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EDU 111 - Teaching Math & Science to Young Children - Textbook

Chapter 6: Lesson Planning

6.1: Selecting General Learning Goals

6.1: Selecting General Learning Goals

"Selecting General Learning Goals" in Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary Sutton is licensed under CC BY 4.0.


At the most general or abstract level, the goals of education include important philosophical ideas like "developing individuals to their fullest potential” and “preparing students to be productive members of society." Few teachers would disagree with these ideas in principle, though they might disagree about their wording or about their relative importance. As a practical matter, however, teachers might have trouble translating such generalities into specific lesson plans or activities for the next day’s class. What does it mean, concretely, to "develop an individual to his or her fullest potential"? Does it mean, for example, that a language arts teacher should ask students to write an essay about their personal interests, or does it mean that the teacher should help students learn to write as well as possible on any topic, even ones that are not of immediate interest? What exactly should a teacher do, from day to day, to "prepare students to be productive members of society" as well? Answers to questions like these are needed to plan instruction effectively. But the answers are not obvious simply by examining statements of general educational goals.

Because they focus on grade levels and subject areas, general statements of educational standards tend to be a bit more specific than the broader philosophical goals we discussed above. As a rule of thumb, too, state standards tend to be more comprehensive than national standards, both in coverage of grade levels and of subjects. The difference reflects the broad responsibility of states in the United States for all aspects of public education; national organizations, in contrast, usually assume responsibility only for a particular subject area or particular group of students. Either type of standards provides a first step, however, toward transforming the grandest purposes of schooling (like developing the individual or preparing for society) into practical classroom activities. But they provide a first step only. Most statements of standards do not make numerous or detailed suggestions of actual activities or tasks for students, though some might include brief classroom examples—enough to clarify the meaning of a standard, but not enough to plan an actual classroom program for extended periods of time. For these latter purposes, teachers rely on more the detailed documents, the ones often called curriculum frameworks and curriculum guides.
 

 

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6.2: Formulating Learning Objectives

6.2: Formulating Learning Objectives

"Formulating Learning Objectives" in Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary Sutton is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

 

Given curriculum frameworks and guides, how do you choose and formulate actual learning objectives? Basically there are two approaches: either start by selecting content or topics that what you want students to know (the cognitive approach) or start with what you want students to do (the behavioral approach). In effect the cognitive approach moves from the general to the specific, and the behavioral approach does the opposite. Each approach has advocates, as well as inherent strengths and problems. In practice, teachers often combine or alternate between them in order to give students some of the advantages of each.

 

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6.3: Creating bridges among curriculum goals and students’ prior experiences

6.3: Creating Bridges Among Curriculum Goals and Students’ Prior Experiences

"Creating Bridges Among Curriculum Goals and Students’ Prior Experiences" in Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary Sutton is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

 

To succeed, then, instructional plans do require a variety of resources, like the ones discussed in the previous section. But they also require more: they need to connect with students’ prior experiences and knowledge. Sometimes the connections can develop as a result of using the Internet, taking field trips, or engaging in service learning, particularly if students are already familiar with these activities and places. More often than not, though, teachers need to find additional ways to connect curriculum with students’ experiences—ways that fit more thoroughly and continuously into the daily work of a class. Fortunately, such techniques are readily at hand; they simply require the teacher to develop a habit of looking for opportunities to use them. Among the possibilities are four that deserve special mention: (1) modeling behavior and modeling representations of ideas, (2) activating prior knowledge already familiar to students, (3) anticipating preconceptions held by students, and (4) providing guided and independent practice, including its most traditional form, homework.

 

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