Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lesson Planning to Promote Rigor and Student Engagment

As teachers we have a lot on our plates right now. Unfortunately in my case it's not cupcakes either.

Doesn't the pink one look delicious though?!

Over the last year many teachers have been transitioning to the common core. This is a huge job within itself. Choosing essential outcomes, aligning curriculum,vertical team meetings, etc, etc..............

The list goes on and on.

This past year my district also adopted a new reading series and several of my team mates and I  have  piloted two math series in the past two years.  That's a lot of things added to our plates....once again we are not talking cupcakes.

Although, a cupcake here and there does make things easier. =)

I also forgot to add we are also transitioning to a NEW TEACHER EVALUATION SYSTEM.

Can you say S-T-R-E-S-S??

However I am so blessed to be working in a building that handles all of this with grace, patience and smiles on our faces. Very positive, "can do" attitudes!

I think the cupcakes we bring in help with this of course.

So in light of all of the above our building has chosen to focus on RIGOR and STUDENT ENGAGEMENT as part of our professional development.

Lesson planning no longer means this ....not that it ever did anyway.

We began last year with collecting student engagement data (I P I ) and discussing our building results together. I was unfamiliar with this type of data collection at first and found it confusing. Basically it involves  trained colleagues who  pop into classrooms for short periods of time to observe student engagement. The engagement of the students at that time is given a number similar to DOK.  The numbers (levels) and how the results were tallied took some getting used to as a staff.  We were concerned when the observers always seemed to pop in during a bathroom break or when we were heading off to recess! However, after meeting to discuss our results as a building we learned that these times are not included in our data results.  We look at this data over the course of the school year and have been discussing ways to raise our IPI and DOK levels as a staff.

Now that our building has a year under our belts I'm finding myself really thinking about the engagement level of my students and the rigor of my lessons.  The next phase for us is to begin reflecting more on our individual lessons and discuss during team meetings.  The hope is that through reflection and discussion we can step our lessons up a notch or two and truly engage our students.  This is a long process that we are still in the early stages of but it got me thinking seriously about my own lesson planning.

So earlier this year I posted about lesson planning for Daily 5 , guided math and math stations.  I'm still using these sheets for my weekly planning. I'm a paper/pencil type of planner and they seem to work well for incorporating my new reading series with Daily 5 and my new math series with math stations. I do need to see and  plan a week at a time in order to know "where I'm heading" with my kiddos.

However with weekly planning I feel as if some of the lessons are not planned to their fullest potential.  After sitting through a professional development meeting focused on student rigor I began thinking about my early years of teaching.  When I first began their was no Kindergarten curriculum in my district!

We had a report card. That was it. The kids had to know how to write their name, letters of the alphabet, colors and numbers to 20. Amazing considering what all they are expected to know now.

Fast forward a couple of years and along came the GLE's.

And we had a curriculum. Finally!

However, I taught for quite a few years with no reading series or no math series.

So I became a very creative lesson planner! I also had a tremendous amount of fun doing it! As I look back on those years I feel that my lessons were VERY engaging and high rigor.  It was the days of thematic planning.  I often focused my lessons on themes which was easy to do considering I didn't have to follow someone else's recipe book of lessons.  I created a weekly "menu" of concepts I needed to cover, must do activities and other ideas I hoped to get to.  Every day after school I reflected on how our day went...what did we cover, what did we not get to, what went well and what didn't work. I would then write a daily lesson plan for the next day based on my reflections.

Then along came the "series."  All at once we adopted reading and math series.

 I must admit it took me FOREVER to become adjusted to using basals.

 I would present the lessons as described in the teacher's guide and try to get to as much material each day as it was outlined in the series.  I was excited at first to have all of these materials at my fingertips, but very disappointed when I wasn't seeing the results in my classroom the way I was used to.

I felt stifled but understood the need of having all of our teachers on the same track.

Of course I eventually got into my own groove of using basals and began letting my own creativity creep back into my lessons.

Now that my grade level in familiar with the common core we are moving forward! Once the craziness of all of the paper work settles down with our new teacher evaluation system I'm looking forward to meeting with my team and work towards ways to increase the rigor and student engagement of my lessons.  In the meantime I decided I needed to go back a few years and revisit how I used to design my lessons.  For right now this is a work in progress for me.  Each week I'm writing a menu of things (plans) that I would like to cover from our reading and math series.These are not extremely detailed plans....that comes later.  It's more or less a menu of the CAS that I need to focus on and things I feel I need to get to in our series.   I'm continuing with my planning pages for Daily 5 and Math Stations/Guided math groups but I'm adding a daily planning sheet each day.  I've added spots to jot down notes on how the lessons went, engagement, etc.  The quality of these photos are terrible but it gives you an idea of how I'm setting up my daily plan.

This added paperwork may seem like a lot of planning but actually it's making my planning time easier and shorter.  Once I complete my weekly menu of concepts and activities I simply spend a little time each day after school reviewing my day and planning for the next day.

As the list of things added to our plates grows and grows I'm always on the lookout for things to make my job go smoother. For me this type of daily planning is a tool that not only saves me time in the long run, but also improves the types of activities my students will be engaged in.

                                                               Here's to a great week sprinkled with a cupcake....or two!
                                                                                               Mrs. M


  1. Did we go to college together? :-) I learned to incorporate math and reading instruction into center-based, thematic activities. In theory class, we were expected to jump up and create a song about an assigned topic, to the tune of Happy Birthday, whenever the professor pointed at us! (That was nerve-wracking, but I can truthfully say that this was one of the best management strategies I learned in college.) Looking back, I realize my professors were cutting edge at that time. As you said, the basals came back, etc.

    I have reading and math workbooks, but at least 75% of my instruction and plans center around station activities and hands-on learning. Thankfully, my principal has given me the freedom to move in this direction, despite the fact that our school is very traditional, very workbook oriented. The Terra-Nova scores of my students prove that my approach is beneficial, halleluia!

    Thanks for sharing your insights in this post. I hope others will take the time to join the conversation!

    1. Thank you so much for commenting! =) Thankfully I didn't have to jump up and create a one would have wanted to hear me sing! I do agree that we were pushed to use our creativity to create lessons, connections, etc. I felt so out of my element when I began using basals for the first few years. Luckily, like you I have the reading/math work books but have the freedom to incorporate many of my own ideas. I love the results I see when I'm able to infuse my own creativity into my lessons. =)

  2. And, the cupcakes look I want sugar!

  3. TeachMeWell - Online Math Help - education for children Aged 5 to 10 (Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5) - Math lessons click here math online


I love reading your comments! Thanks for visiting my blog!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...