Start by keeping the following general thoughts in mind while planning:
- Learning engages the entire person (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains).
- The human brain seeks patterns in its search for meaning.
- Emotions affect all aspects of learning, retention, and recall.
- Past experience always affects new learning.
- The brain’s working memory has a limited capacity.
- Lecture usually results in the lowest degree of retention.
- Rehearsal is essential for retention.
- Practice does not make perfect.
- Each brain is unique.
Daily Lesson Design
To use this research in daily planning, we need a lesson plan model as a framework. The type of lesson plan that a teacher uses depends to a large degree on the instructional method the teacher decides to use. The following are examples of some instructional methods (Moore, 2005):
- Direct Teaching. The teacher lectures, does much of the work, and can present a great deal of information in a short period of time. Extent of student participation varies from none to considerable. Still the most common teaching method in secondary schools and higher education.
- Demonstration. Teacher shows something, tells what is happening, and asks the students to discuss the demonstration.
- Concept Attainment. Students figure out the attributes of a group or category (provided by the teacher) by comparing and contrasting examples that possess the attributes and examples that do not. Through discussion, students develop a definition or hypothesis about the concept (lesson objective).
- Socratic Method. This lesson draws information from students through a series of carefully designed questions that eventually help students achieve the lesson objective.
- Cooperative Learning. Students work together in heterogeneous groups to accomplish a specific task.
- Simulations and Games. The lesson centers around a problem situation that represents reality. Role-playing is used to help students understand the motives and behaviors of people. Educational games involve students in decision-making roles.
- Individualized Instruction. These methods include differentiated instruction, mastery learning, and independent study.
- Drill and Practice. This lesson specifically targets the recall and improvement of certain skills to enhance accuracy and speed.
No single lesson plan format fully addresses every aspect of every possible teaching method. But I do think one comes very close. The format I propose evolved from Madeline Hunter’s (2004) work at UCLA in the 1970s. Hunter was a clinical psychologist who was a pioneer in recognizing the need to include strategies from cognitive science in teaching. Despite its age, the format is based on sound principles of brain-compatible learning while being flexible enough to use with a variety of instructional methods.
I have made minor modifications to Hunter’s original format by expanding it to include some of the more recent strategies. The nine components of the design are the following:
Anticipatory Set. This strategy captures the students’ focus. Almost any technique to get their initial attention can be valuable. Vary the initial attention-getter to provide novelty, and remember the power of humor in getting attention and setting a positive emotional climate for the lesson to follow. Once you get their initial attention, the rest of the set is most effective when it
- allows students to remember an experience that will help them acquire the new learning (positive transfer from past to present)
- involves active student participation (while avoiding “guessing” games during prime-time-1),
- is relevant to the learning objective.
Learning Objective. This is a clear statement of what the students are expected to accomplish during the learning episode, including the levels of difficulty and complexity, and should include
- a specific statement of the learning,
- the overt behavior that demonstrates whether the learning has occurred, and whether the appropriate level of complexity has been attained.
When the teacher states the learning objective explicitly at the beginning of the lesson, it is called an expository lesson—that is, the objective is now “exposed.” Sometimes, we prefer to have the students discover the lesson objective on their own. This is obviously called a discovery lesson. Discovery lessons require more careful planning and guidance to ensure that the students actually get to the intended objective. If the learner doesn’t know where the lesson is going, any place will do.
Purpose. This states why the students should accomplish the learning objective. Whenever possible, it should refer to how the new learning is related to the students’ prior and future learnings to facilitate positive transfer and meaning.
Input. This is the information and the procedures (skills) that students will need to acquire in order to achieve the learning objective. It can take many forms, including reading, lecture, cooperative learning groups, audiovisual presentations, the Internet, and so on.
Modeling. Clear and correct models help students make sense of the new learning and establish meaning. Models must be given first by the teacher and be accurate, unambiguous, and noncontroversial. Nonexemplars could be included later to show contrast.
Check for Understanding. This refers to the strategies the teacher will use during the learning episode to verify that the students are accomplishing the learning objective. The check could be in the form of oral discussion, questioning, written quiz, think-pair-share, or any other overt format that yields the necessary data. Depending on the results of these checks, the teacher may decide to provide more opportunities for input, reteach, or move on to new material.
Guided Practice. During this time, the student is applying the new learning in the presence of the teacher who provides immediate and specific feedback on the accuracy of the learner’s practice. Later, the teacher checks any corrections that the student made as a result of feedback.
Closure. This is the time when the mind of the learner can summarize for itself its perception of what has been learned. The teacher gives specific directions for what the learner should mentally process and provides adequate time to accomplish it. This is usually the last opportunity the learner has to attach sense and meaning to the new learning, both of which are critical requirements for retention. Daily closure activities can take many forms, such as using synergy strategies or journal writing. Closure activities for the end of a unit might include writing plays, singing songs, reciting poetry, playing quiz games, and so on.
Independent Practice. After the teacher believes that the learners have accomplished the objective at the correct level of difficulty and complexity, students try the new learning on their own to enhance retention and develop fluency.
Important Note. Not every lesson needs to include every component. However, the teacher should consider each component and choose those that are relevant to the learning objective and teaching method. For example, when introducing a new major unit of study, the lesson may focus primarily on objectives (What do we hope to accomplish?) and purpose (Why are we studying this?). On the other hand, a review lesson before a major test might include more ways of checking for understanding and for guided practice.