by Harry and Rosemary
Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher
Many teachers begin
teaching without a clear lesson plan format and without an operational
curriculum in hand. Even fewer receive curricula that are aligned
with state standards. They have to figure out what
to teach and how to teach it. Can you imagine Starbuck’s
telling its employees to figure out how to make coffee without
telling them what bean to use or how to grind the bean?
Or, American Airlines telling its pilots here’s a plane
full of passengers; now get them to Chicago!
The New Pathways to Teaching in New Jersey is
a program for people seeking an alternative route to teaching.
They have been in other professions and now wish to enter the
classroom. One tool they give their teachers in training
is a template to use as a lesson plan format.
Ask Two Questions
Norm Dannen is presently in the New Pathways
program and is currently teaching advanced English at Southern
Regional High School in Manahawkin, New Jersey. His instructor
in the New Pathways program is Tom Vona, who was a teacher, assistant
principal, and principal. Tom also observes Norm in his teaching
setting, so Norm is in good hands.
Norm’s situation is an exception to the rule. It
is rather common for a new teacher to receive no details about
specific content, sequence, instructional materials, or pedagogical
methods. New teachers are recruited by the thousands,
and often few, if any, support systems are put into place to allow
their successful transition into the classroom.
Teachers show up on their first day and are told to go and teach.
The new teacher may not even be walked to the classroom or be
welcomed to the school by the staff.
This would never happen for new employees at any company or non-profit
organization such as Home Depot, The Cheesecake Factory, or the
American Red Cross. New hires would show up on the first
day of work and expect to be trained on how things are done.
Of course, what else?
Therefore, if you are a teacher looking for a job, it
is important that you ask two questions at the interview:
• Is there an induction program?
• Is there a curriculum for my subject(s) or grade level?
If you are not familiar with the term induction program, please
Student Achievement Is Simple, Part 1 and Part
Next, ask for a copy of the curriculum. Students come to
school to learn and the curriculum describes what the students
are to learn in a subject or at your grade level.
For instance, if you were to work for the Lafourche Parish Public
Schools in Louisiana, you would get a binder for a subject at
your grade level with
A list of the state standards
Lesson objectives that are aligned to the state standards
Suggested activities that teach to the lesson objectives
Sample tests that are aligned to the objectives to use for assessment
More on this can be read at “Applying
For a Teaching Job in a Tight Market, Part 2.”
Start With the End in Mind
The effective teacher starts with the end in mind, with
standards or goals. Perhaps you have heard of this
as the “backward” approach to curricular design as
explained by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book, Understanding
As we said last month, standards represent a valuable guide post
for you. Standards do not tell you what to teach, how to
teach, or how to assess. They simply give you a base point
from which to start a lesson and serve as a goal when you assess
the success of your efforts in teaching the lesson.
These types of standards are typically generalized and most often
are found as state standards.
New Jersey has some language arts literacy standards, each of
which has lettered strands and learning expectations for each
grade level in grades K-8, as well as a combined cluster for grades
9-12. Here are four of the 9-12 standards.
STANDARD 3.1 (READING) — All students will understand
and apply the knowledge of sounds, letters, and words in written
English to become independent and fluent readers, and will read
a variety of materials and texts with fluency and comprehension.
STANDARD 3.2 (WRITING) — All students will write
in clear, concise, organized language that varies in context
and form for different audiences and purposes.
STANDARD 3.3 (LISTENING) — All students will
listen actively to information from a variety of sources in
a variety of situations.
STANDARD 3.4 (VIEWING AND MEDIA LITERACY) — All
students will access, view, evaluate, and respond to print,
non-print, and electronic texts and resources.
Align Objectives to State Standards
Norm created a 15-day unit to have students interpret The
Great Gatsby artistically, thematically, and historically.
In so doing, students identified with the autobiographical nature
of the novel and applied the moral themes of this American literary
classic to their own development as young adults.
Students achieved these objectives through a close reading of
the novel (in class and aloud, with Study Guide Questions), writing
exercises (Compare and Contrast, character analysis), small group
discussion (analysis of the value of the American Dream as viewed
by Fitzgerald), and critical thinking skills, in accordance with
New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards for Reading, Speaking, Writing,
Norm wrote specific objectives that 1) are aligned to
the state standards, and 2) state what students will be able to
do as a result of the lesson.
Lesson Objectives for The Great Gatsby
Draw parallels between their own lives and the life and work
of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the context of the Jazz Age, the Lost
Generation, Prohibition, and the Great Depression.
Describe one significant event each in the artistic, musical,
social, literary, and historical context of the writing of The
Describe at least three autobiographical elements of Fitzgerald’s
own life that are reflected in The Great Gatsby.
Explain narrative Points of View and the importance of Nick
Carraway to the telling of the story.
Describe Fitzgerald’s view of the American Dream, as
defined by character and plot development in The Great Gatsby
and a related short story by Fitzgerald, “Winter Dreams.”
Identify how an author can use elements of Symbolism and Color
in the creation of fictional characters that have greater depth,
meaning, and immediacy.
Write a Fitzgerald-style narrative, creating their own characters
and applying literary elements and events from their own lives.
Objectives are important in the teaching of a lesson.
- Objectives are classroom learning targets. The students
know what they are aiming for, thus, they know what they are
responsible for learning.
- Objectives remove the mystery to students. If they do
not know where they are going, they won’t be able to get
there. So they moan, but rightly so, “Boring!”
- Objectives give students a focus and enable them to check
for their own understanding. They are more likely to know
if they know something or not.
- Students are more likely to buy into the lesson and are more
likely to participate in activities if they understand why they
are doing it.
Thus, communicate your objectives with (not to) your students.
Teachers who set and share objectives for learning can realize
an average percentage gain of 22 on standardized tests.
The quality of the lesson objectives accounts for much of what
we see or do not see in the classroom. (Wise and Okey, 1983
as found in The First Days of School,
The Lesson Activities
Standards and objectives actually improve your creativity.
Use objectives as the bulls eye on a target. As you start
a lesson, write the objective on the board prior to and leave
it there during the entire lesson as the goal.
It also helps that the teacher can point to it as the lesson progresses
and the students know upfront where they re headed.
With the lesson objectives set, the effective teacher can creatively
design activities that are aligned to the objectives. This
is the creative heart of any lesson, the lesson activities.
All activities selected must be directly focused on achieving
the objective and must contribute to students being able to achieve
the stated objective and hit the bulls eye during your assessment
of mastery of the goal.
The creativity comes when you reflect on how you will implement
the standards and objectives. It’s no different from
going to a hair dresser. There are standards of how a hair
salon is operated. How your hair is transformed is all up
to the creativity of the hair stylist, provided nothing is used
or done that will violate a standard and harm the customer.
This is the same in the classroom. Implementation of the
objectives is all up to the teacher.
In the best case scenario, the best lessons are the creative
efforts of the members of a collegial grade level or a content
department with everyone contributing and evaluating the best
ways to enhance student learning.
Each day’s lesson typically begins with a correlated
bell work assignment, a motivator, or something that will focus
the students on the day’s lesson. Thus, start
with a motivator or an attention grabber to engage the students.
In educational terms, this is called an “Anticipatory Set,”
that is something used to get the students set to anticipate the
Norm says, “To focus attention on the lesson, I display
an interdisciplinary transparency highlighting an historical element
of the 1920s that is relevant to the story line of The Great
Gatsby at the beginning of each class period.”
To see what activities he used each day, please click
The Students Come to School to Work
The purpose of schooling is for the students to learn
and achieve. For students to learn, they must do
the work. If you go home at the end of the day exhausted,
it may be you are doing all the work and not the students.
Schools are built for the students, not the teachers. See
how Steve Geiman came to this realization.
When people go to work, “work” means to get the work
done. Students are no different. When they come to
school, they all know they are to get the work done, and the better
they do the work, the better the grade they earn.
But, it can be difficult if not impossible for a student
to get the work done when the assignment does not spell out what
the student is to do. There are no standards, no
objectives, and no activities done for a specified reason.
It’s like shooting arrows blindfolded hoping that one will
hit the target.
Poor assignments like
Read chapter 7.
Open your book to page 143.
Do this worksheet.
Watch this video.
Break into groups.
Write a paper on the Byzantine period
add to the confusion and misdirection experienced by students.
Because the students see no reason for the assignments, many
students will blurt out and ask, “Why? why? and why do we
have to do this?”
It basically comes down to what you teach and how you teach it!
You teach for learning, not for coverage. The student’s
incentive is to get better learning; the teacher’s incentive
is to get better results.
|This can be done as follows:
- Your lesson is aligned to a state or district standard.
- Your lesson has an objective to focus the lesson.
- Your lesson shows what you do to teach the objective.
- You have a test that is used to assess for learning.
Therefore, the greater the structure of a lesson and
the more precise the objectives on what is to be accomplished,
the higher the student learning rate.
Setting the Stage for Learning
This month’s column focused on how a teacher, Norm Dannen,
uses objectives to communicate to his students what they are to
learn. In a future column, we will share with you how Norm
Dannen assesses and tests his students on that learning.
Unless you know where you are going, you will never be
able to test if you have arrived at the designated point and hit
the bulls eye.
As you wind up this school year reflect on your past lessons
and identify those that were successful for your students.
For those successful lessons, more than likely you had very specific
learning outcomes in mind and targeted activities that moved your
students toward accomplishment of the goals.
While the summer is meant for you to relax, refresh, and recharge,
we encourage you to use it as a time to reinvent your lessons
and identify and align them with state standards and create targeted
lesson activities aimed at achieving the goal.
Your students next school year will reap the rewards of your
time spent as they achieve more. Your competency as a teacher
will grow as your students continue to gain in testing.
Teaching is so much easier when you know where you are going and
how you’re going to get there.
Have a great summer and an even greater next school year!
For a printable version of this article click
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