Thursday, May 21, 2020

How lesson planning has changed during the pandemic

I heard colleagues tell school committee members and district leadership about how much time it takes to plan lessons for remote learning and teaching. I was happy to hear them say that because I've experienced the same thing. Every lesson has to be rethought and revised for virtual learning.

For example, today I am teaching small groups of math students geometry. I am attempting to make every lesson an interactive, problem solving lesson that elicits math talk, model making, and knowledge/concept building. Yesterday, I rethought and revised lessons related to quadrilaterals. First, I reviewed the state standards that lie at the foundation of this learning/teaching:

Typically I teach these standards via a number of drawing lessons that I lead from the front of the room, but I don't have that luxury now so instead I considered the many ways I could teach this online. I opted to transfer the lesson to an interactive Google slideshow. To create the slideshow, I made it so that while students discuss the properties of quadrilaterals, I could act as their secretary typing in the the information. Later, students can move each shape into the right circle space in a Venn diagram as one way to classify, compare and contrast the figures. Later, students will have a chance to review the concepts and information on their own via watching a video and practicing drawing the figures online via GeoGebra or by hand. This lesson prep took about two hours by the time I considered how to teach it, created the materials, and linked the activities to the students' learning menu for easy access.

Many teachers are comparing this transition to being a first year teacher again. That's because a first year teacher has to put about an hour to two hours into every lesson and that's what we are doing now as we transfer our teaching to remote learning. For the previous lesson which focused on the properties of lines, I had to spend time researching geometry drawing tools. After searching for a few hours, I found GeoGebra and then I had to learn how to use the great tool. Learning new tools is part of the challenge here too.

I modeled drawing the figure above with GeoGebra as students drew their own similar figures at home. Then we looked for and identified line segments that are parallel, intersecting, and perpendicular. We discussed the fact that learning geometry, in part, is learning to see and discuss what you see. We also discussed the professions that rely on geometry. 

I think that this work we're doing to create a better blended learning environment will serve us well in the long run, but in the meantime, I want to advocate for educators to receive the time they need to make this transition successful. Good teaching will not be a matter of handing educators preprepared lessons, but instead a transition to helping educators develop the skills, knowledge, and mindsets they will need to use the best tools, plan optimal lessons, and teach well via remote learning as well as in real time.