Media Literacy – More than just using Ed Tech

I spent an amazing day earlier this week at “Yes, And… A NAMLE Preconference Symposium on Media Literacy Education in Early Childhood.” If you’re not familiar with NAMLE – National Association for Media Literacy in Education – (I wasn’t), you can check out their website. I received a free invite to the symposium and conference and, because I never turn down free learning, I was pretty excited to go. In my mind, this session was going to be about getting preschoolers on iPads and other fun tech. What I didn’t realize was there is WAY more to media literacy than knowing how to connect to the WiFi. I had a few Oprah-worthy “a-ha moments” as I sat in the room where 10% of the  attendees were subject matter experts and book authors.

The session started with NAMLE’s founding president and symposium faciliator Dr. Faith Rogow. Behind her on the projection screen was a horse running a beach. She gestured to the screen and asked us, “What do you see?” Answers seemed obvious: a horse, a beach, waves, the ocean. Then she smiled and said, “It’s a PICTURE of a horse.” As the chuckles subsided, I hadn’t yet realized how well that statement set the stage for unveiling a whole new way to consume media.

NAMLE makes it very clear from their core principles that media literacy is a mindset, a way of thinking, and a way of interpreting all media around us:

The purpose of media literacy education is to help individuals of all ages develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression that they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today’s world.

Habits of inquiry and skills of expression. This is way more than being tech savvy. Critical thinkers, effective communicators, and active citizens. This is 21st century skills meeting a healthy dose of creativity with a sprinkle of well-needed cynicism.

Look at that graphic I posted above and all of the higher level thinking skills going on there! We’re talking about those top rungs on Bloom’s Taxonomy! Cyndy Scheibe of Ithaca College’s Project Look Sharp shared three very important rules for constructivist media decoding (a way to encourage students to examine diverse media):

  1. Always start with your goals
  2. Consider your audience
  3. Ask, don’t tell – then probe for evidence

It seems pretty simple – but these three rules can apply to so much more than evaluating media. We spent a large portion of the day on the importance of questioning. Instead of accepting what children say to you, ask : How do you know this? Where did you learn that? Why do you think this happens? Where can we look to learn more? The focus was not just on getting children to soak up knowledge like  sponges, but to think carefully about the process of researching and learning, and carefully drawing conclusions based on multiple sources of evidence. Oh yeah, and we were STILL talking about working only with preschoolers. Think about it – the preschool years are so full of wonder and inquiry about everything from categorizing dinosaurs, to learning the letters in my name, and wondering how boogers got in my nose before I pulled them out with my finger. (That last one truly came from a former student of mine.) It only seems logical that we can extend this inquiry and “let’s find it out” mindset to media.

We talked in the symposium about how in every television show, commercial, or YouTube ad there are actors wearing costumes – even if it’s an average looking person dressed in everyday clothes. There was equal talk of getting children to show what they know in multiple ways – through pictures, images, voice recordings, tweeting and even blogging. Yes, we talked about preschoolers blogging – and it’s being done with great results! We talked about getting children to be careful consumers of media from how they look at a cereal commercial on TV to what advertisements are on a website. Gail Lovely of Suddenly it Clicks shared experiences of using iPads to create dual language picture and audio books to help children preserve their Cherokee culture and language. We ended the day sharing tips and tricks for “tweaking” our professional practice to help encourage media literacy and be more mindful of how we present and create media within the classroom (these were videoed and will be featured on NAMLE’s YouTube channel). The backchat on Twitter was full of great quotes from the day along with link after link for more resources. We had become intent on sharing what we know and working together. A list of media literacy outcomes (pic below) was shared and we were challenged as a group to analyze this list and wonder what else we should share. Totally different than just a day of presentation, this was a true collaborative experience.

Over 8 hours, I was immersed in a roiling sea of great minds colliding with novices, swirling through resources, links, and examples, and surmounting in waves of discovery. Together, this group was able to excite and engage my mind and get me excited to share what I saw and heard. Upon reflection, it was a type of engagement that I have only experienced on several other occasions. I thought I was going to get the general, “Use tech as a tool, not a treat” lecture… instead, I learned how to probe with questions, use media to support learning, and make children critical thinkers. It was mind-blowing. I’ll wrap up here with a quote from Dr. Vivian Vasquez of American University:

We want them [children] to be able to think more deeply about media, culture, and the world all the time – not just when we demand it of them.


 

Here are some links that can help you if you’re interested in media literacy at ANY age level and links for using technology appropriately with young children:

Is HIB Preventing Bullying?

In recent years school districts have done more and more to prevent harassment, bullying and intimidation within the school environment. One would assume that with school districts now being required to report incidents of harassment, bullying and intimidation that the amount of cases would be going down. There is no definitive way of determining if this is true or not as we are still struggling to identify bullying and often find ourselves in a reactive state, rather than a proactive state.

Your school district has probably established a team to handle HIB incidents within each school and they have probably been trained to some degree on conflict resolution, but is it enough? Often with incidents of physical altercations there is a common way for school districts to handle it: the person who retaliates gets in trouble. The first blow is rarely seen, but the retaliation always is. The same applies to situations of harassment, bullying and intimidation. Usually the agitator or aggressor has nothing to worry about, but the victim does. The victim is often seen as someone who has done something wrong by failing to report the incident promptly. Some victims even fall further into the situation if their teacher hasn’t noticed any incidents in their classroom. Peer pressure is another concern, where if the bully is the entire grade’s bully no one may want to cross them.

It is paramount to be proactive, rather than reactive when it comes to bullying. Being reactive often punishes the victim in some form or fashion where they feel they cannot come forth with their issues. Being proactive punishes the antagonist or aggressor and can limit future issues.

There are tons of resources available on the subject matter, such as Simple K12’s Bullying Intervention Toolkit. However, the best way to me to prevent bullying within the school environment is to get your school district to be proactive. School districts often create Public Service Announcements regarding bullying. Do one within your schools where you show the problem and inform the students on where to go for solutions (naming the HIB team, resources, etc.). The PSA below on Cyberbullying should serve as a good start.

For More Info on Preventing Bullying Click Here!

Why Use Augmented Reality in the Classroom

Why Use Augmented Reality in the Classroom

I get asked a lot why should teachers use augmented reality in their classroom.  Augmented reality is not a new concept, in fact it has been in use in a wide range of industries for over 10 years. It took a dreamer who developed interactive coloring sheets and flashcards that popped out 3 dimensional objects geared towards kids before teachers even thought this tool was even useful.  Some professionals still even think it is just a toy. Crayons, Legos, Tinker Toys, Candyland, and dice are all toys and you can find them in most elementary classrooms. Kids learn best when they play, it is a proven fact.  Which is why teachers and parents turn toys into engaging tools.  When you are actively engaged you are learning.

 

Using augmented items in the classroom engages students beyond a worksheet, textbook, or even a video, and opens the door to endless possibilities.  Boeing even announced during the AWE 2015 conference that augmented reality improved training for its employees.  The employees did the task 30% faster with a 90% accuracy over the employees that only were allowed to read a PDF.  Augmented reality is even being used in operating rooms to monitor patients. Workers on oil rigs even use augmented reality to help service the rigs.  The military uses augmented goggles to receive important information in the field.

So when I am asked why should augmented reality be used in classrooms the answer is clear.  The use of augmented reality in classrooms prepares our children for their future today.

There are many companies that have seen the impact augmented reality has and are developing their own tool to stake claim in the land of AR so to speak.  Everyone has different needs so the tool or tools you decide to equip yourself with will depend on your needs.  Quiver, Color Alive, and Chromville have some pretty cool interactive augmented coloring. I use the pages as writing prompts with my students. I also use these pages to help teach students how to revise their writing.  If you are new to using augmented contented the coloring pages would be the avenue I would take to get started. There is also the tortoise and hare coloring pages from Arloon.

Daqri has also developed a few augmented tools such as their 4D Elements blocks and their 4D anatomy both are great if that is the content you teach.  Kids love holding the gold block and watching compounds come together.  I even used the 4D anatomy to show how a heart valve works.

For me it is about creating my own augmented content. There are a few companies that allow you to create such as Layar, Blippar, Daqri, Aurasuma, and Aug That. Each ones has their own platform and what they specialize in. When you are picking out a pair of shoes, you are going to with a pair you feel comfortable with. Same idea when picking out a company you want to use to create augmented content.  I suggest you try them all out and get a feel for them.  Then use the company that best fits your needs. Each one of use has different needs and different comfort levels.

Daqri’s platform as well as Layar and Blipper will allow you to copy, paste, and insert digital content.  Unless you blog or share your creation in some way no one is going to know what you have created.  For me I love to share and create content for others. I find it a challenge and a reward at the same time, so I needed a platform that would allow me to do just that.

Adam Newman the Founder of Aug That also had the same idea. Teachers make the most amazing and engaging activities and they need a place to share with one another, so he developed the Teach Connect. Teachers can send the trigger image to Aug That along with the augmented elements and his staff will do their magic and create the augmented experience.  The reason for his staff creating the augmented experiences is one to make sure the content is safe for kids. The other reason is to make sure each and every time your trigger gets scanned your intended content is what is received.  They also want to make sure your trigger is a scannable trigger. Nothing is more frustrating than putting all your time into something and it doesn’t work.

What I love best about Teach Connect is the sharing.  It is a community built for teachers and soon there will also be one for students. If you are needing an engaging activity on DNA to either enhance a lesson or as a introduction you can go to the Teach Connect and download it.  It is already for you and your students to use.  The community is constantly growing so I am sure there is an augmented lesson or activity just waiting for you.

Aug That not only has the Teach Connect they also have tons of augmented animated lessons already made along with tons of 360 degree environments and 3D models. They are expanding their augmented curriculum and services, I can’t wait to see where they go.  I love how they have really built their company with the focus of education at all levels.  They are not in the field of marketing or making toys, they are solely in it for education.

 

Why use augmented reality in the classroom, because we are preparing our students for their future today.

~ Katie Ann Wilson

What are You Doing with the Last 5?

What are you doing with the last five? What I mean is – what are you doing with the last five minutes of class? Have you ever thought about the consequences of wasting five minutes a day? You lose 25 minutes of instruction per week, two class periods a month, and eighteen class periods a year.

This is the perfect time to utilize formative assessment tools to gauge student understanding and help make decisions about tomorrow’s instruction. Here are three ways you can better utilize the last five minutes of class:

#1: Correcting: Where am I?

In other words, this is the perfect time to gather feedback, correct mistakes and address misconceptions. Knowing what students understand and do not understand is extremely important in preparing the next day’s lesson. Here are some ideas on how you can use assessment tools to see where students are in their understanding:

Socrative is an excellent formative assessment tool to gather student feedback to correct mistakes and address misconceptions. Students can participate on any device, which makes it extremely flexible for 1:1 environments. Not only are you able to create pre-made quizzes, but Socrative has an Exit Ticket feature that requires very little effort on your part. The best part is that all data from Socrative is saved and accessible in web, Excel, or PDF formats.

What if students do not have access to devices? If you are like many teachers, you probably have access to a Smartphone. Why not use Plickers? Plickers stands for “paper clickers.” Teachers simply download the App to their Smart device and print out QR code cards for students to use to answer multiple choice questions. Students position their cards according to their answer, while the teacher scans the room with their mobile device.

#2: Summarizing: Where Have I Been?

Students need to be able to share the main ideas and key points of what they learned; however, we often forget to have our students take a few moments to summarize what they have learned. According to Reif (1993), students remember 70% of what they say and 90% of what they do. The last five minutes of class is a perfect time to get students saying and talking about what they learned.

Think about the power of technology and how it allows students to demonstrate their understanding in various ways. Several months ago, I was inspired by Fox’s new television station called Fox Sports 1, which is very similar to ESPN. At the bottom of the station’s screen are your typical news briefs in the sports world; however, I was drawn to one of the briefs titled “3 Things You Should Know.” I thought this was the perfect idea to use in class.

I had my students use Movenote to create presentations on “3 Things You Should Know From Class Today.” If you are not familiar with this tool, it is an interactive presentation tool. You can upload pictures as visuals, while you explain it through video from your webcam. It can be easily shared and provides students with a way to share what they understand. Students can create and share their Movenotes, which could be posted and shared with other classmates via a class website, blog, or LMS.

#3: Reflecting: Where am I Going?

Reflection is an essential element of learning; however, we often forget about having our students reflect on their learning because there is never enough time. Investing just five minutes at the end of class is an important chance for students to connect the dots and see where their learning is headed.

We must keep in mind that the way students learn and reflect is as different as their fingerprint; therefore, providing students with options to reflect is important. Here are some of my favorite reflection tools:

  • Penzu is a web-based journal, where students can write their reflections and thoughts. It can be password protected and easily shared.
  • AudioBoom is a free podcasting platform, where users can create free mini-podcasts called “boo’s.” This is perfect for the student who may struggle with getting their thoughts to paper.
  • See Saw is an excellent digital portfolio tool for students to share their thoughts through writing, recording, and images. This tool provides students with the flexibility to be creative, while still reflecting on their learning.

Conclusion:

In order to better utilize the last five minutes of class, it is essential that we connect today’s learning with tomorrow’s lesson through formative assessments. We can help students understand where they are at, where they have been, and where they are going. Formative assessments provide students with the roadmap to successful learning. Not only are students better prepared for learning, but teachers gain more class time and cover more content. The best part is that it takes only five minutes a day.

About Matt:

Matt Bergman is a former classroom teacher with over twelve years of experience working in public and private schools. He is currently a technology integration coach at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA. Matt shares his ideas on technology integration and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) through his blog called Learn-Lead-Grow.

Why Use AR Challenge …. Part 2…

Why Use AR Challenge … Part 2…

Using augmented triggers that are already made not only saves you time but adds enhancement to your lesson without changing the learning objective. For part two of the Why use AR series we will use two pre-made augmented triggers.

Describe the Photo

Look at the pictures below and answer the following questions:

  • As you are describing what is happening in the photo use where it is happen. For example – on the left, in the middle, behind and etc….
  • Use present conditions – What are they doing? and etc…
  • What is the weather like?
  • Is the location inside or outside?
  • Use adjectives to explain the mood of the setting?
  • How does this image make you feel?
  • Would you like to be there? Why or Why not?
Now take a look at the second photo and answer the same questions.

Comparing:
Looking at the two photographs what do you see that is similar and what is different. Use the following vocabulary to to describe the similarities and the differences.

Similar: all, most, both, also, as well, & too
Different: but, however, whereas, on the other hand, & although

Speculate:
Speculate the situation and use words to describe such as: use may, might, must, can’t be, seems to, & appears to be.

Your Reaction:
Give your reaction to the photographs and use words such as: I’d love, hate to do that, It looks great, it appears to be dangerous, It makes me want to try, & It wouldn’t suit me.

Adding AR:

You are going to ask the same questions but this time instead of just looking at the two images you are going to explore them. The app you will need is (STAR by Aug That) Supreme Tutoring Augmented Reality.

Steps to Explore:

  • Launch the app
  • Click Start Lesson
  • Click 360° – Panorama
  • Scan the 1st image with you device
  • Once the AR experience is loaded walk around the room.
  • Using your device to look up, look down, and look all around.
  • Describe the Experience
Explore the 360° environment and answer the following questions:

  • As you are describing what is happening in the around you? For example – on the left, in the middle, behind and etc….
  • Use present conditions – What are they doing? and etc…
  • What is the weather like?
  • Is the location inside or outside?
  • Use adjectives to explain the mood of the setting?
  • How does this image make you feel?
  • Would you like to be there? Why or Why not?

Now experience the 2nd image and answer the same questions.

Comparing:
Now that you experienced the two environments what do you see that is similar and what is different. Use the following vocabulary to to describe the similarities and the differences.

Similar: all, most, both, also, as well, & too
Different: but, however, whereas, on the other hand, & although

Speculate:
Speculate the situation and use words to describe such as: use may, might, must, can’t be, seems to, & appears to be.

Your Reaction:
Give your reaction to the photographs and use words such as: I’d love, hate to do that, It looks great, it appears to be dangerous, It makes me want to try, & It wouldn’t suit me.

Share your your experience via social media. Use the hashtags #TechieEdu and #AR4Learning.

Resources:

Connecting with Your Students By Being Up to Date

One of the most common issues teachers have with students is their inability to connect with them on a human level. A lot of educators feel their job is to simply enter the classroom, teach the content, prepare the students for the tests and send them on their way. That isn’t how you connect with students. Teachers can connect with students better by intersecting their lives with the course content.

A perfect example is the video below. A math teacher incorporated the recent song “Teach Me How to Dougie” into a song associated with the content he was teaching.

This process is one of the best ways to connect with students. I’m sure we all remember the “Elements Song”

A famous cartoon when I was younger known as Animaniacs actually helped me remember the state capitals with this little diddy:

You may not be great at rapping or singing, but it is necessary to find a recent event or idea to tie to your current content to help you better connect with your students. Being a little bit goofy will make you more approachable in the eyes of your students.

Think creatively and something will come to you. It is probably not the best idea to have a rap or song associated with every lecture topic, but inserting some fun into the classroom will help you connect with your students. YouTube is a great place for ideas on potential things you can do to incorporate recent events into your teachings to help you connect with students. You don’t have to be over the top, but make it fun.

Homework, With a Purpose

In recent years there is an ever growing debate on Homework vs. No Homework. Many argue for the No Homework side with various reasons associated with their point of view. The primary issue with homework is it’s purpose. If you are assigning homework without a defined purpose you are not doing your students any help.

When planning your schedule for the week in your classroom be sure to have a defined purpose for the assigned homework. Is there a test tomorrow? Assign homework that will help your students study. Is it an Advanced Placement course? Assign homework that will help prepare students for questions they will see on the exam. Is the course real world oriented like personal finance? Assign homework that students will be interested in like a stock simulation.

There are a few questions you should be asking yourself to best determine the purpose of a homework assignment that will help you explain the purpose to an administrator, students and parents.

The first and foremost question you should be asking is does this assignment tie into the content being covered? A homework assignment on a topic covered three days prior may not be appropriate if you’ve moved on to a new topic.

The next question you should be asking if are my students capable of doing this assignment? By the same token as above, if you haven’t covered a topic yet how can your students successfully complete a homework assignment?

Another question you need to ask yourself is can all of my students complete this assignment? You may be in a situation where your class is mixed with a variety of students. Some might not be able to complete an assignment without a paraprofessional, parent, etc. helping them out.

The final question you need to ask yourself is can this assignment be done in class? Ultimately, parents view homework as work that wasn’t completed during the school day. While teachers are often blamed for this it is necessary to consider. Could you potentially fit an assignment into your schedule so that students do not have to take their work home?

If you are able to define the reasoning behind the homework assignment it is easier to defend giving it. If you can note how it is to serve a purpose: preparing students for an AP exam, preparing students for a test, helping students study for an upcoming test, etc. it will be perceived as more than just something you’re making them do.

Helping students succeed is our ultimate goal, so we need to have Homework, With a Purpose!

Finding the Right College Loan

The cost of college education continues to grow, but it seems as though higher education is necessary for future students to succeed. Students and parents are often confused on how to finance student pursuits in college. Parents have a number of options available to them like private loans, federal loans, saving beforehand, paying out of pocket or receiving scholarships and grants.

Most students will not receive scholarships or grants that will cover the entire cost of college. In a lot of instances the scholarships and grants are often only applied to tuition, so other costs like housing and textbooks become a financial concern. Grants are often limited to undergraduate students as well. Some colleges will be provide grants to secure enrollment too. Most scholarships are merit based and it is difficult to secure one later in your college experience.

Students and parents often have limited knowledge of the issues that exist with federal and private loans. Parents and students often can’t pay for all of the college costs out of pocket and few have saved for this event too. Parents and students need to understand the limitations of federal vs. private loans.

Federal Loans:
Federal loans require students to fill out the FAFSA form. Undergraduate students require their parents to fill out the FAFSA with them, which includes their tax information too. Based on the information that is provided students can be denied the assistance they actually need. Students will need to declare an appropriate estimated contribution in order to have the best chance of receiving aid.

Positives of federal loans include that they do not require a credit check to be secured (for most federal loans). This allows young individuals with no credit to receive a loan without a cosigner. Federal loans also offer students some strong remedies regarding repayment upon graduation. Federal loans often offer longer periods of payment deferment for a variety of reasons. Federal loans often have lower rates than private loans (usually around 2 to 4%).

Negatives of federal loans include the limitations on the amount you can borrow. If you are pursuing a degree at a college that is extremely pricey you may run out of federal loans within your first semester of an academic school year.

Private Loans:

Positives of private loans include that you can in theory obtain any loan amount that you need. For example, if you need a student loan for $20,000 one semester you can in theory take out a loan for $22,000. This allows you to cover all costs associated with your schooling that will be limited with federal loans.

Negatives of private loans are many. The first negative is that most students can’t obtain a private loan on their own due to no credit history. This requires a cosigner that often leads to issues later on if a student struggles to secure a job. Private loans also have limited deferment and forbearance options, usually limited to about a year. That essentially means if you can’t pay back your loans within a year your only option is to go back to school to receive an in-school deferment because private loan companies don’t care about your financial situation and won’t give you a payment plan based on your earnings like federal loans will. Private loans can also be predatory with their rates (usually around 6 to 8%) which far exceed most student loans.

One tool that has been found useful is Simple Tuition. Simple Tuition provides students and parents the opportunity compare loan options based on their college year and area. Simple Tuition also provides information on choosing a college, scholarships and repayment options for students pursuing college education. For more information on Simple Tuition please feel free to click below.

Results may vary.

Remind Me Again: Tools to Remind Students of Upcoming Tasks

At the end of the school year teachers often start mulling over changes to their teaching strategy and methods for the upcoming school year. Educators often seek ways to improve involvement in their classroom. One of the biggest concerns teachers suggest is their student’s ability to remember what they’re required to do or upcoming tasks.

Gone are the days where most students are utilizing an agenda book. Here are some tools for reminding your students of upcoming assignments.

eTask:
eTask is also known as the Electronic Teacher Assignment Kiosk. This is a tool your entire school district would likely use, as opposed to you by yourself. With eTask you create a page that can list your education, teaching credentials and a listing of your class activities and homework week to week.

This tool creates class activities in a table format, so it may be difficult for students to synthesize the information if you store multiple weeks at once.

Website:
Within most school districts there is an encouragement to have your own website associated with your teaching. Most school districts will push using space allotted on their own web server or using Google Sites. My recommendation is creating your own website. This allows you to store all resources you’re using and add to them as needed year to year. The best way to go is to have your website be like a blog, so you can constantly produce content and students will follow the material posted that day and come back to the website as needed.

Check with your district’s technology director before creating your own website domain outside of the district’s space or Google Sites, as often school districts like to clarify that what is listed on your personal website is not necessarily checked by them.

Remind:
Remind is a text messaging tool that is becoming a widely used application for classroom reminders. Teachers setup the application to remind students and parents of anything they feel necessary via text message. The application is similar to the Honeywell Alert services most school districts currently use, but this tool also includes students in the information.

Check with your district’s technology director for approval of using this tool prior to use.

myHomework:
myHomework is an application that teachers can use to add homework assignments to. Educators can then set priority deadlines and reminders through this tool. The app is available on a number of platforms and through their website. The application offers a free version and a $4.99 per year version as well. The application can be purchased by individual teachers and by the school district.

This application does seem to have some limitations in the free version, like many applications.

Remember to talk with your school administration before utilizing any tools that aren’t commonly used within the district or unfamiliar to your district’s administrative team. Be able to convince your administration why the tool will be helpful within your classroom.

Lesson Planning: The differences between teacher prep and practicality

I saw a picture on Facebook one morning and had a good laugh about it. It was one of those “e-cards” with the text:

  1. Find your plan book
  2. Hear email… check it
  3. Each chocolate
  4. Chat with coworkers
  5. Surf teaching sites
  6. Try again tomorrow

Then I started to think about the process of writing lesson plans… and wondered why this is such a stressful part of our jobs as educators. (Cue the flashback sequence) When I was in college, the lesson plan template for pre-service teachers was a three page form that needed filled out. For each lesson. As a freshman, I learned the importance of activating prior knowledge, and always taking the time to provide closure. I started college the year NCLB was passed, so we also spent a good amount of time learning about standards. As a sophmore, in came the greuling process of learning to write clear, measurable objectives that did not include the words know and understand. (Wherever you are, Dr. Stephen Ransom, I thank you for drilling that into the heads of students at Mercyhurst University because in every position I’ve held since graduation, someone has complimented my awesome objective statements.) Junior year it was all about being super creative, using manipulatives, designing project oriented lessons, and integrating technology.

When you’re only submitting lesson plans for a professor to review, or popping into a local elementary school to complete one class period it all seems fine and dandy. Sure, I can fill out three pages to complete a 40 minute lesson. Let me consult my Bloom’s Taxonomy verb chart, flip through the standards binder, and come up with a cute little demonstration or activity. As my senior term in student teaching progressed, filling out that lesson plan form was EXHAUSTING. In a Kindergarten classroom, there were 14 different “lessons” that were going on each day. When it came time for me to plan and implement on my own for the last two weeks of the placement, that came out to 84 pages of lesson plans! I rememeber sitting in my car in the parking lot, head down on the steering wheel, silenty sobbing because I was so overwhelmed and drained by everything. How on earth do teachers do this?

Being the crazy-driven-overacheiver (you can read that as “obnxious”) person that I am, I graudated after the first term of my senior year and in less than a week of finishing up being a college student, I walked into a classroom as a subsitute teacher. In a 10 minute introduction to my new job, the principal showed me the essentials: bathroom, teacher’s lounge, the classroom I was in that day. She then said, “Oh here’s your lesosn plans.” It was a single sheet of paper. One sided. For the whole day. Where were the objectives, the procedures, the activating prior knowledge activities!?!? English class’s plan wasn’t even a full sentence: Personal narrative about walking outside. WHAT?!?

It took until my third year of teaching until I was able to master the art of the block lesson plan. I could print the entire week’s plans at a glance on a single sheet of paper that I taped to my podium. My standards were listed in a separate spreadsheet file where I had all of the designations listed and I filled in the date next to the standard when it was addressed. Any long-term projects, center activity plans, or asessements were in a separate binder.

Now here’s the moral of my lovely little story: While filling out a form to structure lesson plans taught me how to break down a lesson and plan the essential elements – it was HIGHLY IMPRACTICAL when it came actually teaching in a classroom. Most teachers have less than an hour of planning per week (during school time at least, we all know you’re working long hours at home too!). What my teacher education program, and many others, still miss the mark on is teaching you how to succinctly and effeciently write your plans so that (a) you know what on earth you’re going to teach (b) a sub could figure it out (c) it still meets any requirements set by your school/ district / state.

In the comments I want to hear from you: What’s the one piece of advice you have for teachers struggling with lesson planning?