In previous posts, we have discussed the concept of Blended Learning and explained how to identify "Core Content." For this post we will look at the basic structure of a Blended lesson. For the purpose of this post, we will define a class as a 45-minute session of instruction. Blended learning lessons follow a traditional instructional format. The difference is where the instructor chooses to place technology elements.
Please note, if you have older or younger students you can modify each individual element to fit your age group. Upper high school and early college age could use core content sessions closer to 30 minutes, while younger middle school students may be closer to 10 to 15 minutes)
Following a basic lesson template helps automate the lesson planning process. This means no more wondering what you are going to do daily. This doesn’t mean you never deviate from this plan, it just gives you a starting point. Special days that involve labs, project and long-term assessments may have individual schedules all their own. The following describes the basic lesson format.
Getting Started: This is meant to engage your students when they walk into your classroom. It answers the basics question “what are we going to do today?” By providing a stimulating activity at the beginning of class, students become engaged in your content right away. These activities can be a variety of different things, from questions to pictures, or videos to interactive websites. The goal is to connect the content to the students.
Core Content: This is the key instructional material you developed in step two. Core content is the essential learning that will take place. The easiest approach here is a standard presentation with a note taking outline. However, with blended learning you have some options. Aside from face to face lecture, you can “bend” these lessons. Meaning you prerecord yourself giving the lecture, then have students watch on their devices. We compare this to flipped learning where they watch videos at home, here, they watch the instruction in class. In addition, readings with study guides can be used here also. My personal favorite is face to face discussion. This is my opportunity to share (briefly) my passion for a topic with my students.
Reinforcement or extension: The goal of this session is to allow students to extend what was discussed or learned in class. Students need to be exposed to content multiple times to facilitate learning. So immediately after learning a concept, ask them to do something with it. Google Interactives are my favorite for this topic. Interactives require students to sort, identify and understand new concepts. Most importantly, while students are working, this provides important dialogue for the instructor to assess understanding.
Closure: This is the last chance to review and reinforce core learning. Students remember the first and last moments of class. This provides a great opportunity to move new learning into long term storage. The key to closure questions is that all students participate. The instructor can decide if they are looking for simple recall or want to reach for a higher level of synthesis.
Keep in mind all of these areas are flexible. The key is providing a structure that students can use technology with a purpose. The teacher can help provide direction on a sliding scale. Younger students will need more structure and goals while advanced older learners can work towards self direction. In the coming weeks we will dig deeper into each lesson area in more detail, providing examples and best practices.
In previous posts we’ve defined blended learning in our previous post. Now we will transition into the process of constructing blended learning lessons. Before designing face to face or digital instruction components, you first have to identify core content for instruction. For planning purposes I break this down into two groups:
1. Core content objectives
2. Core content vocabulary
Core content objectives are a written narrative of the essential learning in the lesson. What should students know, be able to say and do. Be sure to identify any key process in lesson content. Also, be aware of any higher learning goals your students need to achieve. For example, if a student needs to evaluate, synthesize or create, they must understand the underlying concrete concepts first. This is a mistake educators often make, trying to reach a higher learning level without first establishing a solid core content base. For example, you must understand the concept of atoms, to fully understand what H20 means.
The next component is to identify core vocabulary. This is extremely important when students are reading about a topic and trying to learn new materials. Aside from the obvious new words, be sure to include review vocabulary and materials students should have learned in previous courses. For example, when teaching about Earthquakes, it would be natural to include faults and fault types as basic vocabulary. However, underlying this concept would be the layers of the Earth, heat and movement of tectonic plates. These interwoven concepts are where exceptional teachers make effective lessons. Ensuring that students not only understand the basics of an idea but can confidently talk about all supporting concepts.
After identifying core content and vocabulary, it’s time to plan your assessments. Objective tests come to mind at this phase. Consider each important idea and be sure that several objective items address the concepts. Projects and hands on activities are another way for students to demonstrate their grasp of new materials. It is not necessary to have every question written at this step, but you should have an outline with some sample items to guide your instruction.
This part of the planning phase is often the most cumbersome. Many educators want to jump into lesson and activity planning. By taking the extra time to identify content, you will ensure that both your physical and digital content matches your assessments.
In the next lesson we will be looking at structuring and constructing blended learning lessons.
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