Entirely too often, teachers are afraid to think outside-of-the-box in terms of lesson planning examples because it is overwhelming. As soon as the overwhelm hits, it’s just as easy to drop back to what’s tried and true, right?
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When I used to tell people that, as a social studies teacher, I used zero PowerPoint presentations or whole-class lectures to teach my students, they usually would stare back at me dumbfounded. Most teachers in their educational journeys were taught (myself included) that direct instruction is necessary in one form or another for a student to be able to understand the content at hand.
That simply is not the case.
Student-centered instruction teaches the students more than anyone can babble on to them about when done correctly and the correct lesson plan examples are implemented.
Student-Centered instruction is so much more than handing your students a worksheet and telling them to read the directions. I’ll be honest: when I first started this model, that’s what I thought it meant. If I wasn’t actively teaching them, then it was student-led, right? Wrong.
Student-led learning is involving the students actively in their education. While at first there is some push back from the students (after all, they cannot sit back on a lazy day and let you tell them what they need to know), they begin to realize that they are learning in-depth when they are completing their assignments and are actually having fun doing so.
The biggest complaint (concern?) I get from teachers when I talk about this method is the time that they think it takes to create a completely student-centered lesson. There are two things to remember on this front:
- Once you create a student-led assignment, you have it forever. Even though it might take a fair amount of time to create one lesson, it is ready to go for years to come with only the need to tweak slightly for the group of students you are teaching at that time. (Don’t forget: it usually takes a while to make a really stellar PowerPoint or Prezi the first time, too!).
- What is the cardinal rule we all learned (or should have learned) when we began our teaching journeys? DON’T REINVENT THE WHEEL! No matter what your topic or the content you’re trying to teach, you can find someone who has created some type of activity that you can amend to fit your student’s needs. Google is your friend in finding fantastic lesson planning examples.
There are a number of searches you can perform to find appropriate lesson planning examples. Sometimes you might have to go through a few of them before you find something that works, or maybe you’ll end up with a combination of a few to create the lesson you are envisioning. Generally, I will use: topic activity, topic student-centered, topic inquiry-based, or topic project. Then, depending on what I find, I will alter from there. If you can find a direct simulation of what you are trying to teach, you are absolutely set. Here’s an example:
Google is great in that it has an algorithm that tries to predict not only what it is that you are looking for, but also tries to put up the best possible options for that guess.
However, the Catch-22 with Google is that the algorithm changes. What it thinks you are looking for sometimes changes for a variety of factors (most of which Google never actually lets you know).
For instance, the activity below used to pop up as the number one example when you would search “Berlin Wall Activity” when looking for lesson plan ideas:
I’ve done this particular activity multiple times and it is amazing.
This activity does a GREAT job of explaining the Berlin Wall over the course of its lifetime (a little historical background if you’re interested). After constructing the mock wall in the classroom, those in the “West” (Capitalists) are encouraged to “mark up” the wall with graffiti and have a great time while over there, while those in the “East” (Communists) are required to sit and write silently about the experience, which many find to be boring and, of course, quickly become jealous of the party going on in the West.
My favorite moment of this is when I recreate the Berlin Airlift. For the “West”, I would throw lollipops over the wall. They would each try to get as many as they could, but some students grabbed up to 3 while others did not get any.
On the “East”, each student received a lollipop, but in an unpopular flavor. Those students in the West complained that it wasn’t fair that everyone in the East received a lollipop, but those in the East said that they were happy that they all received one, even if it was not an ideal flavor.
This is ALWAYS the moment when someone exclaims, “Oh! that’s the difference between Capitalism and Communism!”
Knowledge is power.
This activity is exactly what I was looking for when I sent out on my trek for lesson planning examples regarding the Berlin Wall. However, the website that explains it all is no longer to be found in Google.
Now granted, the website could have been taken down or it was simply lost in the algorithm. Point being, if you find a great activity, make sure you take note of it because, at any time, it could vanish from your grips forever.
Don’t be afraid to just search around to see what you can find. An active student will ALWAYS retain more information than a passive one. Remember, we’re looking for mastery in our students. Coming up with hands-on activities is the absolute best way to do this.