During TFA Institute, I hated the process we went through for lesson planning. At the beginning, someone tried to insist that this was the way we would lesson plan during the year, and so it was a worthy skill to develop in this way. Ultimately however, my CMA agreed that it was unlikely we would plan in this way, or use this format in our placement schools- especially for people like myself who were going to be teaching in the younger grades.
I was still surprised when I finally got to my placement school, to discover that the lesson plans we were required to do were so very different from the ones we’d done during institute. Of course I had known that the planning expectations and process would be very different for Pre-K than for third grade, but I didn’t realize just how different. I was given a weekly chart to fill out that did not require any level of detail or specificity.
And now, I find myself in another position. For one of my grad school classes, we’ve written a number of lesson plans throughout the semester. We were given a format to use that was provided by the school, and was fairly detailed. It required us to think a lot more about the way we were developing our lesson plans than any of the formats I’ve been given before, or maybe the format just made more sense to me, I’m not sure. Thus far, I’ve done pretty well on these lesson plans, and their accompanying papers, but with each one the task gets a little bit harder.
The first paper was easy. I was writing a lesson plan for the class I was teaching, and it fit perfectly into the unit I was already doing. The second one got a little harder though, because suddenly I was writing a lesson plan for a class I didn’t have, and writing a paper to match about a hypothetical teaching situation. I now have to create a unit plan, and fully write out one focus lesson from that plan, for a hypothetical class and teaching situation, which is a very daunting prospect. It is easy to be specific and sure when you know the class to which you will be teaching a lesson, and when you’re writing a paper about how the lesson proceeded. However, for a hypothetical teaching situation, it is quite different. My professor says I have to list, more specifically, the questions that I will ask. In the past, it’s been fairly easy- I’ve known what I needed to push my students farther, so that they could gain the knowledge I was trying to teach them, but also spark a curiosity that would have them eager to learn more. With hypothetical students it’s not so easy I’ve discovered. I try to think about my class, and what I would do if I were teaching them, but it crumbles because I won’t be teaching it to them.
Almost worse is planning a demo lesson for a school, especially if there isn’t enough information given (like, what the students are studying). I’ve only had two demo lessons, the first one was terrible and the second one went really well. For me, the major difference between the two in terms of my ability to prepare correctly was that the second school gave me information beyond the aim they wanted me to teach. They told me what the unit was that the students were studying, and gave me the last two or three aims that they had addressed in class. Using this information, I was better able to engage the students and bring in prior knowledge. Additionally, I was given about five minutes inside the classroom before my demo was set to begin so that I could set up, engage with students, and see what was happening in the room. I used that time to take note of the job chart and utilize that in my management of the class. I also interacted with the students as they were finishing an activity for their teacher, which allowed me to have a sense of comfort and rapport with the students. Their teacher gave me tools she thought would be helpful, such as the popsicle sticks she uses to call on students, and a marker. She told me the way the period I was teaching was normally run, so that I could keep the students within their pattern an routine. All of this enabled me to have a great demo experience, and really feel that I had done a good job and taught the students.
(Cross-posted at MisEducated)