[Disclaimer: this next post contains teach speak, in other words, words that only undergraduate students completing a degree in primary education use. Nah kidding, you’ll get it, I mean, it’s teaching not rocket science.]
All good Primary teachers know how to plan, and plan for success. The old adage: if you plan to fail then you fail to plan is probably true because the reason why my blog this week looks so typed-on-an-iPhone-on-a-Thursday-morning because it is.
Now I am honest with you. You best believe that! First things first I need help – no not with hitting the right notes to a Taylor Swift karaoke medley; we will do that later. I need help with PLANNING. #badblood
DO YOU PLAN?
I asked this question to my Bachelor of Education (Primary) third-year peers at Australian Catholic University (ACU):
How much time do you spend planning a lesson plan?
Where do you go (online) to find inspiration?
What is the best way to structure your lessons using the given template?
More on the results of these questions in a moment. Let me fill you in on my own thoughts about planning and lesson plans generally. In my head, I thought it takes days to write one lesson plan. My first assignment for my first placement unit at ACU was excellent. I received a credit for my lesson plan on the sport. I based it off my collaborative lesson plan with two other teachers at the time: Shōgun Ninja Obstacle Course. A little side note – each teacher was a different role: Sensei Smith, Ninja Master Joseph and Shogun Beere. If I would add to this lesson I would turn the lens of roles and titles to the children and offer groups of four different groups for them to enter into.
The obstacle course was huge! It felt massive in our tutorial room because we used the entire space. Eight obstacles (four corners of the room obstacles and four “walk the pirate plank” obstacles – I wish we took a photo but the picture would probably wouldn’t do the memory justice).
Now before we began the promised obstacle course, before we laid a single crash mat down before we even began capturing the sharks to place in the trap door in the floor below the plan, we started in a small room with a whiteboard and a marker to plan.
Plan the beginning the middle and the end of our thirty minutes lesson. A lesson that included all of the above and music by Mozart (for the post-game yoga cooldown), Kung Fu Panda 🐼 (those cats where fast as lightning 🌩), and my personal favourite (Johnny Depp’s least favourite no doubt) Pirates Of The Carribean – for the swashbuckling, poop 💩 deck swabbering (is this even a verb bru?), rigging scurrying, shark infestation shimmying obstacle course.
So I hear you say “it’s a ninja course, there are no pirates in ninja land.”
To that I say lovingly “Shhhhhhhhh… you’re right but kids like ninjas and pirates so we squashed them together in one obstacle course. What could go wrong?” Lots and lots! Luckily for us, nothing bad happened.
Where were we?
Oh yes! The small room where the three of us planned this activity.
Craig, Clayton and I met up several times over a period of three to four weeks before the due date to confidently plan out what needed to happen in order for us to pull off our daring obstacle course.
- Crash mats. Four of them for each pirate plank walk activity.
- Hoola Hoops. Twelve of them. Four at each corner activity. Three for the hoop plank squeeze and another five for the lava pit of despair and desolation (actually we just called it the lava pit – it’s for children ages about six-seven here remember)
- An iPhone
- A Spotify playlist
- Four songs queued: Mozart, Hans Zimmer x 2, Kung Fu Panda.
- Our scripts
- Our lesson plan for the supervising teacher
Each step of the way we could refer back to our plan. Look at the information and remember exactly what part of the lesson we were at and how much time was left for each rotation. A quick one-second glance was only necessary because we knew it almost like the back of our hand.
We pulled off the lesson that day without a hitch, transitions could have been tighter but I found the activities I would help other people on I was more confident, demonstrated lead teaching abilities, and used ICT like my Spotify playlist to compliment the lesson (rather than distract from it).
This is where it gets really interesting, as soon as it was my turn (we were being individually assessed and given extra points if we collaborated with our group during the 3×10 minute activities) to demonstrate an activity I made I lost a lot of confidence because I consistently doubted myself during the game and questioned my own rules and was unsure how to explain a certain action clearly. Now clearly I remember my flaws like they were yesterday and I’m positive that I can build upon them and I’m even more positive that I received an HD for that lesson but I know that in those small moments I could improve on that area of confidence. What was going through my head to undermine the lesson? How did I resolve it? What was the thought that pushed these doubts aside and let me complete the Bean Bag Bombers lesson effectively even though I was feeling these things? I feel it now when I teach my Kindergarten class.
I think I finally understand after much research and self-😘 and self-🤳 and self-reflection. What is it? Well, it’s another question.
If I was in the students’ shoes doing this game, what am I thinking and feeling about this game or activity?
Even when explaining the game I know I have a limited attention span, especially with five-year-old Kindergarteners.
Wow! Okay, I do apologise you got the full story of a sports lesson. Imagine that, now we are back to present day. Woo! It’s a Thursday morning, I’m preparing for a three-week block of placement. Three weeks. That’s 21 days. That’s ~480 hours. That’s like— okay I’ll stop thinking about how long placement is. It’s like less than a month though. It’ll be over before I know it and all the more chance to use every moment at school to learn about the way a full week of a full-time teacher operates.
Now you may be able to tell I am a little nervous. Understatement of the decade. It’s not the kind of palm sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy nerves. No. It’s more of a oh-gosh-I-have-22-small-humans-to-care-calm-and-create-messy-paintings-that-resemble-something-beautiful-but-I-don’t-know-what kind of feeling.
Assessment. It’s a word. It’s a big word in our world, the teaching world. It’s a bit of a big world too. I mean an intergalactic one. Teachers luuuuuuv assessing students. There are four types of assessment I know about: assessment to learn, assessment of learning, assessment for learning, and finally assessment that drives Lewi nuts because he’s using NESA and ACARA but they are not terribly compatible for each other learning.
How do I survive? Ask lots of good questions, and lots and lots and lots and lots of dumb questions too.
Do not be afraid to sing, dance, jump and shout in front of your class. You are a dancing queen, and if anyone says otherwise they’re just jealous of the sweet sweet dance moves you’ve inherited from every David Bowie and Mick Jagger music video from the 19whatevers.
How do I plan my lesson for a Kindergarten class?
I wrote blogs like this to get ideas flowing but I want a mentor to help me plan effectively.
I want my fourth year to encourage us to be mentors for each other with a precision almost scientific ability to work together and not get distracted by Instagram or Facebook (that last one is just me probably – but I find group work this year was at an all time low for me. I found I was feeling more frustrated and upset with the outcomes of my assessments this semester and last semester).
So what did my peers say about planning lessons?
So far, I’ve asked many but one one student sticks in my mind who said as a passing comment “only thirty minutes”. He creates well structured clear lessons. I understood each sequence. While observing his modelling of a mathematics lesson, he was incredibly confident. He clearly spent time practising the lesson before delivering it.
Something I get so absorbed in is this. Writing. I forget once I have written the words, they will fall away into an abyss of nothing unless I spend the appropriate amount of time practising my lesson plans.
So perhaps the new question should be:
How much time do you spend practising the spoken modelling of the lesson (at home, in the mirror, before the lesson)?
I am someone who will be able to ad-lib my way out of a tuna can but when it comes to following a script – HELP.
Committing the exact script to memory is not required to be a good teacher. Look at Eddie Woo, he is clearly passionate about students learning. He does not need a paper script in front of him. He has been teaching many many more year than I.
Now I have a script. Tomorrow I will not need it. On Monday I will have a teacher observe every action and the word I say. Two years from now on Monday I will be in my own Kindergarten class (wishful thinking) teaching a mathematics lesson on Chance my way (adhering to the strict guidelines of NESA and <insert name of the primary school I am employed at here> of course)
Clearly, I know good teachers are creative, confident, enthusiastic, energetic, egotistical (sometimes), a little crazy (in the best of ways), with beautiful minds, and even more beautiful smiles.
I know I can be on of those teachers because I’ve had many in my time being a small human with vegemite on my face and a runny nose – simultaneously? I can’t remember I was only five.
“I accept myself warts and all.” – I read another blog on acceptance:
“This reminded me of a story one of my mentors, Linda Pransky, shared at a workshop. She explained there was a time when she had problems with mice at her home. She decided to get a rescue cat to solve the problem. She told the cat that he was a working cat, and if he did not do his job he would be taken back to the shelter.
The cat, however, did not seem to understand his part of the deal. When she brought him home, not only did he not want to catch any mice, he didn’t even want to go outside for the longest time. Linda, rather than sending the cat back for not performing his duties, fell in love with him and cared for him. It no longer mattered to her that he wasn’t a mouser. She had compassion for his timidity and loved him exactly as he was. Over time, the cat became more comfortable. He started to go outside, and then one day, much to Linda’s surprise he came home with a mouse.
Linda saw that when she got her cat he was scared. It took time, care, and love to help him acclimatize and settle down. When he stopped being scared, his natural cat nature came to the surface. He became himself and part of his cat nature was to catch mice. When he wasn’t catching mice, he was doing the best he could do at that point in time. When allowed to feel safe and secure, he eventually was able to express his natural self.
When we humans are scared, we also have the tendency to not act in accordance with our true nature. Our behaviour can range from small indiscretions such as shutting down or losing our temper to huge acts of violence. Whether large or inconsequential they are all demonstrations of our suffering and not an expression of the truth of who we are.
I have experience working with inmates who have committed violent crimes. I was always struck by how they saw things in the moment they committed their crime. From their point of view, I understood why it made sense to them. I am not condoning what they did, but I can see how there but for the grace of God go I. Given the same circumstances, with the same understanding, I would choose the same behaviour.
Check out the full source RohiniRoss.com; sign up to the online newsletter.