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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lesson Choreography

Most refer to it as a lesson plan, but it's much more complex than that.  It's not static, passive or unchanging, instead it's dynamic, ever changing and full of momentum.  Lesson intent does not equal lesson employed.  Why?  Because it involves people--thoughtful, active people with voice and response.

Particularly with respect to project base learning and a responsive approach, lesson plans become lesson choreography, and there's much to consider.

The first consideration is flow: the movement from introduction to activity to closure.  John Medina's presentation, Brain Rules for Presenters, suggests a ten-minute introduction as attention begins to drop dramatically after ten-minutes.  That's ten minutes to whet the learners' appetite, deliver instructions and answer questions.

The instruction list must be clearly written. If there's confusion with the "to do" list, the teacher will encounter unnecessary interruptions.  Rushing through that stage hinders the rest of the learning event.

Then there's placement in the classroom (the stage).  Young children do best when they have a good work space that includes distance from other groups, places to sit and work, and materials such as computers, easels, chart paper and more.  It's efficient to assign places, but choice lends itself to investment so that's an area for teachers to determine.

Routines and protocols for checking in are important too.  When and how should you question and check-in?  It might be good protocol to have students "ask three before me" which means ask their classmates before asking a teacher.  That builds collaboration and independence.

The edit process is similarly important.  Who should students edit with and when?  Also, where will the work be stored or showcased?  How will the work today inform future lessons and activities?  Students' closure routines will impact that.

When the lesson is well choreographed, dynamic learning occurs.  When the choreography is sloppy, frustration and missteps hinder potential.

I want to think more about lesson choreography.  After all, like parenting, teaching is a dance--a series of approximations as children reach deeper understanding and skill.

Do you have a better word for this process?  What are the essential steps you employ when designing a learning event?  As I think and analyze lessons more deeply, I look forward to your response.