I have two little dogs, Henry and Molly. Henry is scary smart. Molly, well, not so much. Henry and Molly are small dogs, but unlike most small dogs, they do not bark. I taught them that it is not ok to bark. . Their training really went forward when I enrolled Henry in formal training. The trainer would tell us the skill we would be teaching our dog that night, break it down into little steps, and then showed us with her dog, what mastery would look like. At home, I would practice with Henry and Molly together-she learned by watching Henry. I now have 2 dogs, that on hand signals only, will sit, stay, lay down, and wait. Anyone, even a small child, can give the signals to my dogs, and they will do the behavior.
When I was going through the classes, I couldn’t help but notice the structure. There was a standard with an attached behavior. There were little goals to help get us to the final goal. Finally, we were shown what mastery looked like. This is the same process we go through as teachers in designing lesson plans to meet the needs of our students.
We teachers begin with the end in mind. We have state standards to tell us what mastery looks like. The art of teaching is that middle ground: How will we break the goal into little steps that our students can practice, and build on those steps to the final mastery? How will they show us that they “got it”?
I had a master teacher who told me that lesson plans do not need to be complicated or lengthy to be powerful and purposeful. Do I have the learning target? (The standard written in kid-friendly language.) Do I have the bigger goal broken down into do-able steps? Do I have student centered tasks?
Every day, I get to see how purposeful planning benefits our students. The teachers make it look as easy as breathing, but I know that they put a lot of work into making sure that every detail, every teaching move, is carefully planned to ensure student success. I can’t copy every strategy or move someone else does for their students, but I can borrow and adapt. These little changes (innovations???) like planning what questions, or how the students will talk today, are small changes with big results!
When I was in my classroom, I found that the most stunning change was planning my questions. For example, instead of telling my students how to make adding easier, I asked “Does anyone have a different way of combining these numbers?” Someone in the room always did, and then we could talk about it and name it. The strategies became “Oscar’s way” or “Brianna’s way”. Sometimes, we would use the math language. It depended on the “way” that was shared, but the student who shared it always got to have “credit”.
So, here is the challenge: What innovation (small change) have you made to your planning that yielded great results in your classroom? Share in the comments!