Every day it’s the same. Walk into class, get out my binder, search for a pencil, and get ready for notes. The teacher drones as we, the students, fill in the blanks on our notes packets. Then, we watch videos on the exact same things we took notes on. This goes on for a few classes, then we spend one class doing a packet of review. The teachers classify this packet as an “engaging project”. Meanwhile, another class is gradually filling in the notes. They take a page of notes a day then mix in activities to keep the students engaged and learning.
Lesson structure is a very important part of an effective learning environment. To the students, lesson planning is significant. If the lesson only consists of notes and a video, then students tend to zone out and not take in any of the information. All kids learn differently and while it is important to have notes so information can be gathered, that mostly benefits the visual learners. Hands-on learners benefit from activities, as do all other students. Activities are a very good way for students to further investigate and understand the material. “…students did most of the mental work of the project – researching, planning, analyzing, collaborating, experimenting, evaluating, and communicating.” (21st Century Skills, 2009). In order for students to learn the best they can, good lesson planning is critical.
Students lose focus very easily. They have so much going on outside of school as well as the drama in it that concentrating on the lesson is not a high priority in their minds. If the lesson doesn’t engage them, they will zone out. Planning a lesson that keeps the students’ attention is very difficult. The layout of the class is very important. As I said before, a class of straight notes, while sometimes necessary, will not hold the students focus. Instead, A lesson involving notes, individual activities, and collaborative activities all mixed in will keep the students engaged.
1. For example, start off with an individual activity, like a quick write about the general idea of the lesson. This will get the students thinking and ready to learn. The brain takes in more information if the material is reinforced right away. That is why notes should have activities mixed in.
2. 2. After the individual activity, some notes would be taken. Not a copious amount, just one major point. It is imperative that the notes be organized by major learning points so those points could be taught one by one, giving the opportunity to go deeper during activities.
3. Then a break would be taken from the notes and either a class discussion or a collaborative activity would be done. Class discussions are great ways to promote debate between students while also giving the students opportunities to learn from each other’s comments. The teacher would put out a controversial question on the material or a question that applies to a problem in the world and tie in the material. A different collaborative activity that could be done would be a time for research. For example, writing a creative research paper on a problem and how to solve it. This would give the students a platform to express creativity, connect to the world, and better understand the material. Also, allowing the students to dig deeper and discover things for themselves is important. Time should be given so the students could further research an aspect of the material that interests them and learn more about that. For example, I would research how the material that I am learning relates to architecture or the being an architect because that is what I am interested in. This would allow students to delve deeper into what they are interested in as well as gather a better understanding of the material.
4. Breaks in class can be beneficial as well. At my school, we have four blocks per day, each an hour in a half. If I have a class that is heavy in notes, my focus will slip along with the focus of my peers. A small break, 5 minutes per say, would allow the students to get collected again. This break would end up helping the students get engaged because when taking notes and focus slips, most likely thoughts go to what is going on in the students life. A time to just talk to peers would get those thoughts out and will let the students pay more attention to the lesson. These breaks do not need to be in every class but when there is a lot of lecture and notes, a break is often welcome.
The way that lessons are laid out strongly influence the amount of student engagement of a class. Notes are sometimes unavoidable but students are not big fans of having a class of just notes all the time. Interactive activities are great ways to get students involved while still having them learn. “We must apply both thinking and tinkering.” (21st Century Skills, 2009). This means that the creativity toward design is an effective way to go about project design. Worksheets, though easy to assign, do not benefit students as much as a thought out activity. “From what was written on the blackboard, the class was working on an assignment translating a passage from English to Spanish…nearly half the students clearly doing something else.” (Rewired, 2010). This is a result of worksheets. If notes and lectures are mixed in with fun, engaging activities then students will be more focused and learn more effectively.
Bernie Trilling. 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times(9780470475386). N.p.: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.
Rosen, Larry D. Rewired: Understanding the Generation and the Way They Learn. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.