Your last one hit wonder lesson

Can we talk about Pet Peeves? Not the one when a student sharpens their pencil during your mini lesson or the one when a colleague hits “reply all” to an email during the school day. I want to talk about an epidemic taking over classrooms across the country.

#1 Pet Peeve – One Hit Wonder Lessons

Anyone, even a non-educated instructor, can design an interactive, one day lesson to engaging students. Only the greats can purposefully tie learning beyond one class hour. It is these educators which do not have students looking forward to each Friday, but carry the drive to attend class each and everyday because students are able to see the purpose and connection in every lesson taking place each day of the week.

When I began my teaching career, I was teaching in a town I had never heard of, in a classroom filled with students acting as parents my night and students by day. Each 8 hour school day was an uphill battle focused on test scores and textbook pages. And yet, teachers across the building questioned why students were not engaged in the content or eager to attend school unless the police knocked on their doors each morning.

Desperate to find a way to find the true purpose in showing up to 6th grade math class each morning, I realized the power in my content was in its real world connection to my students’ world – not just their potential futures. And so that is where a purposeful classroom begins – with connections. Connections to students futures. Connections to students immediate world. Connections deeper than the pages of a textbook. Connections beyond the immediate moment, but seeing content in action and addressing the direct coordination to necessary life skills our students must master to build productive lives inside their communities.

The final element was discovering a way to make this process manageable each and every day within a unit. This is where the Teach Further Model was developed – from the place of purpose.

What’s the question left to answer? Let’s dive into the HOW.

H – Help

You can not be an expert in everything and that’s OK! That’s why learning takes a community. A major step in designing a themed internship with the Teach Further Model is finding where help exists.

While working on designing a themed internship for students to practice converting measurements, our local airport became the sponsor of our baggage claim unit! Throughout the unit, students utilized a new iPhone measurement tool as well as scales to help explore volume, perimeter, and area of the baggage flying in and out of the airport. Students would later then use their understanding of ratios and proportions to master their understanding of convert measurements.

The fact is, without the ideas of local airport staff, supporting my students questions and echoing the need for the content, the whole unit could have been a “flop.” Nevertheless, with the partnership of a knowledgeable, dedicated sponsor and an umbrella of purpose of student learning, the unit continues to be one of the most talked about of the year.

Parent : “Hey Billy, what did you do in school day?”

Student : “Oh nothing much. But when I worked in Baggage Claim in math class, we had a bag come in from France that weighed 30 kilo(gramme) (kg). I don’t know what the passenger was thinking. It was over 66 pounds (lb) and they should know a checked bag can not be over 50 pounds (lb) without an extra cost. It was so heavy mom!”

O – Organize

Organization is essential for any unit extending beyond a one day, fun lesson. However, it does not need to be different every time. The structure of a strong lesson is the same :

  1. Begin with your Standard(s)
  2. Break it down into Targets
  3. Identify your plan for Scaffolding using Webb’s DOK
  4. Created Mastery Questions – what do your students need to be able to do (or answer) to prove mastery?
  5. Find the Real World Purpose
  6. Bring in a Community Sponsor
  7. Build in necessary Life Skills to be a strong leader in this field
  8. Develop opportunities for students to buy into the “Why” of learning
  9. Invite Community Members to be a part of the learners experience
  10. Implement a Community Outreach to share learning back within the community

While I break this down far more deeply when working with teachers in Workshops or in the online course, this process becomes the “check list” for educators to purposefully engage their students in content.

Breaking down this checklist for our Airport Unit :

  1. Standards : 6.G.A.2, 6.G.A.4, 6.G.A.1, & 6.RP.A.3.D
  2. Targets : “I can…” Statements from Standards
  3. Scaffolding : Based on targets
  4. Mastery Questions :  Common Assessments required by the District
  5. Real World Purpose : Baggage Claim & Airport Security
  6. Community Sponsor : Central Illinois Regional Airport
  7. Life Skills : Eye Contact, Proper Lifting of Heavy Materials, Communication skills, & Documentation/Record keeping
  8. The “Why” of Learning : We began our unit with an Introduction Day where students signed paperwork for their new internship and learned about their responsibilities. Using the 5 Senses of learning, students spent the day fully immersed in their new adventure
  9. Community Members in the Classroom : We had local airport staff join our classroom numerous times throughout the unit to support students and facilitate discussion
  10. Community Outreach: Students used their skills to create a TSA video on the rules & regulations of Airport Security with mathematical explanations behind the inner-workings of the airport staff

W – Why

Without answering the question of “why” in learning, you’ve lost the true value earning an education can bring. While exploring any immersive, long term lesson or unit design for students, the why must be at the forefront of each conversation.

Through the use of an “umbrella of purpose” a strategically designed themed internship, sponsored by local businesses can bring, learning can take on a new form for student to see the success and application of their learning. The “why” must be the first and last focus.

CHALLENGE : How are you going to implement real purpose in your next lesson and stop the “one hit wonder” movement in educators lessons? Share you next goal or dream on Twitter! Be a part of the future of purposeful learning.

Rae Hughart is a Middle Level Math Educator in Illinois, creator of the Teach Further Model, and the Director of Training & Development for the Teach Better Team. Rae continues to facilitate rich discussions with educators around mastering personalized learning, providing targeted student-focused feedback, and the impact of incorporating purpose into daily learning. After being inducted into The Illinois State University Hall of Fame in 2017, Rae was awarded the 2018 First Place Henry Ford Teacher Innovator Award for her innovative educational impact.