Planning for Effective Instruction: Best Practices (Part 4)

This is part four of a four-part article.

So far, we have discussed how effective teachers plan with the end in mind and carefully decide upon a sequence of instruction.  We’ve talked about identifying declarative and procedural knowledge.  In yesterday’s post, we discussed creating learning scales for each learning goal.  Today, we’ll show you how to use the learning goals to plan classroom activities and assignments. To review, below are the Steps for Effective Planning:

1.  Start with the end in mind. What does the student need to know and be able to do?
2.  Identify curriculum resources.
3.  Identify the declarative knowledge.
4.  Identify the procedural knowledge.
5.  Create a learning scale related to the learning goals.
6.  Create assessment(s).
7.  Plan classroom activities and assignments.

Now let’s turn to step7. Planning Classroom Activities and Assignments Matched to Learning Goals and Scales

Planning activities and assignments to move your students from novices to the level requires a look into our toolbox of instructional strategies. You’ll need to select the strategy/activity with the highest probability of raising student achievement. 

Let’s start by defining activities and assignments

Activities are the instructional strategies that allow teacher and student to interact with content, skills, and materials. The goal of classroom activities is to help students interact with new knowledge and skills, deepening student understanding and raising skill levels related to the learning goal(s).  Activities often require teacher coaching or guidance. 

Assignments are a way to practice skills and deepen understanding. They do not require the teacher (or other proficient tutor) coaching or guidance.  Homework is an example. 

When planning classroom activities, start by selecting instructional strategies that allow students to process critical information or vocabulary associated with the learning goals. Which academic language terms will be introduced, and when? 

Activities to help students work with academic vocaulary

1.  Select 3-5 academic vocabulary words to teach each week. Many of the terms will come from the identified declarative knowledge of the learning goal. You may also want to include additional related and important-to-know vocabulary. 
2.  Ask students to preview the words. Guide them to think about possible contexts in which to use these words. Are there parts of the word that are known?
3.  Given the words in context, ask students to create a working definition. 
4.  Place the target words where all students can see and use throughout the week.  Have students add these words to a vocabulary journal or a section in the academic learning log.  Students can use the Frayer Model, an adaptation of a Concept Map to record key ideas about each term. The Frayer Model includes the word, a definition, characteristics of the word, examples, and non-examples. The model may use a picture to show the word in context. 
5.  At the end of the week, move the words to a word wall containing all target words for the unit or year.  The word wall serves as a critical reminder of what students must know.
6.  Allow 2-5 minutes daily for students to work in pairs or trios to paraphrase and practice vocabulary. 
7.  To deepen understanding of critical vocabulary, which will include reviewing related words from previous weeks or units, consider playing games such as charades, Pictionary, and Talk a Mile a Minute (The Art and Science of Teaching pg. 106). 

Monitoring for understanding

All activities and assignments relate directly to learning goals. Prioritize activities and assignments for strategies with the greatest probability of accelerating student achievement

By monitoring students as they participate in class activities and respond to learning assignments, teachers and students can gauge progress using the learning scale. Are your activities and assignments raising student achievement? 

As you interact and confer with the class and individual students, your students ought to be able to tell you how each activity or assignment is related to the goal.  Students should also be able to identify what the next steps are to master the expectation. 

Got tips for designing activities that help your students achieve? Questions? Leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!

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