The newly issued ASCD publication The Motivated Brain, by Gayle Gregory and Martha Kaufeldt reminded me of a few simple yet frequently overlooked lesson planning components. When we design lessons structure and consistency will ensure that we have designed a lesson with the potential of success.
My experience as an elementary and now high school educator provided the opportunity to see two different types of classrooms. Typically there are classrooms that are organized and those that are not. Establishing routines, norms and expectations allows for not only the efficient use of time, but it simplifies collaboration, communication and individualized learning. Provide students with an expectation of what to do as soon as they enter a class with a "do now" or other assigned task. Consider reviewing the procedures for group work or what is expected when students complete an assigned task. The research cited in The Motivated Brian points to lower stress and a more comfortable classroom environment in classrooms with this type of forethought.
Another essential component that is frequently minimized is the establishment of learning objectives and agenda of activities. By publishing your objectives, essential questions, and planned activities in advance you provide a road map for the students. This provides students an opportunity to self assess their progress towards meeting the objective and manage time and resources as the tasks progress. For your next lesson, write the objectives on the board and display an agenda of activites.
Providing students with opportunities to collaborate with peers is an essential lesson component that will impact classroom cultures. This type of collaboration such as turn and talk or larger scale group work provide students the opportunity to learn from each other, communicate ideas and feel comfortable needing clarification.
An interesting take away from the text is the focus on movement. Research has proven that individuals who are active increase blood flow which impacts mood, motivation and stress reduction. Making a point to incorporate movement into your class can have a profound effect. A simple change in structure like having students stand and discuss with a peer may result in more engaged class and fruitful dialogue.