If you were to plug “Great Lesson Plans,” into just about any search engine, all sorts of useful information for teachers immediately pops up. Instead of going online, though, how about thinking about a great lesson from a student’s viewpoint? One good way to find out what students really want is to simply ask them how they would like to learn the day’s material. Or, administer a quick survey (www.surveymonkey.com). Solicit advice via exit tickets or suggestions dropped into a suggestion box. All of these are good ways to find out what your students would like to do in class.
At this point in the school year, though, we probably know our students well enough to be able to predict what they would do if they were given the plan book for a day. Here are some of the essentials that many students would probably like to see included in a great lesson plan.
- An opening exercise that allows them to chatter away while making the transition to the day’s lesson. The exercise should also be interesting while reminding them of what they already know. Something like a Round Robin exercise, for example.
- Silly videos related to the topic are always a plus. Even better are student-made videos.
- Games of just about any sort—low or high tech. Board games are always good no matter what. Student made board games are the best.
- Any game that requires players to roll dice is immediately a huge (and noisy) success.
- The perfect student lesson plan will certainly include sharing, collaboration, or teamwork in every possible permutation.
- Students like questions that they can answer. This sets the stage for activities where they quiz each other. They would also choose to hold competitions where they can answer as a team and not be put on the spot individually.
- Beating the clock is always fun. So is setting a personal best goal and working towards it. Being able to work for a good short-term purpose is always a popular activity.
- One unusual student preference is being able to shift partners during an activity or switching teams in the course of a lesson. Movement instead of remaining seated all class keeps everyone alert.
- Music. Music. Music. Background music. Headphones. Music is always good.
- A countdown to something is always fun. Not a frantic, frenzied race, but a countdown that focuses an activity—like an online countdown clock to an activity.
- Students like learning something interesting or peculiar so that they have a good answer to, “What did you learn in school today?” They also like learning interesting and peculiar information just because it’s fun to think about. Weird facts are always fun to know.
- Students enjoy an opportunity to write on something besides notebook paper. The more outrageous the surface the better.
- If students were to design a lesson, there would be lots of gaudy coloring. Students would be writing on the board more, too.
- If there is a lesson with a reading component, students would design it in such a way that classmates read it together—and not in that embarrassing popcorn style either. With friends or friendly teammates to share the reading load.
- There would also be a component where students do something to help someone else. Whether it be playing an altruistic game such as Free Rice (www.freerice.com), or just helping out classmates, students like to feel that their contributions to the world matter.
- Having several choices of meaningful and interesting activities to do in a reasonable amount of time would also be part of a kid-designed lesson plan. Having a free choice among the choices is even more interesting for some students.
- Manipulatives, three-D graphic organizers, paper airplanes, and squishy toys are almost mandatory in student-designed lessons. Rubber bands and paper clips would also find a way to be included as well.
- Finally, in the ideal lesson designed by students, the homework would be something that fits in with their out-of-school lives and interests and can be done simply—without fuss—and in just the right amount of time.