We have all had lessons flop. BIG TIME. And boy do we know when a lesson is an epic fail. That’s not what I’m here to talk about. I want to talk about something we may not even realize is happening-which is even scarier than a lesson flop.
And that is the days when we have a pretty good day. We teach our lesson, the students do their work, you take the kids to art, then head off to a grade level meeting.
At the end of the day we feel okay. Nothing worth bringing up to the fam when they ask about your day. You simply respond, “Oh it was good.”
But was it?
Yes you’d say-it was! You might say, “Look if I can get through the day without a migraine and get everything done on my lesson plans then, yes, it was a good day.”
Cue a teacher meme that we can all relate to:
And I agree. Especially if you are having a particularly rough year.
But if you read my blog post about the 5 decisions that transform my life and teaching career, then you know that I am tired of that definition of a good day. That’s not a good day, that’s a blasé day.
I am on a personal mission to live the best life I can live by being the BEST version of me (personally & professionally), and guess where I spend most of my (awake) time?
In my classroom.
So, how can we have true happiness, if we are having more blasé days than good?
Is it really a pie in the sky dream to go into school each day and totally kill it? Can we make our lessons EPIC instead of an epic fail?
I think it’s achievable. I love the quote:
I have shared on the blog how passionate I am about giving myself a pretty teacher makeover to breathe more life and passion into my professional life as a teacher and today’s mini-makeover is on lesson design and delivery especially because a…
I began this mini-makeover by with asking myself that hard question, “Are my students immune to my teaching?”
I answered this question by thinking about my students’ faces while I was teaching one day.
They were sitting quietly with their eyes on me, raising their hands, a few were talking out but after me redirecting them they were back on task. The next day, I asked my students what we talked about yesterday, and no one raised their hand and no one even looked like they were trying to activate their memory.
Then a hand shot up, I got excited and the kid asked, “Can I go to the bathroom?” >_<
They did not care.
For me, that was the sign that my students had become immune to my teaching.
At first, I thought to blame it on the basal-but then I decided to own it.I can’t choose the standards, but I CAN choose how to deliver my lessons. Click To Tweet
So that’s what I’ve been up to. Just like I love to try new shades of lipstick, I’ve been doing the same with my lesson delivery style.
In my most recent formal observation, my principal made my heart go pitter-patter when she said that my lesson delivery was one of my core strengths…and that my students hang onto my every word, totally engaged.
That was my green light, that made me think, I HAVE to share my strategies with my fellow pretty teachers! I am going to continue to research and share more lesson delivery tips and instructional strategies, but for right now, here are 3 of my favorite ways that you can spice up your lessons tomorrow:
Now, let me tell you in advance. These aren’t earth-shattering NEW ideas. You have done these yourself many’a times I’m sure. But, these instructional strategies can get lost in the daily routine so the biggest tip I can give you is to be more intentional about using the following 3 strategies.
Every time you lesson plan, run through these 3 instructional strategies in your mind and think about if they’d fit into the lesson.
#1: Use Props
Props are so fun and add an instant boost to any lesson. It’s the novelty of never having seen something before that magnetically draws your students’ attention.
The obvious reason I love props is because they are FUN. Fun for you and fun for your students. The best time to use props is right at the beginning of your lesson right before or during your introduction. It heightens the anticipation of what comes next.
Pictured above are emoji heart sunglasses found at a local costume shop during Halloween.
Think right now, how could you use these in your class? (Leave ideas in the comments below, I’d love to know!)
For me, I wore them on a day when I was talking about our Emoji Writing Center:
We were talking about small moments for our personal narrative unit, in particular “So In LOVE” moments. When I put those shades on, my students were instantly asking me why on earth was I wearing them.
I knew that the very next thing I said would be heard by each and every one of my students because they just had to know. (If you’re thinking, my class is too out-of-control to use props, let me tell you, I’ve worked with several students who have severe behavior problems, and the times when they were most engaged, is when I got creative with props. Even they were curious about what their crazy teacher was doing. )
Some great places to find props are costume stores during Halloween season, party stores, dollar stores and Target Dollar Spot. Another time of year to grab great props is during the holiday seasons. I found this ice cream cone prop at Hobby Lobby as a Christmas ornament!
I used this prop during a mini-lesson where I used visualization as a way to grab my students’ attention. My lesson was about paying attention to how characters react to trouble. I began by putting my ice cream cone under the document camera and calling my students to the carpet. Of course, every kid is thinking 2 things:
Why is there an ice cream cone there and what does this have anything to do with reading?
How can they think about anything else?
I went on to have them visualize being on the beach on a hot day, buying a cold scrumptious ice cream cone, only for it to drop right after you paid for it. The students talked about how they would have reacted. We realized that we all wouldn’t react the same way. I then related it back to the characters in our books and seeing how they respond to challenges in different ways.
What I love though, is just like anchor charts, props can also anchor a student’s learning.
If I were to show my students that same ice cream cone now and ask them to recall why I brought ice cream to reading group that one time, the memory of the cone itself would activate their memory of the lesson much more than if I hadn’t used the prop. The same goes with my emoji heart sunglasses.
So get creative and think about how you can start using props more. If you use a basal or any teacher manual, look for ways you can bring props into the lesson. Snap pics of your props that you are going to use and tag me on IG (@thepinspiredteacher) with the #prettyteachertribe or email them to me be featured on my IG or website.
And remember, props can be anything. They can even be imaginary. I have held my fingers up like I was talking on the phone and instantly my students are leaning in closer because of the sudden thrill of listening to their teacher having a phone conversation-even though it’s totally fictional. “Hello? Hey!….. Not much just sittin’ here with my 2nd graders….What? Now? Sure, I’d love to get lunch with you-ohh wait…let’s reschedule, I am about to teach my students how to retell what they’ve just read. Huh? Of course I think they can handle it, you should see how awesome they are at it already, I’m just going to give them more tips on how to get even better!….Ok, call me back later I gotta go.”
See how I snuck in my teaching point there?
#2: Add Suspense
I stumbled onto this strategy on pure accident. I was getting ready to launch the emoji writing center (shown earlier in this post), but I wasn’t ready. I forget the reason, but I knew I needed a few more days before I my students would be ready for the emoji writing center.
So in a rush, I typed up the message “Open us up in 2 days!” and tied it onto the board:
I set it front and center of the room and waited for my students to notice. (Then I realized we had an assembly so crossed out 2 and made it 3..oops). IT WORKED! My students were looking at this big, board wondering what it was and beggggged to open it. I was happy it bought me more time, but even happier that my students were now looking forward to a reveal rather than a typical “here’s a new center guys” speech from me.
Once I saw the power of adding suspense, I was hooked.
I recently wanted to share reading fluency strategies with my students. I made a big deal about how I had been waiting all year to share this one very important reading strategy.
I went on about how scientists traveled to classrooms around the world trying to figure out why 2nd graders had such a big boost in fluency- more than any other grade. I raved about how I learned these “insider-tips” when I was in 2nd grade. With rising anticipation I was juuust about to tell the students what the #1 strategy was….but then I slumped down.
“You know, can I be honest? I am afraid that you all are not ready to hear this. You might be begging me right now to hear it, but what if you say ‘Oh is that all?'”
“We’re ready we promise!” They urged.
“I’m not so sure….I think I am going to sleep on it. I need to know that I can trust you with this information. Once I say it there’s no turning back, so I need to think really hard about sharing this with you. I will think about it tonight, and tomorrow, if I think you’re ready, I will share it.”
The students grooooaned and begged me to share. But I didn’t. The next day, I bet you can imagine how ready they were to receive the strategies I shared. In fact, it primed them to hold on to the fluency tips that I shared for the remainder of the unit.
Combine using props and adding suspense with something as simple as a box. This is a tiny box I found at Dollar Tree. I’ve put many things in this box to add suspense and boost engagement. I set it in the middle of the carpet and gathered my students around it. I told them that the next topic we will study in math is hidden in the box. Let’s brainstorm what it could be. Then later pulled out a plain piece of paper that said “TIME” on it, revealing that our next focus would be studying time. Such a quick and easy way to boost engagement at the beginning of a lesson.
#3: Get them moving.
When you get your students moving, you appeal to your kinesthetic learners. Unfortunately, text books are exactly written for kinesthetic learners, which is why it is up to YOU to incorporate movement into your lesson delivery. One way I do this is with a strategy I call Walk the Runway or Plank.
I love this method. If you are teaching anything with steps or a process to follow, turn it into a walk. Have students line up on both sides and watch as students take turn walking the plank. I love to use it when we are brainstorming our first story of a new writing unit. My students are the best role models for each other, so it often frustrates me when I call on a student to share their thoughts and none of their classmates’ are listening. This instructional strategy makes the student the center of attention and if they begin to struggle you see exactly what “part” they’re stuck on and you can coach them through it.
Do this by blowing up any graphic organizer into a life-size version, and by the way congrats you just turned a graphic organizer into a prop (double win!).
Try it. Snap a photo. Tag me @thepinspiredteacher on IG and use #prettyteachertribe.
Ok so to recap how to spice up your lesson delivery:
- Use Props
- Add Suspense
- Get them moving
And the most important tip- remember these instructional strategies next time you plan your lesson. Attempt to use them as often as possible. These are the kind of instructional strategies that will take your typical average lesson and boost excitement and engagement for your students and yourself. They are tiny, but make your lesson more enjoyable, which makes your day more enjoyable, which makes your career more enjoyable–ya see where I’m going here?
I dare you to try one of these tomorrow (or the next day you teach). It doesn’t have to be fancy, just try it, then comment below!
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