Some Ideas about Teaching
A 'Normal' Lesson
piece was inspired by a fit of pique about the difference between what we
ASPIRE to - the show we put on when observed/what we tell the parents is
happening in our classrooms - and the actual reality of what is going on,
day-by-day, lesson-after-lesson, in many classrooms!
suppose the challenge is: "Which of the following describes a 'normal
'lesson for you?"
A Normal Lesson (1)
The school has a ‘framework for learning’
which controls the way we teach a ‘normal’ lesson. We have become good at
this kind of lesson, and are able to deliver a ‘good’ observed lesson on
According to the framework, such a lesson will
go more-or-less like this:
The teacher is prepared, set out and ready for
the pupils. As they arrive she makes each child feel welcome, and
hurries them to settle and begin the pre-starter task – i.e. a short task,
from a puzzle to reading a section of textbook. The emphasis is on the
importance and urgency of the work.
Once the class is assembled and settled, the
teacher calls for the pupils’ attention, and explains – in terms they will
understand – the lesson objectives and ‘success criteria’; these are put
on the board for the pupils to refer to during the lesson.
She then moves to a ‘starter’ task which
establishes the lesson in the experience of the pupils.
Starter task completed, the teacher moves to
the main learning of the lesson. This involves a number of elements,
setting a range of learning experiences for the pupils (exposition, group
work, individual research etc.) designed to maintain interest, and
involving learning inputs from the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic
channels. Through ‘mini-plenaries’ the teacher checks how the pupils are
following the lesson, and adjusts the rest of the lesson accordingly.
She uses ‘redirection techniques’ to keep on
task any pupils who lose concentration.
Every lesson involves the pupils in at least
10 minutes silent, individual work. The teacher explains the tasks
clearly, explaining not only what, but how the pupils will
be required to do the work, and what it will look like if they do it
properly. The work tasks are differentiated, perhaps by offering the
pupils a range of different tasks. Once working, the pupils are
encouraged to take responsibility for their own work, and to solve for
themselves any problems which arise.
End of Lesson:
Towards the end of the lesson, the teacher
calls the class together for a plenary, investigating what they learned
and how they learned it, so she can appropriately plan the next lesson.
Then the pupils clear away before being dismissed in an orderly fashion,
on time, as the teacher monitors them into the corridor towards their next
A Normal Lesson (2)
The pupils arrive as the teacher is
confronting a naughty pupil from the previous lesson. He breaks off to warn some
of the pupils who are naughty, or who were troublesome last lesson, whilst
trying at the same time to get out the materials for this lesson.
Sometimes the pupils arrive wild and he has to
shout to get them settled. When he has eventually done so, he berates
them on their lack of manners and effort, and issues the behaviour
objectives for the lesson; indeed the emphasis from the start is on
behaviour. He tells them the content of the lesson and how important it
is, but forgets to explain their specific lesson objectives, and the
‘starter’ task is often to re-teach what the pupils ‘learned’ last lesson
(since they will have forgotten it by now). Occasionally he recounts an
incident from his own life as the ‘starter’.
After this lecture, the ‘teaching’ consists
mainly of defining the work task. Since he has now been speaking for
some time, and he is aware that the pupils are getting restless, he cuts
corners to get through the explanation. By this time, many of the pupils
have lost concentration and are not listening properly.
The task is an undifferentiated routine
exercise designed to keep the pupils busy. The instruction to start work
is followed by an unsettled period, as pupils try to find out from each
other what they are supposed to do. Few of them try to sort out things
themselves, and most immediately put up their hand to ask for help; he
deals with the sea of hands alternately by refusing to help on the grounds
that he has explained that already, or by simply telling them the
answers. It is hard work to establish silence. As soon as he turns his
attention to an individual pupil, the ‘working noise’ behind his back
becomes off-task chatter; the temptation is to let it continue.
He uses confrontation to keep on task any
pupils who move from chatter to misbehaviour. From time to time he sends
a pupil out, then leaves the classroom to go and talk to them, returning
to even more chatter and misbehaviour.
End of Lesson:
Although he has been waiting for the lesson to
end, the bell still takes him by surprise. The pupils gather up their
stuff as he shouts instructions over the hubbub. They stream out to
disrupt another lesson, leaving him to tidy up the classroom and reprimand
the pupils he has kept behind, whilst his next class wait noisily to come
into the classroom.
Afterwards, he complains in the staffroom
about how badly the pupils are behaving at the moment.