Don’t get the idea that if one doesn’t go through all 21 decisions, the planning is poor. In certain situations, some decisions are not applicable. In primary grade literacy, for example, in a guided reading group with three first graders on book “D,” there is no decision about materials. The leveled books are the materials. Checking for understanding is continuous as children read, and objectives may be slightly different for each of the three children. A teacher conducting lessons based in curricula that use inquiry models of teaching might not start by clarify- ing objectives for students (though they would be developed at some point later). For example, for the first lesson or two on representative government there is no “evidence from yesterday” about how much progress students have made toward mastery (though there might be a pre-assessment to find out what they already know or think they know about representative government).
The decisions that follow are divided into two sets. The first 13 are basic and indispensable decisions for any lesson planning. The second set of eight deci- sions is important too, but these topics are at a finer level of specificity. Good planning allows quite a bit of flexibility about the order in which a teacher ad- dresses these issues and, as we have noted, not all of them need to be addressed for certain lessons. In general, the decisions don’t have to be addressed in a linear fashion in the order presented. This should reassure nonlinear thinkers who hate lists and recipes. The first five decisions, however, are so important for getting focus in one’s teaching and getting student results that we are going to ask even the creative-random among us to think these through thoroughly before going on with your planning.
The Thirteen Basic, Indispensable Planning Decisions
1. Check-in with the curriculum, the standards you’re working on, and particularly the big idea (enduring understanding) that’s on the table to be sure the lesson you’re planning connects explicitly to it.
2. Dig into the content to examine its nuances and central ideas. Articu- late the most worthwhile mastery objective of this lesson (or series of lessons) to yourself fully. Say exactly what the students will know or be able to do, or do better, at the end of the lesson.
3. Plan how to communicate the objective to the students with unmistak- able clarity in language they will understand. How are you going to get them clear about what they’re trying to learn? Will you generate essential questions and criteria, give exemplars, or share assessments you will be using?
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4. Decide what evidence you will use as confirmation of student mastery. They may not meet it tomorrow, but having this end in mind is the ful- crum of good planning.
5. Give careful attention to the evidence from yesterday (or whenever else is relevant) about who “has it” and who doesn’t. Also, look carefully at those who have it so you know when they’re ready for an extension or deepening activity.
6. In light of the evidence from yesterday’s work (or from your pre-assess- ment if this is the first lesson in the series), plan the pace and grouping or subgrouping if appropriate for differentiation of instruction. This includes the size of the bite (how big an increment of learning) you will aim for in this lesson. It also includes whether you need to do some preteaching for some students and some reteaching for some students who didn’t get it yesterday. It means coming up with extensions and challenges for those who got it quickly.
7. Pick materials, including exactly what manipulatives, pictures, dia- grams, pieces of text, equipment, and media will best make the learning accessible to the students.
8. Anticipate confusions, especially about vocabulary and concepts to be used, and preteach if necessary. Anticipate misconceptions, and plan how to surface them and contradict them.
9. Choose student learning experiences, such as the following:
pp Instructional strategies you will use (e.g., demonstration, modeling, thinking aloud, mini-lecture with graphic organizer). Pay particular attention to how you can embed reading strategies in your routines for engaging text.
pp Tasks, exercises, and activities the students will do.
pp Hooks that will engage student interest.
pp The sequence of student tasks and teacher-guided strategies within the lesson most likely to develop the concept, skill, or understanding.
pp How to preteach essential vocabulary or concepts that some stu- dents may lack.
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10. Check that doing the task will logically lead to learning the intended skill or concept.
11. Decide when and how you will gather the evidence of student learning during or after the lesson.
12. “Plan how students will make their thinking and understanding public” (West & Staub, 2003, p. 13). See “Making Students’ Thinking Visible” in Chapter 11, “Clarity.”
13. Select a strategy for getting students cognitively active in summarizing and assimilating their new learning.
The Eight Implementation Detail Planning Decisions
14. Decide how you will get students’ minds in gear for this lesson at the beginning, activate their prior knowledge, and find out what they al- ready know.
15. Arrange the environmental variables (space, routines that may need to be preplanned or taught) and how much time you predict will be needed for each task or activity.
16. Choose the effective effort strategies you may explicitly teach or that you may ask students to use (e.g., student self-evaluation, use of “effec- tive effort rubric”).
17. Decide specific interactive moves you should make (key steps in di- rections, key questions to ask, cues to give, connections to past learn- ing) “to make sure important ideas are being grappled with and will be highlighted and clarified” (West & Staub, 2003, p. 12).
18. Decide how to diversify for different student learning styles.
19. Decide how much support, cuing, and help students may need while doing the work, including deployment of other people who may be in the room.
20. Decide “what extensions or challenges you will provide for students who are ready for them” (West & Staub, 2003, p. 12).
21. Choose homework and how and when to explain it and what it’s for.
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THE FINER POINTS ABOUT THE BASIC AND INDISPENSABLE DECISIONS
Although most of these decisions may seem relatively straightforward, some further discussion and concrete examples may help to clarify the importance of giving each thoughtful attention during planning.