Thursday, January 2, 2014

Re-examining the Lesson Plan

finding solace in a 'mess'
Lesson Plan for 2nd grade "Family" unit
I have to admit, when an administrator, fellow teacher or publisher would ask for a written "lesson plan" a sense of anxiety and a bit of fear would take over my senses.  I would freeze up and frantically look up how to write a lesson plan.  
Why in the world would I need to look up "how to write a lesson plan"?
I mean, I have done this many times before, in the past 13 years!  But I would freeze, thinking, 'this basic instructional practice has been ingrained in my knowledge since the first educational coarse as an undergrad, but I don't know how to put everything we will do in one lesson in this unwelcoming and very linear format'! (wow, long sentence).  I write my 'lesson plan' in a composition book, with sticky notes, and arrows, and more sticky notes, and different colored pens, all numbered and re-numbered.  It made me a bit nervous.  It made me nervous because that's not what a "lesson plan" looks like....a mess. But, I have become friends with this mess and my students benefit from all the post-it notes.          
It is liberating to break free from the template of "writing a good lesson plan" and look at the bigger picture of what the students need to learn and how to learn.  Since the start of my teaching career, everything had a "template".  Just this morning, IEA posted on Facebook (from another website) Common Core Lesson Plan Template:
Part of the CCSS national initiative is instilling skills of creativity and innovation, encouraging our students to think beyond the textbook. are they suppose to do that if everything is from a template, forcing teaching practices to fit into the confines of an outlined lesson, that really looks great typed up but does nothing for student development.
My anxiety and hesitations were calmed while sitting in a presentation at the annual Illinois Arts Education Association conference this year.  I was listening to Olivia Gude, a innovative, progressive and creative art educator, speaking to us about new approaches to teaching art through the concept of bricolage.

Presentation: Olivia Gude
BRICOLAGE:  construction (as of a sculpture or a structure of ideas) achieved by using whatever comes to hand; also :  something constructed in this way

As she spoke about the "lesson plan" and flashed a slide of a web, with different ideas connecting to each other while surrounding an overarching goal....I was relieved.  I took a deep breath, looked back at my colleague and said, "Thank God."
Outcome of "Family Tree" Lesson Plan

Because in order for my students to think more critically about their work, I need to think more creatively about how to engage their thinking.  

Happy New Year!
xoxo, SMock you.