Friday, March 11, 2011

Capitalizing on Lesson Time: Learning What We Can and Can't Control

Earlier this week, I started a post series on how we as teachers can make the most of limited lesson time. I noted that the most important idea to keep in mind is flexibility- realizing that there are some issues we cannot control and that all the planning in the world can't foresee certain circumstances.

But while we cannot control some aspects of the lesson, there are some aspects that we can control from week to week. Learning to identify and maximize on those aspects will make us more successful teachers.

First, I'd like to stress that we can still control the overall structure of the lesson. While the details may change a bit- students' reactions may mean a quick restructuring of the plan or re-prioritizing of concepts- don't let that throw off the general lesson structure. Keep in mind the bigger picture and what the overall goals are that you want to accomplish.

Next, remember the PURPOSE of a lesson. We're not meant to spoon-feed each and every detail to our students. While there are some students who will need more guidance, beware of 'over teaching'. Rather, introduce the material, make sure the student has a firm grasp of what's required to accomplish the material, outline your expectations, and leave it at that. In the ensuing weeks, you'll discover just what works and doesn't work for each student, but free yourself up from the responsibility of feeling like you have to teach EVERYTHING!

Finally, remember that it's about internalization, not itemization. In other words, don't feel that because a student stays with the same piece for a week or two that they're slacking off somehow or that you are not teaching coherently. Some pieces were meant to be multi-week pieces, and some concepts take more than one week to internalize. It's better to take the time now to make sure the student completely understands than go for the new-material-every-week mindset. Make sure your students are on board with this too and that they understand that success is found in mastery of a concept, not in the number of pieces they get 'crossed off'.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on aspects of a lesson I can control. While things may not always go exactly as I'd planned, if I keep the bigger picture in mind, free myself from 'over-teaching', and focus more on the concepts than crossing off I will be well on my way to being a more focused, and less stressed teacher. :)

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