Have you looked around your classroom lately? No matter your population, there is a tremendous amount of variability or diversity that exists. Some differences are obvious and others are not so obvious; however, the one constant is that variability is the rule – not the exception. How can you design effective lesson plans that meet the needs of your students? I often incorporate a simple acronym called POP, which stands for Predict, Overcome, and Plan, to help guide me.
When I start thinking about a lesson plan, I begin to predict the high-probability barriers that my students will face within the lesson. For example, I thought about the challenges my students would face in a simple reading assignment. Robert Marzano has stated that “the achievement gap is largely a vocabulary gap.” Many of my students struggle with understanding basic vocabulary terms, which makes it difficult to read a text. The physical text could pose problems because students with visual difficulties or mobility issues could have difficulty reading from a handout.
After I have predicted barriers, I look for ways to overcome high-probability barriers by frontloading instruction with scaffolds and supports. In other words, what tools could I provide my students with to successfully meet the requirements of the lesson without lowering my expectations?
To meet the challenges of vocabulary, I use a free flashcard generator called Quizlet to pre-teach vocabulary terms contained within the article. As students are reading the article, they can visit the website or app to revisit the meaning of each term. What about the vocabulary terms that we did not cover? I often provide my students with a visual dictionary called Blanchan Shahi, which combines the power of text definitions with pictures from Yahoo, Flickr, and Google images.
To meet the challenges of reading a physical handout, I often provide my students with options (when appropriate) to read the text. Students can read from the handout, a PDF copy of the text, or use a free program called Audacity to generate an audio copy of the text. You may ask, how do you have the time to create an audio version of the text? I don’t! When students finish assignments early, I often have them record their voice reading an article. I now have an entire library of articles with help from my students!
After I have identified potential high-probability barriers and provided strategies to overcome these challenges, I begin planning my lesson to meet the needs of my students. I may not be able to predict every single barrier that could possibly occur in a lesson; however, brain science is showing us that there are predictable differences in the way that students perceive information, demonstrate understanding, and engage with content.
Do you want to see my lesson in action? Check out my brief video for more details:
Matt Bergman is a former classroom teacher with over twelve years of experience working in public and private schools. He is currently a technology integration coach at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, PA. Matt shares his ideas on technology integration and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) through his blog called Learn-Lead-Grow.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, Allie Holzman.