As proposed by Dymoke and Harrison, good lesson planning is essential to successful teaching in so far as stating, `It is often the case that poor teaching, classroom management and behaviour stem from lack of explicit planning` (2008, p. 122) It is suggested then, that thorough planning is fundamental to the successful learning of pupils in many ways.
Whilst allowing the teacher to follow a process of thinking, providing a mental practice session if you like, the act of planning therefore becomes an imperative aid for both student and teacher. Throughout this rationale, the key elements and processes of meeting planning requirements will be discussed with specific reference to a series of three progressive examples (see appendix). The lessons have been created with a view towards teaching pupils dance at Key Stage 3 within a unit of six lessons.
The extensive elements of lesson planning in this sense include: class and subject details, learning objectives, differentiated learning outcomes, student targets in relation to standards and previous lesson evaluation, pupil learning activities, teaching role, strategies and points, organisation and risk assessment, assessment for learning strategies and finally lesson evaluation to include targets for the next lesson and reflection of teaching, management and organisation.
Dymoke and Harrison, highlight the necessity for teachers to consider the broader spectrum intended for pupils to be guided along, `in relation to both previous learning and future directions`. (2008, p. 114) At this stage, however, the target group of thirty two year 7 pupils are at the beginning of their secondary education having attended a total of six dance lessons thus far. The key consideration here then may be to look at what they learned during their previous unit so as to ensure continuity and avoid unnecessary repetition.
If teaching isolated lessons encourages a progressive thinking to be flawed, then it is important to consider the context of these lessons, understanding how they will be delivered in the grander scheme regarding their past and future learning experiences. So, is it important to structure lessons looking at the wider picture over perhaps whole units of work? It would seem so as suggested by Pollard, ` Long-term planning thus begins to address progression, breadth, balance, continuity, and coherence, both within and between subjects` (2009, p254)
With reference to this idea, and particular target group they are in the introductory period of secondary education. Thus far having experienced how to identify and perform a number of basic actions, relationships; using canon and mirroring, the use of different levels and directions and the unit was based around the theme of the fairground. In the case for the specified lesson plans for this rationale, the progressive theme is based on cars. The reasoning behind this theme was to provide pupils with a learning context that offers scope for movement creation, actively engages boys in dance whilst forming a link between each lesson.
Evidently, selecting a theme over a unit bodes well with Pollards` idea of providing continuity in learning also. When considering the nature of lesson planning, let us firstly look at the value of learning objectives. As a trainee teacher during my own placement it became clear from the outset that lesson objectives should be based on what the pupils will learn as opposed to simply documenting what they will do. My first effort involved pitching objectives in the lesson plan with teacher perspective in mind, documenting what the pupils will do.
With reference to the nature of language used in lesson objective 1, it states that pupils are, `To use onomatopoeia as a starting point for movement creation related to the theme, cars` With the realisation that this objective relates towards what the pupils will do and not learn, then the following is more appropriate and should be amended for pupils, `To understand the meaning and be able to use onomatopoeia as a starting point for movement creation related to the theme, cars`.
The primary focus in this section is to be focussed on what the student is to learn and in this case follow consistency in phrasing used throughout the school, WALT`s and WILF`s; a strategy allowing for consistency in objectives and expectations alike. It is beneficial then to, as Pollards suggests, `write objectives as `Pupils should be able to…` statements, as this indicates, to some extent, intended outcomes`. (2009, p. 255) The objective in lesson 1, we can see does not only broaden their understanding by introducing a new word and its meaning, but also demonstrates how this can become a stimulus for dance creation.
As with lesson 2 they learn to use every day movements as a starting point for movement design and this is continued in lesson 3 with the use of visual stimuli. So the objectives for each specific lesson work together over the unit deepening pupils understand of the way dance composition works. Also, the same set warm-up is purposely used over the span of the three lessons to allow pupils to the opportunity to improve and although a shortened version is seen in lesson 2, pupils are asked to recall the previous weeks work instead.
The reason for the alteration in lesson 2 is setting a recall task will improve on their movement memory skills but also keeping them moving and focussed (the sole purpose of the warm up in this instance) without impinging on time. The movement phrase taught by the teacher in lesson 1 is intended to add to their movement vocabulary and improve technical and performance skills. Evidently, it can be a difficult task accounting for all of the learning that will take place in any given lesson or unit simply because these are so extensive.
If we refer to the objectives in lesson 1, it is fair to suggest, given the nature of dance that, individuals are likely to learn far more than only how to use action sounds as stimulus for dance. Pupils will also learn how to perform new actions such as a barrel jump, gain understanding of performance skills, how to behave in a performance scenario and so on. However, teachers are able to achieve more control regarding the intended objectives and how this is reviewed will be discussed later.
Viewing lesson objectives in light of the National Curriculum is perhaps of relevance here also. According to the guidelines, opportunities should be provided to allow pupils to generate work where certain key principles are met. With reference to the processes laid out in the curriculum then, ideally pupils will be: developing skills in physical activity, making and applying decisions, developing physical and mental capacity, evaluating and improving and making informed choices about healthy, active lifestyles.
For pupils, it is these underpinning concepts that supposedly contribute to `deepening and broadening their knowledge, skills and understanding` (GCDA, 2010) If this is the case then viewing a whole unit of work it requires objectives orientated towards achieving most if not all of these. In dance, looking at these progressive plans it would appear the objectives fall into the category related to developing skills in physical activity.
Future planning for this particular target group should look to include areas associated with making informed choices about healthy active lifestyles and making and applying decisions. If we use, Janet Smith- Autards`, Dance as Art Model (2002) created to formulate good teaching practice to cover each categorical strand of composition, performance and appreciation in educational dance, then we can see that each area is attended to. These three elements contribute towards providing pupils with a dance experience that is well rounded at secondary education level.
In viewing these lesson plans with reference to the model let us look at each individually. Firstly composition, which is evident in the through line of the planning that each pupils will learn a various range of stimuli, develop refining and selecting skills, will show an understanding of action, space and relationships. Secondly, their appreciation skills are developed to being able to explore ways to describe dance, to learn appropriate technical terms and broaden their dance vocabulary, to distinguish qualities of their own dance in relation to their peers.
Finally, performance aspects allow for the pupils to develop their dance skills through taught phrases, to develop coordination, focus, phrasing and timing, to improve performance through the refinement of ideas and also to look for good performance relating to their peers. A process of lesson planning in this instance requires consideration of differentiated learning categories; working towards, achieving and working beyond. This area is intended to provide a layered form of teaching enabling all pupils to progress regardless of ability. Learning is most effective when it is designed jointly by the teacher and students through a process of negotiation` (Sewell, 2008, p27) Applying this to dance lesson planning, this is implemented throughout the tasks in relation to the objectives. Using lesson 1 objective as an example, it states pupils will learn to, `perform taught phrase with accuracy relating to use of actions and space`. In this case, during the process of teaching the differentiated learning option is to fully turn whilst hopping.
This is given as an extended option so as not to exclude those that may not be skilled to achieve turning and hoping simultaneously. Ideally then, these should be carefully considered looking at suitability for year group and whether level of attainment is realistic and also for it to be sophisticated enough to challenge the competent learners. Next we consider the plenary where communication between the teacher and pupils comes together and shows whether or not intended learning has occurred. An ssential element of any teaching experience the plenary plays an important role in revealing a lessons success. As stated by Sewell, `A big part of the learning process is being able to demonstrate what you have learnt and how you can use it` (2008, p. 31) Each lesson purposely closes with a teacher questioning session designed for learning to be monitored. Students are able to feedback the information learned. What works and what does not work becomes clear and valuable with a view to address teaching strategies for the continuing lesson/s.
With reference to the method of questioning Dymoke and Harrison write, `Questions are the backbone of communication between students and teachers in classrooms. They are an important medium for learning, used to develop ideas, challenge students, assess levels of understanding and to steer and ignite interest and thinking` (2008, p. 134) Along with the questioning strategies, the process of evaluation can neither be undervalued. It is the sole responsibility for the teacher to be consistent in their desire to improve pupils` ability for learning.
As presented in lesson plan 1, (after a consultation about this particular lesson with my placement mentor) an area as simple as tone of voice and giving praise provide awareness that can lead to improvement in how the teacher can go about making adjustments beneficial for pupils to receive information clearly and rewarded when due. `A reflective approach ensures that the successful aspects of a lesson and an objective consideration of those areas requiring improvement can both be highlighted in a critical but supportive environment` (2008, p. 18) Throughout the performance of tasks (especially during lesson 2) pupils at times were difficult to control. Evaluation provides a self-reflective opportunity for practitioner growth and ought to consider future developments. For example, in lesson 3 the reflection/ teaching/ organisation strategies from a teaching perspective to, `Look to deepening knowledge of behavioural techniques as using the same one throughout begins to lose its effect` certainly requires efforts to be made towards improving the control of the class and enhancing the potential for good practice and learning.
As a result of this process in reflective planning and then research behavioural techniques to apply to the follow lesson then effects of such when utilise during the next lesson was positively impacting. For example, raising hand up and waiting for pupils to follow suit and counting down from 5 until full pupil focus is achieved (Cowley, 2001) Far more than simply acting as a resource for future teaching experiences, the process of writing and teaching these planned lessons does give clarity to the whole learning experience by casting a light on, not only what but how the pupils will learn..
Also, fundamental to this process is to know and not presume that they have learnt the objectives. What other way is there for a teacher to know that learning is reviewed other than via a systematic learning process? Lesson planning, clear objectives and evaluation all provide valuable tools for self-reflection for the teacher thus continuing their evolution as a sound practitioner and maintaining standards required of the teaching profession.