Classroom Teaching, Our Schools on 04/04/2011 at 9:30 am

I have just returned from a really good-to-great conference in Konya organised by the Merve schools and hosted by Mevlana University.

I have to say I am so happy to see more of these events happening outside of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir – teachers in the other cities around Turkey need these events just as much as those in our bigger cities. We need more of them…

 

I was asked to look at the issue of classroom management in my session…a topic many teachers are “keen” to learn more about.

We kicked off the session with a “mini-pop quiz” and I thought it might be useful to share this with you all.

I presented the participants with a series of statements and asked whether everyone thought they were TRUE or FALSE…You might be surprised by some of the answers (backed up by research into what effective teachers do with their learners).

Have a look … (the answers are at the bottom of this post):

  1. Teacher expectations of students do not influence how much students achieve in class (and in their lives).
  2. Student behavior will always be a problem in every classroom.
  3. “Grumpy” teachers always seem to have more classroom management issues than positive, happy teachers.
  4. Teachers who collaborate with other teachers have fewer classroom management issues than teachers who “work on their own”.
  5. Focusing on your “subject” is the best way to prevent discipline problems in the classroom.
  6. Classroom management has nothing to do with discipline.
  7. There are fewer classroom management problems in smaller classrooms.
  8. Teachers either “win” or “lose” their classes on the first few days of the school year.
  9. A teacher should spend more time covering material than managing their classrooms in the first 3 days of school.
  10. Most classroom management problems have nothing to do with students – they are the teacher’s fault.

Now, it seemed that some of the “correct answers” did cause a bit of a “stir” – especially, number 6 and 7, in addition to number 10!

But, it’s all honest-to-goodness truth (“trust me” – you could buy a second-hand car from me and feel totally “safe”)…

 

The biggest problem for many teachers doing a pop-quiz like this is that we have all been “learned” that CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT is about “DISCIPLINE”…



This might be true…if we were all learning about teaching in the 1950s!

We are not – and we are in the business of teaching “little people” (not school subjects) to be even better “grown-ups” (this is the job we “really” all signed up for – whether we knew it at the time or not).

There is a huge difference between helping our students learn about the importance of (self) discipline and “using discipline” as a “teaching tool”.

Sadly, this focus on discipline comes from the assumptions we often have about children:

  • Children are little “devils”!
  • As they GROW UP…they just get…worse, “worser” and “worsest”!
  • They have to be “controlled”!

This emphasis on “discipline” also suggests that many teachers see classroom management as a “cure” to some form of “disease” that affects every student and every classroom (look at statements 2 and 7 again) – rather than the “systems” a teacher designs to minimise the interruptions to learning, to keep students engaged and to get things done in the classroom!

As such, teachers feel they have to act in an authoritarian manner, prioritise “keeping control” and focus on our “subjects” – rather than focussing on our students while being our best, most authentic selves, prioritising ways to creatively engage our students and facilitating the love of allthingslearning.

 

I’m sorry…what a load of “rubbish”!

 

As Maria Montessori noted (almost 100 years ago):

…create the right environment and even small children will “explode” into LEARNing

Children are “learning machines” – they are “engineered” for learning. AND, they are far better at it than we “adults”!

The problem is the assumptions we adults have about them and the way these assumptions and beliefs have been turned into the systems and rules that we have created for our schools.

As Guy Claxton points out:

Perhaps, we need to think about another “track”…another way of looking at the issue of classroom management – and recognize that statement number 10 is “truer” than we all might think.

 

KEY to the POP-QUIZ: 1-F, 2-F, 3-T, 4-T, 5-F, 6-T, 7-F, 8-T, 9-F, 10-T

To LESSON PLAN or NOT to LESSON PLAN…that is the question!

In Classroom Teaching on 13/03/2011 at 3:58 pm

3 Lessons (of a TEACHer) Ver 02

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An old friend of mine caught up with me on Facebook the other day. He was a great “natural” when we worked together in Dubai a few years back – he was a bit of a “maverick”, an architect who taught maths and computing, and enjoyed taking risks.

My kinda teacher…

In his Facebook message he made a “confession” – in all the time we worked together – he had never prepared a “lesson plan”.

He explained that it was “against his religion” and noted:

I always hated the idea of lesson plans…because lesson plans are about what the teacher wants, not what the students need. Education should always start with students’ learning, not teachers’ teaching.

I pointed out that lesson plans were actually quite a good idea – if they were “learner-centred”.

His reply:

Sorry! I assume lesson plans to be teacher creatures that often have very little to do with students. I should have been more specific! Yes, ones that focus on students – good!

It’s often said that every teacher teaches 3 lessons; the lesson you plan to teach (Lesson #1), the lesson you actually teach (Lesson #2) and the lesson you wish you had taught (Lesson #3).

It always made sense to me that if I wanted to “see” the difference between these 3 Lessons, I had to have some form of “lesson plan” for the first of these – so I would get better at the second type by reflecting on the third type.

Does that make sense?

The problem was, as my friend noted, when I was “trained” as a teacher I was asked to jump through all sorts of silly hoops and prepare 3 or 4 page lesson plans for every single “dreaded” observation.

Now, I know this was probably not the intention of my teacher trainers (we wrote on “slates” in those days and the “Learning rEvolution” hadn’t quite “kicked off”) because we spoke about this – a lot!.

A typical conversation went something like this:

Tony: Come on, this is just a waste of time – you can’t seriously believe this is going to help me be a better teacher.

Trainer: Look, I know it and you know – but this is what {INSERT name of exam board} want. If you don’t do, they’ll fail you.

Tony: You mean YOU will fail me!

Trainer: YES!…just get through the observation…you can do what you want when you get the bit of paper!

I actually liked the trainer! And, did everything she said…especially the last bit!

When I started teaching full-time, I quickly realised that it was not what I wanted to do (as a teacher) that was important – it was what I wanted the students to do that really “mattered”!

It also dawned on me (some time after the fact) that everything my trainer had “learned” me was not stupid – the one thing on the lesson planning form I had to repeatedly complete in my training emphasised “objectives”. The problem was that {INSERT name of exam board} defined these as “teaching objectives”  – not “learning outcomes” (I think they may have evolved since then).

OK – I had “translated” that to mean “purpose” and brought it together with the idea of “what will the students be able to do with what they learn”. This focus on “purpose” led me to another discovery – that in every “lesson”, I should have a “big idea” that students would “get” and take away with them.

It was these three things that always formed the basis of Lesson #1 the written version. Rather than writing down every single “step” I was going to do (with “specific timings” and “classroom interaction patterns”), my lesson plans were about the steps the students would do – and how I would know if the steps students were taking actually helped “create learning”.

Engagement Ver 02 (credit)

This actually meant that Lesson #2 started to get better – I was more relaxed, I didn’t have to keep looking at my notes (written on a slate, of course) and I could focus on “being with” my students much more (rather than “teaching at” them).

The beauty of this approach meant that I was more willing to focus on Lesson #3 – and got better much faster.

And, you know what else? Observations stopped being so “dreaded”!

So, to sum up:

YES, lesson planning is important and useful (when you focus on “purpose”)

YES, lesson plans should be about what the students will do (and what they will be able to do with what they learn “with” you)

YES, lesson planning can help you become a better teacher

NO, format does not matter – and size certainly doesn’t…

For those of interested in getting better at planning (and reflecting on) your lessons, why don’t you take a look at one of my “libraries”: Tony’s LESSON PLANNING Library