By Mark Heintz

Lesson planning requires a lot of time.  Teachers spend a lot of their day planning.  I wanted to write a way for teachers to decrease the amount of time planning while getting at what they want.  This was a lesson I did with freshmen.  I hope it’s helpful.

How do teachers increase a student’s reading, writing, and collaborative skills?  
How do we “manage” the learning? 
How can teachers decrease time spent lesson planning?  
How do ensure all students are learning?

Okay.  So, what does a lesson look like that does all of this without driving teachers crazy?

The lesson plan.  

To start, I had students develop a question they were interested in.  You can read how I did that here.  Once they have their question, things get a little easier.

  1. Have students find an article online that might help them answer their question.  I typically use Newsella or NPR. I let them use other news sources if they are already currently reading it.  (Not many are)
  2. I had them spend fifteen minutes reading the article.  Although I didn’t tell them to, they were annotating the articles or writing down notes.  
  3. At the ten minute mark, I told them to jot down three facts, ideas, or questions that might help them answer their questions.
  4. I used Team Shake to pair students.  For five minutes they shared with each of their new understandings and how it might help them answer their questions.  As a class, a few students reported out.
  5. Then they had about twenty-five minutes to work on their question.  Most kids are writing a paper. A few kids are doing a presentation.  One student is doing a collage.  I walked around and answered any questions I could.
  6. With five minutes left in the class, students paired up again and shared with each other on the work they did.  I told them to give feedback to each on if their mini project was compelling or if the student provided evidence that actually answered the question.  
How do teachers increase a student’s reading, writing, and collaborative skills?  

In this lesson, the students read, wrote, listened, and spoke.  Also, students inquired, explored, answered and presented.  That pretty much sums it up.

How do “manage” the learning? 

I didn’t have to.  The students managed themselves.  I created conditions for the students to explore topics they were interested in.  Granted, we spent a lot of time crafting those questions and related them to human geography.  But, I didn’t have to “manage” each activity.

How can teachers decrease time spent lesson planning?  

I didn’t have to create anything for the lesson.  I spent time thinking about the time for each phase.  But I didn’t create worksheets, print anything, post anything, or find the perfect article.  It didn’t take much time outside of class.

How do ensure all students are learning?

I walked around.  As I did, I listened to the conversations, read what the students wrote, and observed students working together.  I connected with every kid.

 I firmly believe this lesson could be used in any subject.  The format might be different, but creating the conditions for students to learn would be the same.  In the end, that’s what I did.  I created conditions to learn and ensured those conditions were upheld during the lesson.  If we can do that, then learning becomes natural.  We don’t have to make a lot of “stuff” for the lesson.  We don’t have to always have a formal assessment to see if they were learning.  We can work with students on things they are interested in.  We can focus on learning.  In the end, isn’t that what’s school for?

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