While a course outline and curriculum map are key to effective classroom instruction, daily lesson plans unlock learning for students. Daily lesson plans that work share core ingredients, and this week we offer tips to highlight aspects of effective daily lessons.
This Week's Tips
Develop Clear, Measurable Outcomes (Monday)
Daily lessons that work are based on clear objective statements. Record the objectives on your daily lesson plan, and post them on the board or on a transparency sheet for students. These objectives, once clearly conveyed to students, establish the learning expectation. Students will understand and can then focus on mastering the learning objective(s). Refer to the objective(s) throughout the lesson to maintain the lesson’s clarity.
Attention-Grabbing Lessons (Tuesday)
Open each class by giving students a problem or lesson designed to immediately focus students' attention on the subject matter. Sometimes referred to as a “warm up” or “attention grabber,” these exercises require students to develop an answer to a problem or question. Condition your students to begin this exercise as soon as they have entered the classroom, collected their materials, and taken their seats. Provide a limited amount of time to complete the exercise—perhaps two minutes after the late bell—and review the focus activity immediately. Giving participation credit for completed work provides extra incentive for students. Beginning your class with this strategy can establish a serious learning environment and set the tenor for the daily lesson.
Meaningful Practice and Application (Wednesday)
Successful lesson plans allow students to practice mastery of the concept as part of a group and as an individual. Construct your daily lessons to provide time for small or large group practice of the concept. There is safety in numbers and the questions raised by peers during group practice reinforce learning. Circulate as students practice individually, being certain to interact with each student to affirm or correct application of the skill or concept being learned.
Student Self-Evaluation (Thursday)
Require students to assess their mastery of the objective. At the close of the lesson, bring the attention of the class back to the objective and ask, rhetorically, for students to determine for themselves how well they mastered the concept. If the classroom rapport allows, ask students to apply the five-finger rule and show you the results of their self evaluation (five fingers indicate complete understanding; students holding up fewer than five fingers should be asking questions). If the class is more reserved, distribute index cards and ask students to write an answer to the objective. They should give the card to you as they leave. These exit passes will provide you with an immediate assessment of objective mastery as well as a great review at the opening of the next day’s lesson.
Daily Lessons Are Building Blocks (Friday)
Connect daily lesson plans to the previous and following days’ lessons. Thus, effective daily lessons stem from effective course outlines and unit plans. Teaching day to day without an overall plan dooms learning to haphazard fragments; teaching with an overall plan enhances learning and leads students to a deeper understanding of the content—by the end of the course students have gained the “big picture.” Effective daily lessons require students to recall and build on yesterday’s lesson, last month’s lessons, and last year’s lessons.