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Elizabeth Stein, in an online article in Teacher Magazine, says
Effective lessons incorporate meaningful objectives, procedures and assessments, and weave in standards and expectations. We’ve learned to write these lessons according to a specific format.
But it’s within the spaces of this instructional fabric that we find the intangible student-perspective factor. Effective teachers develop a keen awareness of this dynamic and know how to work with it as the lesson plan unfolds.
Stein contends that the student-perspective factor is different from the “teachable moment.”
She says do not wait for random opportunities for increasing student awareness — anticipate and encourage these moments.
Here are several ways she recognizes, manages and responds to the student-perspective factor.
- Overplan — As Stein plans a lesson, she jots down related ideas as they come to mind. (This not only saves time during future lesson planning, but the linked ideas can also be pulled from her “bag of tricks” as needed.)
- Make the topic come alive — Get past textbooks, manuals and dull drills, she recommends. Make the topic jump off the page with examples and stories that are sure to energize your age group. Allow focused excitement to take over as facts are learned.
- Get personal — Kids love to know teachers as “real people.” So share some personal thoughts and experiences that happen to connect to the topic.
- Connect to real life — If you make time for students to evaluate the lesson by thinking about their own personal context, they can compare and contrast elements of the topic to their lives and current events. Make it relevant.
- Active engagement — Get the students involved and avoid what Stein calls the “Pez dispenser” teacher-directed mode of lesson delivery. Provide opportunities for the kids to make sense of the information — actively. You can accomplish this through cooperative-learning activities and effective questioning. You’ll nudge them to engage with the material.
- Keep your “with-it-ness” level set on high — Notice their expressions, their body language. Check their interest level. Make eye contact; use your voice; walk around the room. Turn up the voltage whenever heads begin to nod. Keep them reaing, writing, listening and speaking in a variety of ways for optimal learning.
- Specific feedback — Acknowledge each student as an individual. Provide specific feedback that encourages students to self-monitor their learning. Stein will say something as simple as, “Jesse, I noticed that you…” or, “Brian, what made you think that?” You’ll keep them alert to the learning process. And sometimes, simply your proximity to them, or a quick smile, is all that’s needed. Circulate around the room during a “think-pair-share” session. Listen in and make each student feel like a valued member of the learning process.
Throughout her daily sessions, Stein weaves in the student-perspective factor naturally (but strategically). Planning lessons, she keeps three questions in mind while writing lesson objectives:
- What will students be learning?
- What will they be doing?
- How will I know when I’ve taught it and they have learned it?
She always presents essential questions, because they become a focal point for students’ attention — AND they keep her on track.
The best essential questions are open-ended, with plenty of room for a variety of correct answers and lively discussions.
The most successful lessons conclude with a room filled with students who are excited to learn more.
Stein notes that at the planning stage, the student-perspective factor can be sensed but not seen.
You gain the student-perspective by observing, evaluating, and most of all, caring about what students are thinking and feeling during the sweep of the entire lesson — the beginning, middle and end of the class.
There is a flow to an effective lesson that good teachers can discern. When the flow begins to falter — and it will, sometimes — your keen sense of the student-perspective factor will help you restore the rhythmn and you’ll be delivering instruction that sizzles.
sole source: Elizabeth Stein’s article in Teacher Magazine, 10/21/09. http://www.teachermagazine.org. Stein is a special education teacher in the Smithtown Central School District on Long Island; she also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in special education.
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