TEACHING TECHNIQUES

Lesson Structure: How to Structure a Class

Contents

  1. How do you plan a well-structured lesson?
  2. What are the 4 As in a lesson plan?
  3. What is the most important part of a lesson plan?

 

We at GoStudent have got you covered as a tutor. With plenty of lesson ideas, tips on how to work with children, and ideas for creative ways to spruce up your tutoring sessions, you’ll never be short of support. Perhaps the most important part of your lesson is its structure. Need some help with how to maximise your session? Let us share all things lesson structure: how to structure a class.gostudent-tutors-teachers-day (2)

How do you plan a well-structured lesson? 

 

Deliberate practice in teaching and tutoring is vital to the success of a lesson or a sequence of lessons. This involves thinking carefully and thoughtfully about the way you want the lesson to go, every step of the way. You are in control! 

Whilst it’s important to leave a little breathing room, for example when a particular activity needs to take a bit longer to move on to the next, the basic structure of the lesson should remain the same. And why is this so important? It’s so your students know what to expect, so they can focus on the learning. 

Gradual release of responsibility

So, how to structure a lesson? Known as the ‘I Do We Do You Do’ model of teaching, the gradual release of responsibility model shows students how to perform a task, and gives them a chance to test it out with support before they go for it themselves. 

By demonstrating, working together, and prompting, then practising independently, the teacher still has a permanent role in the delivery of content but is also able to gradually let the student practice alone. 

Do Now

In this very beginning part of the lesson, there is only one aim: recall. Use this first part of the session to recall previous learning, whether it be through a knowledge quiz, a key terminology test, or a short application of a new concept. 

According to Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction (10 research-based principles of instruction in teaching), this section is incredibly important to be able to move on and build in new learning, as well as to strengthen a child’s long-term memory:

‘Daily review is an important component of instruction. Review can help us strengthen the connections among the material we have learned. The review of previous learning can help us recall words, concepts, and procedures effortlessly and automatically when we need this material to solve problems or to understand new material.’

Pacing in lessons is vital. This section should be short and sweet, ensuring the student can bring back prior learning which will cement in it their long-term memory. Don’t skip it!

I Do

Education involves helping a novice develop strong, readily accessible background knowledge. Now it’s time to teach! 

After your icebreakers and recall, it’s time to present new material in small steps, with clear student practice after each step. 

  • Introduce new material slowly, and in small amounts (consider what they already know) 
  • Use plenty of visual aids in this section, like diagrams, images, and posters
  • Verbally think aloud so students can see the process being modelled to them, and don’t be afraid to say when you make a mistake
  • Ask lots of questions, of varying difficulty and challenge, to check responses from your students consistently (checking for understanding, and reteaching if needed) 
  • Provide clear models throughout (and make sure students are listening when you model them!) 

We Do

The region in our brains that we process information, our working memory, is actually very small. It’s important not to overload it if we’re expecting to learn new and challenging material!

In the We Do phase of learning, the teacher continues to model, question, prompt, and cue students.

As a GoStudent tutor, you have the major advantage of working with students digitally. This means there are plenty of immediate and simple ways to work together on a task with your student. Try sharing a Google doc and typing in real-time and add comments to shared writing, open up a shared Jamboard and make use of the post-it note tool to add on to their growing ideas, or even an online whiteboard function like Miro. 

Whatever online tools you use, remember these key steps:

  • Guide student practise by initially working together
  • Check for understanding as you go, asking students to verbally summarise and explain ideas back to you (so it starts to stay in their longer-term memory!) 
  • Provide and model using clear scaffolds 

This section is all about working together and helping a student gain confidence in their learning, but it is still ultimately led by you. It’s about gradually releasing responsibility as they come to terms with new ideas. 

You Do

Time to see if it all worked! As the students move into the You Do phases, they rely more on themselves and less on the teacher to complete the learning task.

  • Check students are using scaffolds correctly, and take them away where necessary (don’t just set them off alone, they’ll still need to be guided through this initial stage, perhaps through strategies like sentence starters and visible, numbered steps - it’s not a test!)
  • Monitor independent practice very consistently, and correct as you go
  • Ensure students follow up on corrections or where you’ve asked them to go further 
  • Regularly practice independently, or set them the challenge of having a go independently at home, or even teaching someone new!
  • Get creative and provide them with interesting challenges like applying their learning to imagined scenarios

This I Do We Do You Do structure works perfectly for all content areas because it’s repetitive. In Maths, for example, students can watch the steps of a problem performed by the teacher and do not have to worry about writing anything down. 

By listening and watching, they are less likely to miss steps along the way. In English, a teacher can use this time to model planning an idea for a thesis before creating one. 

But no, repetitive does not = boring! It’s essential to have a clear structure to ensure that learning happens, and stays. You can repeat this cycle once (a whole lesson) or multiple times throughout an online lesson, depending on what the learning is that you’re working on. Adapt it to work for you!

 

What are the 4 As in a lesson plan?

 

Similar to Rosenshine’s principles or the I Do We Do You Do structure, the 4-A lesson plan model focuses on four main concepts. Each is necessary for student success, and follows the same guidance of ensuring prior learning is recalled, new material is taught, practice is carried out, and then assessed. 

The four components are: 

  • Activate prior knowledge 
  • Acquire new knowledge 
  • Application 
  • Assessment

We’ve talked a lot about the first three sections above in the I Do We Do You do model, so let’s delve a little deeper into how you can continually assess your students. 

Regular assessment of student learning is imperative for you to be able to plan the next session, week, or month of your time with them. There are several quick and lengthier strategies to use to assess student learning:

  • Ask closed questions, or set quizzes on Seneca to get a programme to do it for you (you can even reset the quiz if the quiz was incomplete or if the answers were below a certain score!)
  • Ask open-ended, higher-order thinking questions (that are properly differentiated for your students)
  • Get students to summarise key ideas 
  • Ask students to use hand signals instead of words (especially useful over Zoom)
  • Require response cards (even just red or green for no or yes)
  • Written tasks that are checked by you or self-checked using clear guidance

 

What is the most important part of a lesson plan?

 

Review. Review. Review. Daily or weekly review is imperative for remembering knowledge, ideas, and concepts for a long time. A perfectly planned, fun, and creative lesson can be a lot of fun (and a great experience!) but the key is to carefully factor in when that knowledge is going to be reviewed.

With the growing demands of external, national assessments like GCSEs, review and recall are more important than ever.

In the lesson itself, the new concept needs to be practised. Right at the start of the lesson (during the Do Now), taking about five to eight minutes to review previously covered material is essential. Continue to find moments in the lesson where this can be practised further! 

Outside of the lesson, homework or home learning is the perfect opportunity to review lesson material before the next lesson and next Do Now. You could also consider doing the following as you review these activities in your sessions and their homework:

  • Correct homework, and consider opportunities for verbal feedback or further practice
  • Review the concepts and skills within the homework, are there common errors? Has the concept been mislearned?
  • Ask students about parts they found difficult 
  • Review material where errors were made 
  • Review material that needs overlearning (this means that newly acquired material and learning need to be practised well beyond the original point, leading to automaticity and mastery)

You want your students to learn, and to learn for life. By factoring and planning in when you are going to review material (rather than cognitively overloading each session with brand new ideas), your students will be able to recall and use new learning from your excellent tutoring for years to come!

 

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