In order to have this great recipe work there are some principles we always need to put into practice. Collaborative work can be enhanced through a wide variety of learning activities like puzzles, dominoes, watching short videos and predicting what comes next, storytelling, Pictionary etc. Using technology is also a great tool when it comes to engage students. Videos, music, web quest, blogs, texting, websites etc. are just some of the few resources that are at our disposal to enhance learning. However technology has to be used carefully in order not to lose the purpose of the lesson. By using a lot of technology or games we will probably have happy students but we always must keep in mind that our learners are here to learn first and at times technology can be distracting from learning.
Another important feature to create an outstanding lesson is to allow students to develop their critical thinking so that they can be independent thinkers able to take responsibilities for their own learning. Developing critical thinking is probably one of the most difficult tasks of a teacher but it’s not impossible and it has to be implemented to stop the old habit of spoon-feeding. Spoon-feeding has been used for many years in schools because of the fear of bad results, which is an understandable reaction from teachers who want their students to succeed and who want as well to develop in their own careers. I have witnessed on a number of occasions teachers encouraging their students to learn transcripts by heart that they would merely recite for their exams. This is of course not acceptable but I wouldn’t blame these teachers. I would, however, certainly give them some tips. Spoon-feeding is of course useful on the short-term but on the long run this type of teaching leads to no good results at all as students won’t get any analytical skills nor will they get methodical skills. Hopefully the spoon-feeding habit has been criticized lately and schools try to put in place activities and strategies that will enforce learning on the long term.
Differentiation is also a key element to build an outstanding lesson. There are many ways to differentiate in a lesson such as using different modes of interaction, mixing groups, using different worksheets and activities etc. Students for example could all be asked to complete a task with different activities leveled by abilities. Differentiated worksheets can also be used where some students will have to complete the whole worksheet while some others will have to complete just some of these. The use of carousel activities and the use of color coding for students are also some powerful ideas to differentiate. An exemplar collaborative task was shown with the idea of there being one.
Finally, one of the last things to mention is assessment for learning. This is a very important part that makes the difference between a good and an outstanding lesson. Assessment for learning is essential to measure our learners’ progress and therefore this should appear in our lessons. Here are just a couple of ideas to turn assessment for learning into a habit: a progress wall where students place a sticky note to assess their progress, a SMART target setting, a mind map to check what they have learnt in the lesson, tracking sheets/stamps, verbal and written feedback and questioning techniques.
In conclusion, when we prepare our lessons and aim for excellence we need to consider lesson planning with clear learning objectives and outcomes, students’ engagement, differentiation, progression, use of technology and assessment for learning as the main ingredients of success. Are you ready to cook an outstanding lesson?