Author: Dr. Sarita Ramsaroop and Professor Nadine Petersen
Department of Childhood Education
Faculty of Education
University of Johannesburg
Lesson planning lies at the heart of effective teaching and managing one’s classroom. Walking into a classroom without a plan of what will be taught (subject matter knowledge or content) and how it will be taught (pedagogical content knowledge or teaching methods) can result in ineffective teaching. This may include not setting aims for a lesson, being unclear about what learners are expected to do, not specifying assessment strategies, recycling content taught from previous years and/or using teacher centered strategies like reading directly from a textbook. It can even be worse, with teachers making up the lesson as they go along. Some or all of these can lead to learner boredom and frustration, and could be key reasons why learners misbehave in the classroom.
Lesson planning is thus crucial. However all teachers are not always clear on the fundamental aspects that should be taken into consideration for effective lesson planning and delivery. In particular a teacher needs to pay special attention to the how part – what are the teacher activities and what are the learner activities. In the book: Becoming a Teacher by Gravett, de Beer and du Plessis (eds), (2014), the authors identify key questions that must be addressed: the who, what for, when, where, what and how of teaching. These key questions seek to make connections to learners’ context, prior knowledge and experiences to teach new content using teaching strategies that aim to make learning real and relevant. For example, in addressing the who question, it is important to consider who the participants in the lesson are (language, cultural background, religion, special needs, race, class size, etc.); What pre-knowledge do learners have about what I am about to teach (the learning content)? Are learners likely to have misconceptions about the learning content? The ‘what for’ refers to the aim and objectives of the lesson and the ‘when’ refers to the lesson duration and time of day that the lesson will take place. ‘Where’ refers to where the learning will take place, what facilities and resources are available and how is the classroom arranged to promote learning. When planning for the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to teach, consideration must be given to: What is the content? How do I make it accessible to learners, considering that they have diverse needs and abilities? What prior knowledge do they have and how do I build on this? What is the best method to teach this content effectively?
In any lesson, there are 3 phases, namely the introduction to the lesson, the main part or body of the lesson and the conclusion of the lesson. Each phase is equally important and consideration must be given to how each of the 6 key questions are addressed in each of these phases. For example, the aim of the introduction is to ‘invite’ learners into your lesson. Here, innovative and creative activities are important if you are to activate prior knowledge and build connections to new content. Students generally enter the class bringing with them the noise from the corridors. They take time to settle down, sometimes resulting in shouting, arguments, or noisily moving desks. Ensure that as soon as learners enter the class, class begins. HOW? Begin with Mindjogs!!! Brainteasers about the previous lesson, or visual material linked to the present lesson can be put up on the board or the projector in advance. As soon as they enter, they are actively engaged.
In the Foundation Phase class, lessons are generally of a 30 minute duration and in the Intermediate Phase class, the duration of the lesson is approximately 45 minutes. Usually a child’s attention span is no longer than 15-20 minutes. How does a teacher therefore keep children engaged in the full duration of the lesson? If a teacher uses ‘chalk-and-talk’ as the only teaching strategy in the lesson, you will notice your learners ‘zoning out’ of the lesson – it is then that they usually start to get up to mischief or disrupt the lesson. By using 2 to 3 different teaching strategies in one lesson, you are more likely to keep your learners interested or engaged for the full duration of your lesson. Refer to the Wetlands lesson plan on how different teaching strategies can be incorporated into one lesson. Why don’t you give this approach a try and see if the learners stay engaged in the lesson longer and if it assists with classroom discipline? Also try discussing this blog with a peer, try the strategies out together and compare your experiences?