Linked to the first post in this series of 10 ideas for reflecting and developing as a trainee teacher. I have come up with another 5 questions linked to ideas surrounding lesson planning.
Question 1: Have I written a properly crafted lesson objective/outcome?
Ideas surrounding lesson objectives, and their outcomes, have changed a great deal over the 10+ years that I have been teaching and working with trainees and NQTs. Some schools have moved away from this approach and others doggedly stick to a three-way differentiated lesson objective. However, my approach to this is probably a middle ground.
I feel that I have reached something that has worked for me. Hopefully it has helped the trainees and NQTs that I have worked with. The purpose is to encourage teachers to think about what they want to achieve in a lesson. What is its purpose? It guides trainees and teachers to plan backwards and keeps the bigger picture in mind. The language and style of objectives or aims can change, but I think it should be made explicit at the start of the lesson. In my experience, pupils feel secure when teachers are explicit about what they should be working towards in a lesson.
Question 2: Do the planned activities support the lesson objective?
Often at the start of someone’s training, lessons are a series of activities with little connection and direction. Therefore, it is my firm belief that if trainees need to write their objectives first of all. Then the activities will support the lesson’s objective so that the pupils can achieve.
It is making a shift between occupying the pupils’ time with things to do versus guiding them to achieve a particular goal. Such as explaining the effect of imagery in a passage of text or how to compare and contrast two different tenses in MFL. The activities should lead towards this end goal.
Question 3: Have I considered what the pupils are going to produce?
Similarly to my answers to questions 1 and 2, this links to purposeful and focused lesson objectives. The final activity of a lesson, or sometimes series of lessons, depending on the planning sequence, needs to be thought of alongside the objective. So, I encourage them to think of what they want their pupils to produce. If it is the answer to a question in a particular tense with specific vocabulary, this helps pupils to see what needs to be worked on prior to completing this task.
When trainees understand this, they see how much easier getting to the final outcome seems to be. One of my recent PGCE students mentioned this to me and how much this really clicked for her. It was great to see this in action and she taught two great lessons. This was due to her hard work and focus on planning. So well done to her for that achievement!
Question 4: Have I considered how I will assess progress?
This answer links to some AfL techniques but does not go into too much detail. Whilst, trainees need to understand the rudiments of AfL, this is not the place for an in-depth discussion. I disagree with the notion of rapid progress in 20 minutes that Ofsted has suggested. It has been forced down the throats of hard-working teachers. Yet another yardstick against which to measure professionals.
However, trainees and teachers early in their career should focus on what they want to assess and how. Is it by collecting in marks for a particular activity? The could use mini whiteboards or reflect back on their well-crafted learning objective to see how far their pupils have reached in a lesson? These are valid methods of assessing progress and when the plan is focused on the outcome, this happens. It is a small tweak to bring in some formative assessment to gather data to inform subsequent teaching. Assessment can be a bit of a minefield, but a few simple techniques can serve a great purpose.
Question 5: Have I included an extension and support material?
Extension and support, i.e. differentiation, can prove to be such a headache at the start of a teaching career. It appears on feedback sheets and in conversation, but sometimes, needs discussing in practical terms. Often, as I think about how I have worked to help trainees and NQTs reflect and develop, differentiation can be tricky. I try and steer them away from things such as 20 more equations or translate that into English. Sometimes this can seem like a punishment rather than something to stretch and challenge.
However, I might suggest creating some much more challenging tasks and putting them in an ‘Expert’ section. Also, putting an asterisk by tasks on a powerpoint slide can also indicate the level of difficulty. I often suggest that familiar material is presented in a different context, so the high flyers need to use their skills to work out the problem. There are other ways of doing this, but that goes beyond the scope of this post.
In terms of support, I try to ensure that trainees are clear with instructions. The should provide key words and structures that help struggling pupils to complete a task. This could be on a handout or written on the slide show. The time available will dictate what resources will be produced. Gapped texts and colour coding of items can also provide support on structural and vocabulary items.
These questions and answers could be even more detailed and some I will look at further at a later stage. But hopefully this gives a flavour of how to reflect and develop on planning as a trainee teacher . Similarly, it might provide a starting point for a conversation between trainees and their mentors.