Part 3: From Monologue to Interaction
When we think of lesson planning, we usually think of getting the content ready to teach — what chapters will we cover, what examples will we use, what practice problems will we assign, what discussion points to bring up. But true lesson planning goes deeper than that. The master teacher also “plans” for the kinds of interactions that will take place during the lesson.
The bad rap on teachers is that we are a “sage on a stage” making students bored. The alternative is often suggested to be a student-centered, discovery conversation class. But that, too, has a bad rap as not being robust enough to teach foundational concepts and skills. It leaves holes in learning, especially for new content.
But there is a middle ground. We can avoid monologue and open-ended conversation by focusing on interaction. In fact, it could be said that learning really takes place in the interaction between student and teacher. Therefore, the more interaction we can create, the better the learning will be.
How do you plan for interaction? By engaging students with the content. This is the heart of the Dataworks popular Engagement Norms and our TAPPLE procedure for checking for understanding. The goal is to ask students to DO something every two minutes during the class. (This actually has two side benefits as well; it minimizes classroom management problems and it gets all students, including ELs, to actively use the language.)
What can you ask them do?
- Answer Questions. Of course, we can ask them to answer questions. But what if we refuse to call on hand-wavers and call on random students? Then, every student will be busy preparing their answer — in case they are called on.
- Choral Read or Track Read. We can have them follow along as we read parts of the lesson projected on the screen. They can read as a group, or just follow with their fingers on the text.
- Use Complete Sentences. Every answer they give should be in complete sentences. This forces them to use the language — even in a math class!
- Use a Gesture. If we use a gesture in explaining a concept, we can ask them to do the gesture. This is a cognitive strategy for remembering. For example, increasing value of an equation can be demonstrated by hands starting together and then moving them up and out. Vice versa for decreasing value.
- Use Whiteboards. Simple whiteboards for every student gives them a way to individually communicate within a whole class. You can ask them to write their answer and then display it. You can immediately check the whole class. They can also vote yes or no, true or false with these boards.
- Use Pair-Shares. This is an incredibly helpful technique to get students to help teach each other, prepare their answers, and use the language. Simply ask a question, then have students pair up and explain their answers to each other before you call on anyone to report to the whole class. There are many variations of this technique, and it’s useful to know them all.
Teachers end monologues when they master interaction. Students are no longer bored or disruptive. Students are actually using the language and remembering the concepts. And, teachers are more fulfilled because they actually see students learning.
Teachers become masters of lesson planning when they use detailed lesson plans that cover all the components of a good lesson and account for how to deliver the lesson. They become masters of lesson planning when they have time to go deep and focus on the needs of individual students. And finally, they become masters when they master interaction.
Making the time is a key requirement, and we believe that using educeri lessons is the essential first step to reclaiming your time. Then, your focus changes from just preparing your daily lessons to demonstrating instructional excellence every day in every class.
Your students will thank you, their parents will thank you, and your administrators will thank you. Take that first step to rescue your time and gain mastery of lesson planning!