What’s a lesson look like?

If I’m really honest, I haven’t thought much about instructional models since I finished my Masters a few years ago. However, the release of the Victorian DET document High Impact Teaching Strategies last year, coupled with some feedback from my students made me re-visit what I was doing in the classroom.

I’ve been teaching senior English classes for a number of years and one of the greatest challenges is providing students with time to practice the skill of sustained, analytical, writing. They know they need it, but so often, I was allocating this important skill to the margins of homework. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think there’s a tendency for teachers to not value that writing time in class. But it was clear I needed to change this.

In order to deliberately build in more writing time into my lessons, I had to think about the structure of my lessons. Our school has 4 x 72 minute periods and so I had 72 minutes to work with – below is the template I designed based on the I do, we do, you do model.

Common Lesson Structure – VCE English 72 minute period

Component of Lesson Plan Time Allocated
1.     Homework Conversation Students spend time reflecting on the homework (this may be in small groups, whole class, individually) 10 – 15 mins
2.     Explicit Instruction Teacher explores in detail ONE element for the class – establishing the learning intention/success criteria. Things that could be discussed include, but are not limited to: a passage analysis, characters, key event, point of interest, language/style, elements of the study design, themes, vocabulary development, skills etc. 10 – 15 mins
3.     Discussion – small group, whole group The discussion will be informed by the explicit instruction. The aim of the discussion is for students to clarify the instruction, ensure they have a developing understanding of the teacher’s instruction/discussion and assist each other to reach understanding. 10 – 15 mins
4.     Writing Activity Independent writing activity – ideally, this is a development of the discussion component of the lesson, which stems from the teacher’s explicit instruction. 10 – 15 mins
5.     Wrap up – set up Teacher reminds students what they have been working on this lesson – connecting it back to the learning intention.

Teacher sets up the homework to be completed by the next lesson, to ensure the productive use of class time.

10 mins

I don’t think this is anything ground breaking; but stopping and thinking very deliberately about the skills/knowledge and understanding I want my students to have has forced me to put this down on paper and commit to it. It’s also allowed me to consider how I employ the High Impact Teaching Strategies in my classroom: Explicit teaching, worked examples, collaborative learning, multiple exposures, questioning and feedback are part and parcel of this structure.

Another way I’ve shown my commitment to prioritising the writing time is by completing the writing tasks myself in class. I’ve found this is one sure-way to stop talking and interrupting the students, by grabbing a whiteboard marker and modelling the task myself.

Of course, I could always do more, but bringing these to the front of mind has had a powerful impact on my teaching and on student learning.

I’d love to hear about your instructional models, lesson plans, templates and activities that get the best out of your students. Comment and let’s share!

April 2018

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