First published on Medium, February 12th, 2018
My absolute favourite thing about the American system of education is that they have got a name for everything: Think Pair Share for when students are supposed to spend some time thinking through their response to a question, talk to a partner about it and then share their final response with the class; Check for Understanding for when a teacher, in the course of teaching, assesses or tries to gauge students’ knowledge of what is being taught (this could be informally, like a quick verbal question and answer session); Guided Practice for when a teacher guides students through solving a problem; Independent Practice for when students are left to work independently to solve problems; Exit Ticket for the final assessment/quiz at the end of every lesson that a teacher gives to check how much of the learning targets or objectives for the day have been met; Anchor Chart for the instructional aid, often a poster, created by the teacher to represent graphically or simplify the lesson being taught and Graphic Organiser, a sort of map that helps students gather their thoughts/ideas on a paper before producing the final thing.
Now, there are many other terms that I have come to learn in my new school and it is not that I didn’t implement some of these ideas in my previous years of teaching, I just didn’t know they were a thing, like real teaching strategies. I’m now more aware, more conscious and indeed more strategic. Here is an example:
Today, I introduced the middle school students to the new play we will be studying and because I know and understand the importance of Check for Understanding, I didn’t just plunge into discussing the play. I decided to first, review their knowledge of the genres of literature and next, elements of drama. Along the way, I found that some of them couldn’t tell exactly the difference between prose and drama and so I paused the lesson on the new play, Pygmallion, and focused on getting them to understand what a drama entails. My objective for the day may have been for students to understand or be able to predict what the new play will be about, but in making use of Check for Understanding before diving right into the new play, I have not only achieved my goals for the day, but tackled hitches that might arise in future lessons during the course of our study.
That’s strategy. As a teacher, what are some of the strategies you employ in planning and delivering your lessons?