Warning! There are more metaphors and analogies here than you can shake a stick at. Read on at your peril!
So how should a lesson be organised? Back in the dark days of inset before Personalising Learning and neuroscience discoveries, the idea that all lessons had to have a starter(what are we going to learn today), main course (the doing bit) and dessert (plenary) was how every lesson plan was expected to be designed. There were no questions about whether a knife and fork were the best way to eat the starter or whether the main course was suitable for students and do we always need a pudding? Reading The Learning Spy’s post on schemes of learning last night led me on a whirlwind of discovery (ok maybe a breezy path of thought) where he examines the importance of structure within Schemes of work and just how rigid or not they should be. “we need to be able to dip a finger in to ‘taste’ the learning if we are going to serve up something truly outstanding.” Says the spy, inferring that we may need to alter the seasonings or sometimes change the ingredients to ensure that learning hits the spot.
The one hour lesson can be a very difficult vehicle to deliver a really worthwhile lesson. Learning really doesn’t fit into neat one hour slots. And certainly, if you add three courses in that time, it can be difficult to stomach, especially 5 times a day (an obese nation?)
If something is really enjoyable, yet challenging to learn we need to allow students to digest their understanding properly. Just like a good meal, we should allow students to savour every mouthful of learning and give them the time to reflect and digest their understanding.
So where does this take me? Ah yes, after a late night tweet with a couple of stalwarts who were digesting over the learning spy’s musings, I eventually came up with a great idea for a meta-learning lesson.
Ready steady cook- the meta-learning way. Ok, so the title needs a bit of work.
For homework, ask each group to watch a clip from YouTube on neuro stuff, lesson planning etc. Add to this, discussion about their favourite/memorable/challenging lessons- what were key features? You could throw in the Ofsted framework if you really want to.. Make notes and share findings in groups. Then… hand out the lesson ingredients!
So inside a plastic bag is a load of ingredients which may or may not come together to make the perfect lesson. Things such as a bottle of instruction from the teacher (decent vintage), a can of ripe discussion, packet of deep reflection,.. you get the idea. Students have to come up with a recipe card, with timings and amount of ingredients and how to use them. Then act out the recipe using a bowl or pan to put the ingredients together. A great thing to film and share at a Staff meeting! Some teachers might find it painful viewing to realise their recipes are not really up to the palettes of their students, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. (I did warn you about the metaphors..)
A few years ago, I worked with the magical Paul Ginnis, training students to become lesson observers- the empowerment it gave those students to understand the structure of effective lessons and what good learning looks like was inspiring, though many staff refused to take part. Allowing students to understand a bit about outstanding lessons,what is needed for effective learning- what ingredients are needed to create michelin star cuisine rather than McDonald’s happy meals can only be a good thing. Teachers too, need to think about their own recipes. How many of us still just open the can and heat it up?