This time I’ll focus on lesson planning and how I feel
To be honest, when I started working in Newlands I
thought: “What a burden! I’ll have to plan every lesson step by step!! I was
not used to doing it because I did not have to hand in any lesson planning at
the school where I worked before. Despite the fact that I did plan my lessons
in advance with my mate who taught the same year, I just wrote notes for each
day in a copybook which belonged to me and which nobody else read. Despite the
fact that I carefully thought about what I did and I reflected upon my teaching
and the progress of my students, nowadays I feel that I am becoming a much more
reflective teacher than I was before. Having to think about every step of a
lesson in order to write it down and having other people read it makes me think
even more about every detail, reflect upon the different alternatives I have and,
most importantly, set a USEFUL GOAL for every activity or move planned. Having
to think of the learning objective and having to give myself a sound reason for
including or leaving something aside makes me say to myself: “Will my students
learn from this?? Will they enjoy it? How can I improve this/ that???
Besides, I find that comments made on them can be
really positive and can make me see things from another point of view,
appreciate some aspects which I might have left aside or make some useful changes.
Many times when planning I think that I have to cater
for too many things at the same time (phonics workbook, circles, activities,
rehearsing, helping students who are behind, correcting copybooks and booklets
+ all the steps from an ordinary lesson) and that I have to make too many areas
fit in a short period of time but, well, I always try to do my best in order to
comply with them all, though sometimes, it’s a bit complicated and I have to
leave things aside and establish priorities.
We set learning objectives for
every project, which we share with the students. As they are very young, we do
it trough brainstorming what we already know about the topic, what we would
like to learn about it and throughout each project we come and go to that and reflect
upon what we’ve learnt about it. Moreover, the teacher gives feedback to students
systematically. Talking to students about their strengths and weaknesses is part
of the learning process and we constantly go over their pieces of work, they
attempts and any type of production (written and oral). Many students, after
these short talks with the teacher, agree on the fact that they need some extra
practice on a certain aspect and we set special activities to strengthen those
points. Motivating them making special emphasis of every step forward they make
is also extremely important for them to believe in themselves and feel eager to
go even further.
We use the net-books in the
classroom in every project and we do intense work in computing lessons. Every
project has activities done through the use of technological equipment: we’ve
listened to songs and watched videos since the beginning of the year. During
the first part of the year, students created their own superheroes and
described them using different software and web pages, they worked on plants
and their habitats through interactive programs on the computer and could do “virtual
hands-on-experiences”, like checking what happens to a plant if you water it
excessively or if you keep it in a dark room, they did on-line quizzes and
labeled pictures and created electronic leaflets with text and images about
plants and the environment, which were uploaded to the school’s blog, among
many other activities.
Bilingual Project: Plants
We’ve worked on this topic in
parallel with Spanish teachers. There were many areas which we introduced
together and which were worked on at the same time, like the parts of the plats
and their function, processes such as photosynthesis, how plants adapt to the
environment, what they need to grow well, etc. We did different hands-on experiences
and experiments so as to give children a wide variety of activities. In the
morning, they worked more on different types of plants, their descriptions, the
types and shapes of leaves, the autochthonous plants from our country, etc.,
while, in the afternoon we worked intensely on literary elements, language and writing.
Working on this project together
with Spanish teacher facilitated learning in our students A LOT!! Having some background
knowledge in their mother tongue had a great positive impact on comprehension
in the foreign language. Most students got excellent results and transferred
what they learnt in one class to the other in both directions. It was a deeply
Classroom organization is something I explicitly work
on with my students since the very first day of classes every year. I strongly
believe that the classroom has to be in order for learning to take place and
that there has to be a "routine" to follow every single day so that
students become more and more independent and know what is expected from them
at each different moment of the afternoon.
It was not easy for the group I am teaching to get
used to doing things in an organized way and to follow my word on this aspect.
As a result, I came to the conclusion that I had to come up with a different
idea this year. That's when I decided to systematically implement the helpers
system with some changes. As it was very hard for them to make silence and get
organized when the day started, I asked them to complete a file with some data
about them so as to play a game every day ( FILE: My fav. colour is..., I live
with...., I have got_____, _______, and ______ hair; my fav. toy is.... and my
schoolbag is....). As they loved the idea of playing a game everyday as soon as
they enter the classroom, they enthusiastically devoted themselves to writing
their files (which were also good for some revision as well!!).
In this game, which we still play nowadays, the
teacher takes two of these files from a pile and reads them aloud for the
children to guess who these two people are. As they all want to be the helpers,
they all pay attention and sit down and make silence. Apart from the typical
tasks helpers do, they are in charge of asking their mates about the day, date,
weather conditions, season, etc. and writing it on the board (one helper asks
the questions and the other writes the answers on the board). Besides, the
helpers are in charge of checking, during the day and before we leave, that the
classroom is in absolute order, that there is no rubbish or pieces of paper on
the floor, that the fan is off, that the material is placed in the appropriate
This system has helped classroom dynamics a lot. The students
enjoy helping the teacher and love being the ones who are “in charge of taking
care of the classroom for the day”. Besides, as they are the ones who have to
ask for silence, pick pieces of clothing from the floor, check that every
single day everything is in order, etc,, they start becoming aware of the fact
that, if they get organized and do things the way we should, everything is much
easier and things work better.
Last week it was time for doing the germination in the laboratory, as we do
every year when we start our project on plants and, as THE DAY was getting closer, I started thinking: "Oh!, this will be hard and absolutely stressing for me. Working
in the lab all alone with 23 noisy kids won't be fun!!!! I do
not feel like doing it!!" Despite the fact that I enjoy this type of
activities very much, this group in particular is very noisy. The boys are quite naughty and they find it
really hard to work quietly and follow instructions when they are really excited about something (and,
of course, they were veeeeeeeeeery excited about their first experiment in the
Fortunately, an idea came to mind. "Why don’t I ask some former
students to come to the lab with me? They can explain the experiments to the
"little" ones and also help them do it." And guess what?....The activity was an absolute
success!!! On the one hand, the elder children had the opportunity to help
others and to use the language in a meaningful context (they were “the experts”)
and, on the other hand, the younger ones loved working with the elder students,
who were there to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with them. I was great
to see how the third formers looked up to the girls and boys from fourth. Moreover,
I was there just to monitor and help, which implied that, for this activity,
the teacher was not the one in charge of doing the teaching!!, A group of
children was teaching other children through a hands-on experience in the lab, which they were enjoying a lot!!
This situation bacame food for thought. I started reflecting upon the
fact that there are many opportunities throughout the year in which I could
repeat this valuable type of activity, which turned to be motivating, appealing
and which had an absolutely positive effect on both groups of students. From now
on, I will try to lay ground for this type of learning and teaching to take
place whenever it is possible.
This year, taking into consideration the group I have, I decided to (or at least try to!) include all the learning styles in every single lesson planned, and it seems to be showing good results! I am doing my best to include kinesthetic, visual and auditory aspects in an integrated way everyday.
When time for planning came, I found that, taking into consideration the fact that one of my students can see very, very little and that most of the children found it hard to remain sitting down for a long pediod of time, it was a must to include catchy, funny and visually motivating activities as well as activities which imply moving around and doing things with the body in order to learn. Besides, some children seem to do much better when dealing with oral activities.
It was not easy at the very beginnig (and we are still learning how to cope with these changes) because this implies more noisy and less structured classroom dynamics, but we seem to be on the right track. Students are friendly and willing to learn and they have enjoyed the activities a lot!
I think that it is a challenge for us (teachers) to change some aspects of our teching, taking into consideration the children we ARE teaching, who do not seem to share much with us when we were kids. This implies that, most likely, the way we learned may not be the way in which THEY will learn best.
Sometimes I find that we set our minds on finishing the lesson plan or having all the copybooks corrected in time, instead of thinking of or reflecting on the way our students need to be taught.
I hope I can go on working this issue out and come up with better activities which promote real effective learning.