On Writing Effective Lesson Plans

According to Serdykov and Ryan, the authors of Writing Effective Lesson Plans: A 5-Star Approach, lessons are divided into five components. These are: (1) Lesson Description, (2) Goals and Objectives, (3) Materials and Tools, (4) Procedures, and (5) Reflective Assessment and Evaluation. The lesson plans I typically create for college-level English Composition courses tend to be rather heavy on the procedure and light on these other components. Largely, the reason for this is because I am not using my lesson plans for any particular bureaucratic purpose but instead as a reminder list of the various activities and questions I have planned. For me, the goals and objectives are often implied and also usually covered by the department’s syllabus for the course. The materials and tools may get some mention in my lesson plans, particularly if I plan to use a something besides the textbook, such as a video from the Internet.

However, after reviewing the first part of this book, it is clear why some of these other components may be more valuable than I have previously supposed. After a brief overview of the general approach in Chapter 1, the second and third chapters focus in detail on the first two components. The Lesson Description describes “when, what, and to whom you are teaching” (19). Although it seems fairly straightforward, if I were teaching six different classes to various age groups, that information could prove to be a valuable organizing tool. The Goals and Objectives not only make explicit what students will learn and what they will be able to do, but they also tie these elements to state and institution standards, which are an extremely important feature of public education and one with which I endeavor to become more familiar as my training continues.

Chapter six of Writing Effective Lesson Plans focuses on the differences between assessment and evaluation. In a nutshell, assessment is dynamic, and evaluation is static. Assessment is inherently reflective, according to the authors, and should not be used as an “exclusionary tool.” During assessment, the student receives feedback on work and then uses it as a means to understand his or her own weaknesses—for example, extended comments on a journal assignment. Evaluation, on the other hand, provides a snapshot of how well a student performs a particular task on a particular day. Examples of evaluation are grades, ranks, and scores, which may be used to document milestones of achievement. Together, assessment and evaluation form an important partnership in measuring student progress.

Serdyokov and Ryan have a somewhat circular way of describing assessment as requiring “the critical step of self-assessment.” On first reading, it seemed to me this would make the very idea of “self-assessment” redundant. I might make the clarification that “assessment” involves the feedback of a teacher, mentor, or peer, while “self-assessment” provides a means for learners to generate such feedback on their own. Still, a teacher might provide tools to facilitate self-assessment, such as a list of questions to be used for reflection purposes.

Although the authors find the concept of the bell curve unhelpful, I have seen it as a fairly realistic representation of expected grade patterns. Serdyokov and Ryan are right that one should not use the bell curve as a guide for how grades should come out; it merely describes a common phenomenon. It will be interesting to see if the pattern continues when I am teaching middle or high school students, but I would never think of adjusting grades so they would follow the curve.

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