#1: Avoid packaged and scripted curricula.

Responsive teaching means that we must take into consideration that each child may have a different way of processing new information.  Quite often, we utilize different teaching styles based on the content being taught and resources to support teaching and learning. Curriculum publishers create educational content for teachers to support the implementation of a one-size-fits-all approach to unit plans, but these pre-packaged curricula generally do not allow for responsive instructional techniques. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all model, create a standards-based unit plan to address the needs of your students.

#2: Before writing lesson plans for the new school year, map out the student experience you want to curate.

It’s great to feel excited about creating content for your lesson plans, but be sure you avoid putting the cart before the horse. For each standards-based unit of study, you should:

  • Define objectives — What standards and content do your students need to learn by the end of this unit? 
  • Find resources — What materials, activities, teaching, and learning strategies can you use to support your instructional unit of study?
  • Create a sequence — How will students build their skills over-time based on the standards and content that they will learn in this unit of study?
  • Consider student needs — What additional resources and support do you need to support students who are just learning to speak English, students with special needs, students without common resources at home, and with other unique needs?

Once you have laid the groundwork for your lesson plan, the writing can begin.

#3: Consider how you can differentiate, intervene, or accelerate to address the needs of all students.’

As we mentioned before, each student comes to your classroom with a unique set of skills, prior knowledge about each academic concept, and the ability to grasp new concepts quickly. Using the instructional strategies of differentiation, intervention supports or acceleration, your students can engage in tasks appropriate for their current skill level. You can group students based on their abilities in a particular subject area and provide appropriate activities for each group.

#4: Find instructional methods which encourage students to learn independently and from one another.

Outside of school, students can’t depend on teachers to provide answers to all their questions or solutions to all their problems. Prepare your students for the world outside the classroom by helping them develop critical thinking skills, as well as the skills needed to work with others to find solutions. Here are some instructional strategies which promote independent learning:

  • Cooperative learning — Students learn from one another through small group and whole classroom activities. For example, students may complete science experiments in pairs, play a Pictionary-style game using vocabulary words in small groups, and engage in “popcorn reading” as a class.
  • Inquiry-based instruction — Students learn about academic concepts by answering questions about topics they have researched and thinking deeply as well as critically about the content learned through engaging classroom discussions and debates. For example, you may ask students to answer questions such as “How could we tell the difference between a one-dimensional and two-dimensional figure?” and “What decision do you think our book’s main character should make in the next chapter?”

#5: Find instructional methods which immerse students in the curriculum with practical experiences.

Answer the question “When am I ever going to use this?” before your students have the chance to ask it! Here are some instructional techniques you can use to help students achieve a deeper understanding of classroom topics:

  • Visualization — Students personally experience academic concepts which may be difficult to grasp simply through reading about them. For example, a mathematics word problem relating to geometry may be easier to understand when students sketch out the shapes described in the problem. Check out some more examples of visualization techniques from Reading Rockets.
  • Technology in the classroom — Students engage with learning topics in real time with interactive technology. You may be able to use a SmartBoard to have students draw graphs, use mobile devices to take photos of each step in a science experiment, or let students make videos about cultures around the world.

#6: Consider how you can reward positive behaviors in the classroom.

Disruptive students distract you from instruction and may tempt you to redirect attention away from high achievers who crave recognition. With a behavior management strategy, you can find ways to reward students for engaging in coursework and following behavioral expectations. For example, you may use a reward chart with younger students, allowing them to earn points for positive behaviors. With older students, you may reward them with opportunities to play educational games at the end of class if they work hard on their assignments.

#7: Don’t forget about your own professional development!

New research, evidence-based practices, policies, technology, and resources may become available in the field of education. Instead of stumbling along on your own to find solutions to classroom challenges, schedule time and seek out resources to continue developing your skills through the next school year. We regularly post content on our blog highlighting best practices and professional development resources, and we would love to work with your school to schedule individual coaching or more in-depth supportive services to transform your work. Learn more about the consulting solutions we offer at CSAS.

The Center for Student Achievement Solutions provides technical assistance, professional development, and coaching support to create equitable and inclusive classroom environments.  

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