Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Focused Lesson Stuff

The information below is based off of the work of Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey, Doug Reeves and Mike Schmoker.

A focused lesson needs to start with identifying the "right stuff" to teach.  The right stuff is your enduring understandings or power standards.  Standards are identified as enduring if they fit into one of the three categories:
  1. Endurance - knowledge beyond a single test
  2. Leverage - knowledge and skills that of value in multiple disciplines
  3. Readiness for next level - knowledge and skills necessary to be successful at the next level

Along with the enduring understandings students need to see and know what the learning target is for that day.  They need to be clued into what they should be learning and what to look/listen for throughout the class.  Students are much more likely to learn something if they know what they are supposed to be learning.

The focused lesson is the beginning of the process of releasing the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student.  It is probably the most important step.  The better the focused lesson the fewer students there will be that need interventions.

The focused lesson is the time in class where the teacher is demonstrating and modeling, but the most important piece is that the teacher is also sharing their thinkingTransparency is critical to the focused lesson.  In order for students to acquire new knowledge they need to see a more knowledgeable (expert) person using the skill or applying the strategy.

Key features of focused lessons:
  • It should should establish a purpose for learning - students need to understand the purpose and the goal of the instruction
  • Modeling of thinking - explaining vs. telling - expert's thinking is transparent
  • Focus of lesson should be tight and brief - less is more
  • Pay attention to your own thinking as your design your lesson - write down your think processes
  • Find your authentic voice - think like you are the expert
  • "I" statements
What focused lessons are not:
  • A time when students ask questions - students should be focusing on listening to the think of the expert (the teacher) - not a time to guess what the teaching is thinking
  • A time to simply tell students things
  • A time when students simply read aloud to the rest of the class
In a math class the most common focused lesson will be modeling. Modeling is different than telling because it follows a pattern of:
  • Name the strategy/skill
  • State the purpose of the strategy/skill
  • Explain when the strategy/skill is used
  • Link to prior knowledge
  • Demonstrate how the strategy/skill is completed
  • Alert learners about errors to avoid
  • Assess the use of the strategy/skill
Formative assessment must be part of a focused lesson.  Students can turn to a partner and share/restate what they have learned, when they would use it, what to watch out for, and how to analyze it. 

Here are some phrases that can be used when modeling:
  • When I see a . . .  I remember . . .  (background knowledge)
  • I have read this problem twice and I know that there is information included that I don't need.
  • This problem says . . .  so I know that I'll have to  . . . (selecting correct operation/function)
  • The first thing that I will do is . . . because . . . (sequencing)
  • I predict . . .  because . . (estimation)
  • The problem has . . . so I know . . . (reasonableness of the answer)
Below are other questions that can help move students from cognition to metacognition:
  • What am I trying to accomplish?  Begin with the end in mind :)
  • What strategies as I using?
  • How well am I using the strategies?  Monitoring.  Students need to pause from time to time to see whether the strategy is working.
  • What else could I do?  This helps students to think flexibly.