What is the division of labour in your class? Who is doing all the work, you or the students?
Students are there to do the heavy-lifting during the class: to work through activities, exercises, discussions, peer learning, and practical work. Our job as teachers is to facilitate the learning, which means that our hard work is in constructing the learning activities before the class starts.
Structuring a lesson is essential. There are a variety of learning activities to help keep students engaged over time that you can consider adding to your lesson plan.
Warm-up tasks at the beginning of your lesson helps to shift the focus to the students, encouraging active engagement from the start. It also gives latecomers an opportunity to hopefully arrive before you start new content.
Examples of warm-up or revision activities:
- Kahoot! quizzes (individually or in small teams)
- Old fashioned pop quiz (which could be done independently or verbally in teams)
- Stop the Bus
- Backs to the board
- Tic-tac-toe (Noughts and Crosses)
If you’ve asked students to complete work before they come to class, it’s best if the lead-in activities can directly reference tasks completed outside of the classroom. This helps the students to better understand the purpose of their take-home tasks.
Asking effective questions is so crucial to learning. If we don’t plan questions or think about the kind of thinking we want our students to engage in, we might end up with closed questions that don’t tell us much about a student’s level of understanding. You might even consider adding a column for ‘Potential Questions’ in your lesson plan template.
Try to stay away from asking questions like: Do you all understand? Instead, ask questions where you give them options for answers and they can select one to elaborate on. For example, they may simply provide a yes or no answer, and then explain why they have chosen that response. These kinds of questions can be used for checking concepts or instructions.
Examples of scenarios with effective questioning:
- Stage 1 Accounting: Your students need to understand what the term ‘franchise’ means. Usually you try to have three questions and structure them in such a way that students can provide a yes or no answer.
a. Is a franchise a type of business model?
b. Is a franchise a one-of-a-kind type of business?
c. Is McDonalds an example of a franchise?
- Stage 1 Physics: Your students need to understand the concept of ‘uniform circular motion’. You plan the following questions:
a. Does an object need to be travelling at a constant speed or changing speed?
b. What pattern should the object be moving in?
c. Would a ball swinging on a string above your head be an example of this?
What did students learn in your class today? A simple open question like that can be the basis for knowing where to start the next class, and to let you know what might need revision or more careful planning the next time you teach it.
Examples of activities you can do at the end of your lesson:
- Post-it notes and a prompt. Get the students to write five new things they learnt today: What was the most difficult concept to understand in today’s class?; What do you still not understand?
- End of class pop quiz (perhaps following the test-teach-test model)
- End of class Kahoot! (individual or teams)
- Stop, start, continue
- Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) test based on the class content for the day. These could be kept for the following week’s revision tasks, or even included in mid and end of semester exams.
When including activities at the beginning and the end of the class, you particularly want to look at including activities that can demonstrate to students how their knowledge or application has improved in the time they’ve been with you in class. This helps to demonstrate a sense of mastery to the students, which can enhance motivation, especially when students encounter difficult concepts.
If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out Jon Hvaal and Ann Wilson’s starters for a new cohort, or the articles on websites like Faculty Focus. You can also watch the session ‘Teachers share their approaches to lesson planning‘ for ideas of how to incorporate the activities listed here.