I never knew how to put this thought into words until I read this stupid joke:
Why did the chicken join the séance? To get to the other side.
Someone took the classic “chicken crossing the road” joke, which may have been funny hundreds of years ago, changed a couple of words, and made it funny again. Instead of trying to come up with an entirely new joke, not thinking of a joke, getting frustrated and giving up – all it took was a couple of words. Rethinking lessons can be this way too.
My approach to lesson planning is looking for the one thing I can change. How can I take a stale lesson, something not relevant or fun, change one thing and make it better? How can I keep the integrity and focus of the lesson? These are those things I look for:
Is there a lecture that I can do differently?
Is there a video I can replace?
Can I change the formative assessments along the way?
Can I get students creating and collaborating together?
Can I make a small part of lesson interactive?
Can I rearrange the original contents into a competition?
What does all of this look like? Take my Magna Carta lesson for example….
The lesson used to involve an introductory video, a mini lecture, a quiz, and a student created blog post as a summative assessment to fit with our Middle Ages Quest unit. The blog posts from this quest were always the worst – because students couldn’t quite connect this concept of the Magna Carta to their created character. (If you don’t know about the Middle Ages Quest Unit – click here)
I took a step back, zeroed in on that mini-lecture and changed it to a Cybersandwich (click here for a copy). Instantly, my lesson was changed. I started with a quiz, which they bombed, but allowed me to give feedback and address some keywords. Then students did a quick read for 10 minutes and took their own notes. Next, they discussed the Magna Carta with a partner for 5 minutes and compared notes. To finish the Cybersandwich they summarized the Magna Carta in first person point-of-view and created their blog post. Finally class was ended with the same quiz they took at the beginning. Class averages went from 62% to 92%, 56% to 83%. Confidence was built, and students had fun, from a couple of small changes.