This week, this unschooler was required to write about why I feel lesson plans are necessary for good classroom management. Ha! Ha! Ha! No, I seriously had to write about this. Yes, I know it goes totally against my educational philosophy. So here's what I wrote. :^)
I have read the textbook and can understand why its authors consider lesson plans an important part of the day. Public schools have to focus so much on testing, it is important that both the teacher and the students stay on task. If the students know what is expected of them through organized lesson plans, they will perform and behave much better. Also, if the teacher appears more organized, the students will follow his/her example and be organized also in their learning. The textbook authors feel that even student-directed activities should be organized through lesson plans. (My question about this is, honestly, how is that truly student-directed if the teacher has the assignments planned out? The activities may be hands-on, yes; but student-directed, no). I can understand that if structured schools of any kind - be it teacher-directed or the authors' definition of student-directed - do not focus on the tasks at hand, they will not pass the standardized tests that will be necessary for the school's success. If the teachers have a specific plan, they will be able to accomplish more in the lessons because there will be fewer distractions from the students.
As the textbook also points out, the way the lesson plan is developed should aid in classroom management. For instance, if a lesson captures the students' attention at the beginning of class, the students will be motivated to learn what the teacher is teaching. The teacher must keep that attention throughout the lesson in order to keep the students motivated. The lesson must be paced correctly so that the students do not become bored with the lessons and act out on that bordom. The teacher should not jump randomly from one idea to the next. Such jumping will break the students' concentration, thus also resulting in poor behavior due to not understanding the lesson. At the end of the lesson, the teacher should point out that the lesson is nearing an end. This, in my opinion, allows the students to relax a little and recap in their own minds the information that was taught. The lesson should end in a way that will allow the students to move smoothly to the next class (and possibly the next teacher, depending on the grade) with little or no interruption. This will result in better behavior during the next presentation, because the teacher is better prepared. (I believe, however, that this turns the lesson into a speech rather than a teaching).
Now that all of this is said, I would like to give my opinion. As I stated in the first paragraph, true student-directed learning is not planned out days in advance. It is directed by the students. The teacher can have a basic idea of what (s)he would like to cover; but it is covered by initiation from the students. People say that this cannot be done. Trust me, it can. I do it everyday. I know of several others (even one that worked in a Christian school setting) that follow this exact lead. And any "lesson" can be modified to teach anything. I can give several good examples that only require thinking one step ahead. Just a few days ago, Taliesin (my six-year old) requested that we play musical instruments (something that is all too often put on the back burner in many schools in favor of language arts and math). So we got out the percussion instruments and began playing. This led us to putting music to stories to add excitement to the stories (Taliesin's idea, but incorporating creativity [music] with language arts [stories]). And the story Taliesin chose was perfect for percussion instruments. We read The Lion King. This type of student-directed learning using music and reading would have gone on and on had a neighbor girl not come over to play. But play is also much more important that schools all too often realize. The day after this, we spent most of the day outside, planting a garden, talking about the seeds we were planting and the insects we were findng underground, playing and running. But my sons were learning - without a lesson plan. They were learning by following their own creativity and imagination.
Now most of the comments that I receive when I write something like this is this type of un-structure may work for a homeschool environment, but not for a classroom environment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If a teacher comes to the classroom willing to allow the students to learn rather than intent upon teaching them; amazing things will happen. First of all, students will enjoy learning. They will not need motivation to keep them interested during something they really do not want to learn. This will result in better classroom management. For instance, say the curriculum requires that students learn how to multiply fractions. The teacher could use a suggestion in the textbook and have various stations set up. There could be a visual learning station with traditional workbooks. There could be a hands-on learning station with manipulatives (beans work especially well with fractions). There could be computers with learning games with headsets for auditory learners. There could even be an art station in which the students could draw or paint using measurements that are determined through multiplying fractions (using geometric concepts). The teacher allows the students to go to whichever station they wish to go to. The teacher acts as the facilitator rather than as a lecturer. If the students have any questions, they can ask the teacher (or a peer). Each student is learning in the way that is best for him/her. After the students have tired of whatever tool they have chosen to learn through (this will vary with each students), they can choose some other type of learning activity - be it sustained silent reading, a play-based activity (which, again, I do believe is important for all ages), or some other activity that will engage the interest of the students. If the students are required to do a language arts assignment, art and music can be incorporated very easily - making the assignment much more enjoyable for the students. Again, for those students who are traditional learners (like I, personally, am); traditional methods should be made available. Lessons can be taken outside. There is just something about being in the sunshine that nurtures learning. Going outside should be impromptu. Are the students especially restless on a nice spring or fall day? Take it outside. This requires no lesson plan. Lesson plans can stifle the creativity of the students. Who would not misbehave if what is being taught is boring? I honestly feel that the less the teacher relies on a specific lesson plan and the more (s)he relies on the interests of the students; the better off the teacher and class will be. Children are natural learners. They are just taught all throughout their lives that they have to be taught what the teacher thinks is important. In my opinion, a lack of lesson plans and more reliability on the students themselves will result in much better classroom management (not to mention more learning).
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