Throughout my practicum, I often reflected on how to improve all of my lessons. There are always ways to improve upon your current practices and self-reflection is an important part of continuing to grow as a teacher. It was in my preparation that I was able to identify the “flop” of all my lessons. I was taking hours and hours to prepare for my 50-100 minute lessons.
One instance in particular stands out. I was in the process of teaching the grade one students how to use, read and make a calendar. This included them knowing the days of the week, months of the year, ordinal numbers and important dates and scheduling. Although, we practiced the calendar every day of the week the students were still having a difficult time grasping the basics of calendars.
I decided to prepare a two period lesson that was interactive and contained student directed activities that would culminate in the development of their own calendar for December. The sequence of the lesson was intended to include the following;
• Sing our days of the week and months of the year song (previously learnt) (5 minutes)
• Have students complete an interactive ordering task with ordinal numbers, days of the week and months of the year (previously learnt)(25 minutes)
• As desk work we create a shared calendar for the month with special events, holiday and school scheduling (gym, library, etc) on chart paper as an anchor chart (20 minutes)
• Students will then reproduce their own calendar using anchor charts and stickers for holidays, days of the week and events for the calendar on the corresponding dates (30 minutes)
• Additional time for decorating and for finishing calendar at the end of session (15-20 minutes)
The preparation for this lesson was over seven hours. Reflecting back on it now, it really was a great lesson, but the bulk of the time I spent preparing resulted in a minimal amount of student use of that preparation. Most of that time was spent cutting, sorting and bagging the stickers that the students could attach to their own calendars. The time spent for cutting and bagging student stickers was over three hours. I could have planned several other lessons during this time. Managing time and effectiveness in planning is critical to the success of any teacher and lessons that have this much intensive preparation is the reason why teachers often burn out. The other frustrating aspect rests in the fact that all this time spent did not result in a resource that I could use in the future. Although I have the templates for all the stickers and could easily print them again it does not make up for the hours spent.
In retrospect, the lesson went well and the students absolutely loved taking ownership and personalizing their own calendars. However, in the future I would have students create their own stickers during our computer time. By providing them with a word document template and clear expectations the students could have selected their own images to indicate special dates (i.e. Christmas, Kwannza, Hannakah, New Years etc). By adding a period of computer time prior to this lesson, students could have completely personalized their own calendars. Using a program like Kidpix, adobe photoshop or even Microsoft word clip art could have been effective programs for this task. This would have also been an excellent opportunity for students to practice their typing skills for the months of the year and days of the week. Time spent in the second part of the lesson on reviewing the stickers could be removed because students would know what stickers were available for use. This time could be spent cutting up their stickers, which would also aid in the development of fine motor skills and save me three hours of time that I could devote to other preparations.
Calling this a flopped lesson would be somewhat of an overstatement. However, this experience did help me to realize the importance of proper planning and spending time as a new teacher creating resources that can be reused. Managing our time as teachers effectively is vital. Without proper time management a teacher can become easily stressed and forget to make time for themselves. A struggle I faced throughout the practicum. Being completely devoted to make all of the students learning experiences rich, fun and practical is time consuming but I have learnt strategies and techniques to work smarter not harder.