Saturday, October 25, 2008

Day-to-day consistency and lesson planning

I'm never really been sure as how to structure a class so that it looks the same every day, what with the wide variety of events that might happen in a school day. I know that part of that is designing and teaching a procedure to get back on task after interruptions, but the interruptions range in intrusiveness such that one procedure, even two or three or procedures, to get them back on task continues to escape me.

So my lesson plan has been an ad-hoc document, an objective followed by a list of activities designed to achieve the objective. That's probably fine as far as it goes, but it means that Wednesday doesn't look much like Monday. (Also, Wednesday doesn't often look like Wednesday's plan.) This makes it hard to model the same 3 or 4 classroom-management phrases in Spanish every day, which makes it nigh impossible for me to conduct class entirely in Spanish, which is the goal.

So, I've spent some amount of time looking for a way of making plans that would help establish a more consistent daily class structure. And I finally found a document that was handed to me during the New Teacher Academy meetings, and probably during my teacher education courses in college, based on Hunter (1984):

  • Warm-up:
  • Objective:
  • Instructional input:
  • Modeling:
  • Activities/Questions Strategies
  • Guided practice
  • Independent practice
  • Closure
A lot of this looks like it would fit well into a WL class, and into my class in particular. Every day, I have a warm-up activity and a learning objective to engage students in what they already know. Instructional input is what in world language pedagogy would be called "comprehensible input." "Input flood," a term I've only recently come across and thus may be misinterpreting, transfers to modeling. Activities / questions strategies (called by Marzano "checking for understanding" (2007) ) just involves a preliminary check that the students gets what they're supposed to get and how they're supposed to go about getting it. (I say just; it's no simple matter. I often think I've taken great pains to make sure students understand, only to have to anser the same question I've just addressed 4 times.) Guided practice==in-class checks; independent practice==more practice; homework. Closure = a formative assessment and some groundwork for a summative assessment down the road.

Here's where my issue lies: In the Communication column of my standards, each lesson has to take two things into consideration: context and communicative mode. (Ideally, a lesson should also include some Cultural context; get a student to make Connections between this lesson, other classes, and their own lives; help a student make communicative and cultural Comparisons, and then help move their learning into their Communities. But one step at a time.) If a unit has 3 communicative contexts, it means that there are 18 different lessons that happen in an ideal world: a spoken / listening conversation; an written / read conversation; a listening comprehension; a reading comprehension; a spoken presentation; and a written presentation. Even if you tie together a few (or even all) contexts together for the presentational communication mode, there's still a heap of lessons that should occur.

Given all that, is it even theoretically possible to make tomorrow like today? Probably not, but it's worth the try. But up until now, I've had a different understanding of the structure of a unit. This is a day-to-day model, which seems to sacrifice a big-picture understanding for an illusory class-structure uniformity. I've always understood a unit to be a different kind of thing: a presentation, modeling, and practice of vocabulary in a wide context, followed by a closer examination of the vocabulary and grammar necessary for specific communicative tasks. Communicative practice activities, a few activities that tie in all the different contexts, a day of review, then a test.

Anyway, I'll try this "new" lesson plan format and see if I can make it work for me. It will probably be rough going for a while, but once I get the hang of it, I think it will tie objectives, instruction, practice, and assessment a lot closer together. (That's the point of the format, after all.) Also, I think it will increase my students' capacity for taking Spanish as the primary classroom language in the future.

Update: Two minutes of further reading revealed Marzano's claim that this lesson plan structure "is best suited for kessons that address procedural knowledge" (180). Good for some situations, but not all. I'm still going to try it for a little while; there's a lot of procedural-type stuff in communication: how to say you're going to do something, how to listen for key vocabulary, how to identify the main idea of a passage. I think vocabulary learning may more neatly fit in with "declarative knowledge," which is a different ball of wax.


Hunter, M. (1984.) Knowing, teaching, and supervising. Using what we know about teaching. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Modified by Wilson-O'Leary for teacher conference.

Marzano, R. (2007.) The art and science of teaching: a comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 181.

1 comment:

Ray said...

Alwyas nice to read you thoughts. good luck with the new plan.