Tuesday, March 26, 2013

It's Elemental-Planning with the Rule of Three

Last October, I wrote a post, Tone Up Attention Span With Lesson plan Muscle.  My main focus was, The Rule of Three:

"Every lesson should include three major aspects: the lesson (presenting new concepts while building on learned knowledge/skills), an individual activity (check individual students’ grasp of the information) and some type of student-centered group activity (relating, collaborating, sharing understanding of the concepts, and their knowledge). Minor facets of every lesson should include a warm-up activity (settle down time) and closure. The latter are not separate entities but should be tied to the topics/concepts that center the major three portions of the lesson."

On days that the literature aspect of a lesson is the primary focus, it should be divided into the Rule of Three segments as detailed in the last paragraph and which can be re-stated as:Show Me, Help Me, Let Me.This trinity can be erased when some students really become involved in a literary discussion such as what John Proctor (The Crucible) meant when he cried out, "Leave me my name!" or why Meursault (The Stranger) was so cold about his mother's death. The key word here is some. Although animated discussions warm teachers' hearts, especially since it is often as difficult to pull verbal thoughts from our students as it is for a dentist to extract impacted wisdom teeth, we can't forget to notice those students whose interest was not ignited by the passionate exchange. We must pull them back into the learning fold by remembering that we chose various aspects to our lesson in order to reach every student.

The point is, we can't allow even the most avid enthusiasm to void our original plans and chance losing the attention spans any of our students. Don't we welcome eager responses to any facet of a lesson, be it a discussion, group work, or individual work? YES! Must we adhere strictly to the Rule of Three when gusto reigns? NO!  But we can alter its time frame.

Just because Bubba is staring out the window, his whole body language exuding total ennui doesn't mean that he is lost to learning. The aura of excitement still pervades the room. We  need to use this mood to lead our students into the next aspect of the lesson, the one that we planned to include in the first place. This shouldn't be a huge segue because all the parts of any lesson plan should flow together naturally, anyway. After all, any literature lesson is probably focusing on one of the elements and includes time to read and to think about what was read, to discuss, and to write.

We must welcome and rejoice in those times when our lessons stimulate students to be active participants in their learning. To keep these fires burning, though, and all of our students engaged, we must remember to rein in the excitement, to re-channel the zeal so it encompasses every student. The time increments of the Rule of Three aren't set in stone, but they do form a vital structure that must always include Show Me, Help Me and Let Me components.

Happy Teaching,