Teachers have to be extremely versatile - not only when thinking about all the tasks related to teaching, but also when it comes to teaching itself. It can be difficult to plan motivating lessons that meet the needs of your students from different levels, and that align with the education program mandated by the government. Here are some tips to plan your lessons well and to ensure they are as effective as possible.
Include your students' interests in the educational activities
When possible, it is best to include elements uniting your students' interests into the task to keep their motivation. Nothing is more discouraging for students than a page of exercises to do in silence! Demotivated students are not engaged and will tend to disturb the class to fight boredom.
Instead, try building a simple project based on their interests or with fun activities. For example, if your students love video games, why not have a “pixel art” activity during art class? Or if your students love sports, offer them a project about their favourite sport or athlete. While planning these new projects can take longer, you will save a lot of time dealing with behavioural problems from disengaged students.
Teach based on the principles of effective teaching
Once you are in the middle of a lesson, it is easy to become impassioned and ramble a little when presenting new notions. Abstract and long lectures will quickly lose kids and teenagers. Even adults catch themselves daydreaming when a keynote speaks monotonously for a long time, so imagine how this is for younger children!
To avoid this situation, make sure your lessons are always short. Students must quickly put them into action to learn more efficiently. It is also important to model students what we expect of them. For example, instead of explaining the different steps to solve a math problem, it’s better to show them how you (an expert) do it. This makes the notion more concrete and helps the students understand better. Finally, consider using a visual reference (as long as the class is not full of them, obviously).
Leverage the skills of gifted students
In every class, there are students that catch on quicker than others. While the teacher is still explaining, they already have completed their exercises and are asking for more. Instead of always telling them to read a book and not disturb the class while you help the students that have more difficulty, why not leverage their strength? There is the classic “mini teacher” who can walk around the class and help the others, but that’s not always convenient. One student could not be interested in teaching, while the other is not receptive to receiving help.
To motivate stronger students, emphasize development, like a personal project or a challenge box. The students can choose the project they want or a challenge in a box where the teacher left puzzles, “seek and find” books, enigmas, and so on.
Finally, the project “Urgent, I Must, I Can” allows every student to go at their own speed. Draw three columns on the board, one for each category, then place tasks to complete in the right category and move them as the week progresses. The student that completes a task can look first in the Urgent column, then I Must, and finally I Can. The challenge box or any development exercise can be in the last category. You’ll then have more time to help at-risk students, without neglecting the others.
Help students with difficulties without overwhelming them
Lastly, it is important to consider key elements when planning your lesson in order not to negatively affect at-risk students. For example, proactively split the longer tasks in smaller bites. You can also create a group of at-risk students which you’ll cater to during exercise time instead of keeping them inside during recess or lunch time, as they need this break to oxygenate their brains.
In conclusion, good planning is multifold. While it seems like a lot of work to put in at first, it saves you time in the long run and keeps the students motivated throughout the school year.
Ariane Lefebvre holds a degree in early childhood and primary education from UQÀM and is passionate about her career as a kindergarten teacher. Children’s literature and fostering a welcoming environment both hold a very important place in her heart. She is also currently completing her advanced graduate diploma in Educational Institution Management.