Saturday, September 12, 2015

Effective classroom teachers generally excel at implementing four foundational skills. There practices are critical to establishing a classroom culture that is focused on learning. The four foundations are:

1. Content Planning

2. Instruction
3. Assessment
4. Classroom Culture/Management

Content is obviously central to the classroom. The concepts or skills to be taught direct the work of the classroom. When planning, effective teachers start with the goal. They plan units and daily lessons 'backward', that is, they consider what the end goals are for the learning and then design the learning to support those goals. As teachers write daily lessons they want to be sure to construct them with student learning in mind. What matters in the classroom is not what the teacher does but what students will do and learn. So, learning targets for the lesson are written with student action central. A quality learning target or objective is specific and as assessable as possible. For example, "describe" is better than "observe", and "explain" better than "appreciate". The key is that teacher and students can all know what learning looks like and are able to assess it as specifically as possible.

Learning targets should be shared with students as often as possible, as this provides context for learning, which makes learning more lasting and effective. As well, effective teachers keep an eye on the kinds of targets they write to be sure that classroom objectives reach the full range of academic and intellectual work (using Bloom's or some other taxonomy). This ensures that students are challenged, appropriate to their age.

Planning for teaching often requires teachers to do additional reading and preparation. Effectiveteachers don't rely on their previous lesson plans and knowledge but are always seeking to learn something new about their content. This enables them to have flexibility with the content, to make adjustments on the run, make new applications, to redirect student questions, to restate concepts in different ways, etc. 

Finally, pre-teaching planning includes thinking about the beginning and ending of lessons, keeping in mind that these times are often the most memorable for students. Effective teachersbuild frequent review into lessons, often at the end of a lesson, but taking advantage of any periods of time that might otherwise be wasted. They also take time to make connections for students to future learning.

Content Planning Checklist

-Units are planned 'backward'
-Daily lessons are planned 'backward'
-Learning targets are shared with students
-Learning targets are put into contact of the class for students
-The teacher demonstrates facility with content, is able to make adjustments on the run, to redirect questions, to state concepts in different ways
-Review is built into the lesson
-Connections to future learning are made at the end of the lesson

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