(written by Karen Lea)
Planned a great lesson? Excited to teach the content and you KNOW what you have planned will excite students and they WILL learn? Ever planned a lesson like that and then you wondered what went wrong? We all have. We have all been there. But there are three keys to avoiding that. No guarantees, sometimes a lesson just flops. But, we can be strategic in including at least one of the keys to avoid the lesson that is just not motivating for our students.
We are in luck! The Common Core standards are great for teaching the three keys.
Let’s look at those three keys. The basic idea is to have students asking questions to learn. That means we must teach students to ask questions. We must also make it safe and acceptable to ask questions. Questions that are relevant. If a student asks a question to take the class off task, just comment that is a valuable question and you would love to answer it after school or you will put it on the list for questions on Friday. So, how do we build these keys into lessons?
Let’s look at the English Language Arts Standards: Speaking and Listening.
Elementary (3rd grade)
Standard – Determine the main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Lesson – The first time you try this, take it slowly. Everyone is learning to think deeper and that takes time and patience. Take a text, read the first paragraph. Ask the students to write down what they think the main idea is and record those on a board. Be sure and not allow giggling or remarks. All ideas are valuable and there is no right or wrong at this point. Choose 3 or 4 and ask the student why that might be the main idea. Probe to get students thinking. Let others help students give a why. Then read another paragraph and at this point ask if anyone has any questions about any of the main ideas. Help the students ask other questions why they choose that main idea. Allow a respectful discussion as you add or delete some of the class main ideas. Continue with this process until you come to an agreement. Notice you are not telling the main idea, you are guiding them. Does this take longer? Yes! But you are helping students think, that is important. You are helping them take ownership for their opinions. You are using inquiry.
Middle School (6th grade)
Standard – Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.
Lesson – Think about the concept you are teaching. Then find random pictures that are somehow related to that lesson and some that are not. Post those around the room with numbers. Tell the students the topic of the day. Randomly assign numbers and give students 5 minutes to write why they think that picture relates to the topic. Have them write on a sticky note and put on the picture. Then have them take a different colored sticky note and write 3 questions they have about the picture. You now have their input on the lesson. They are curious about the pictures, you have questions to answer, and you are doing more than just talking. You are using curiosity.
High School (11th – 12th grade)
Standard – Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.
Lesson – Show several video clips of speeches and ask students to rate the speeches. Do not give them any help, let them come up with their own rating. Talk about when people listen to or don’t listen to a speaker. Let students explore rubrics on the Internet that discuss rating speeches. Give them guidance, but let them have time to explore ratings for presidential speeches and speeches at award ceremonies. Then as a class, develop a rubric where you are gently leading them to point of view, … and the other elements in the standard. They key for motivation is letting them explore instead of you giving them how speeches are rated.
Now it’s your turn. Go to the Common Core Standards and choose a standard for your grade level. As you plan a lesson, how can you motivate students using inquiry, curiosity, or exploration? Post your ideas and let’s learn together.