To me, this is too broad: too much time, not specific enough of a demand. To write plans for two weeks worth of lessons on the novel given only a narrative of the make up of the class, I feel like there’s too many ways to go and I have no idea what the teacher is looking for. I dig the idea and did the first time I heard about it (there’s a comment from me on some blog somewhere saying, “Great idea!”). I’d love to be in on this, but this is too much freedom, not enough limitations, not enough specificity. A shorter time frame would help as would a more detailed explanation of what is desired. But maybe I’m the only one who feels that way.
Seriously, I can barely plan two weeks for my own class (and typically change the plan by day two).
Socratic seminars, debates, student-created tests, content review games, character posters, so many ways I could go.
Todd’s right, there are a dozen ways to go with the challenge as it was issued. However, instead of revamping the challenge, I’d like to think about rethinking our own outcome.
Most teachers know how to write a lesson plan. My job when I work with them is to find strategies to engage students in content at a higher level. I work in a High School that’s struggling to break out of the “lecture-homework-repeat and test” mode. Every day, I get issued a challenge similar to the one above from a teacher and what they’re looking for isn’t a fully developed lesson. Instead, they’re looking for the “hook” – the strategy, idea or tool that will get their students to care, communicate and create something of value around the curriculum.
Here’s an example of one I was given by a teacher last year. The teacher was reading Great Expectations with her students, who hated the book and had no chance of passing the test she gave at the end of the unit because most of them hadn’t even finished reading it. She came to me looking for an alternate way to have students hold discussions.
We came up with the thought of having them portray characters from the book and write letters to one another. The students would leave the letters out for the next class to pick up and then write back to one another. Many were handwritten, but a couple that were typed I’ve copied and pasted into a Google Doc along with the general guidelines we created. So, not only were the students motivated to delve into the book, they were interested and excited about communicating in character, and even took their discussions outside of class.
Another example came from a music teacher who wanted students to create presentations on the instruments during the semester, but also wanted them to know the facts about other instruments. Each day, one student would present their instrument, so by the end of the grading period, they had learned about every instrument. She complained that every year, the students did well in remembering what they had written, but never listened or took notes when others presented and as a result failed the test at the end of the quarter.
We came up with an idea to build an instrument Wiki where every student created a page about the instrument they were assigned, but then had to compare their instrument to three others outside their family and contrast to three instruments inside their family. The students would then cross link between pages to show the connections. In addition, they had to either accept or nullify any links that others made to their page depending if they agreed or disagreed with the connection made. They were graded on three aspects:
1. Their own writing about their instrument
2. The quality of the links they gave to other instruments
3. The quality of the links they allowed to their page
Again, a nice way to build connections and conversations and even have them self-censor the quality of work of their fellow students while reinforcing the content they’re learning.
So, instead of asking for a lesson or unit plan, maybe we should ask instead for ideas for the “hook.” That’s what my teachers struggle to create for themselves. It’s also the skill where Tom Woodward excels and one that I struggle to put into words. Once they have the hook, I find teachers can usually create the lesson and devise a timeline.
They just need something to cast out at the end of their line that might reel in a few more reluctant learners. That’s what I hope the Iron Teach challenge can help provide.