Planning is not a just a theoretical exercise: effective teachers practice their plans in their mind’s eye as a means of identifying hidden problems and opportunities for student learning. Recall the factors that help inform a teacher’s vividly imagined planning: the rigor of the content, how students learn, students’ prior knowledge, how students engage with the particular subject matter at hand, and students’ background and culture, to name a few. Those factors apply to the lesson planning process just as they inform a teacher’s selection of instructional methods. In addition to these general factors that inform planning, a teacher who sits down to plan a lesson is also informed by another list: the instructional strategies in his or her repertoire. The most effective teachers recognize that they must build a broad, diverse menu of instructional strategies and skills to reach the best outcomes.
Here are a few of the methods that must be part of any teacher’s repertoire:
• Teacher modeling and demonstration.
Students gain a lot from simply being shown how to do something.
Teachers might choose to lecture when, for example, they have a limited amount of time. The key to an effective lecture is that the teacher is constantly reflecting on what students are doing and thinking.
• Question and discussion.
Teachers often ask questions to gain information about what students do and do not yet understand. But questions should also be asked to stimulate student thought.
• Discovery learning.
It is geared toward higher-level objectives and is used to help students deduce general ideas, concepts, or definitions from specific examples.
Centers are specified areas in the classroom that allow students to work independently or in small groups at their own pace on particular objectives.
• Grouping strategies.
Choices about how to group students is another axis of decision making in lesson planning.
• Cooperative learning.
Cooperative learning involves dividing up students’ responsibilities, collectively completing assignments, and reporting back to the whole group, all of which is meant to mitigate the risk that not all students will benefit from the group learning.