Although every lesson is different, most lesson plans include similar elements. The basic lesson format used in our classroom consists of several steps (the Madeline Hunter model):
1. Anticipatory Set: A short activity or discussion which sets the mood for the lesson’s objective. It also activates students’ prior knowledge of a topic. Instead of, “Open your books to page 90,” the Anticipatory Set involves the learner personally, has the learner actively participate, and states the goal of the lesson clearly.
Example: “Pretend it is winter and snow is falling. What are some activities you can picture yourself enjoying? Tell your partner one thing you like to do in the winter. Now pretend it is summer. Are you doing those same activities? Tell your partner one thing you like to do in the summer.
What causes the seasons to change? An old myth says the seasons are caused by a woman who lives in the woods. Every three months she changes her clothes. In the spring her clothes are bright and flowery, in the summer her clothes are green, in the fall they are orange and red and yellow, and in winter they are, you guessed it, white. Today we are going to learn why the seasons really change.”
2. The Objective and Its Purpose: Before the lesson begins, students are told what they will know or do by the end of the lesson, and why. Most often the objective is included in the Anticipatory Set. Or, the objective is stated and students must determine why such learning is important to them.
Example: “Today we will learn how to alphabetize words to the third letter. But why is that important? When do we need to be able to locate information alphabetically? With your partner, list the ways or places in which alphabetical order is important...” (phone books, files, dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, etc.).
3. Instructional Input: The teacher, after identifying the learner’s present level of understanding, provides new information.
Example: “Yesterday we discussed how to regroup to make ones into tens. Today, we will do a similar operation as we make tens into hundreds. There are five steps to this process. The good news is, you already know the first three. Watch and listen as I solve this problem...”
4. Modeling: The teacher provides an oral description as well as a “picture,” or visual representation, of the finished product. The learner therefore observes the process and the product of the desired learning.
Example: “So, now that I have several pictures cut out, I have to decide, ‘To which food group does each belong?’ Using the chart we created earlier, I begin placing the foods in the appropriate columns. Where should this go? Why? What about this one? Why? ... Then when they’re all placed, I discuss my reasons with a partner before I glue them down. Rachel, pretend you’re my partner...”
5. Check for Understanding: By questioning, the teacher determines if students understand the new skill or content. The student might answer by signaling, choral response, etc.
Example: “When I point to a word in the sentence, give me thumbs up if it is a noun. Give me thumbs down if it is not a noun.”
Example: “So what do we do first?” (Student answers). “Correct. We choose one character from the story and write that name where? (Another student responds). Yes, on the space above the diagram. Then what?”
6. Guided Practice: Before assigning independent practice the teacher circulates during this initial practice to see if students have caught on. This is also called group practice, and is sometimes done with a partner. Students can often correct one another and “struggle” through to a better understanding.
Example: “On your slates, solve this problem: 35 plus 6. Go. (Students work and hold up their answers). I see correct answers. However, I see that some of you did not show me, above the tens column, the number of tens you regrouped. I must see that in your work. Erase and try this one...”
7. Independent Practice: Written and/or other work is assigned once students are able to use new skills with little confusion. Homework is often independent practice, which students should be able to accomplish with little or no difficulty.
Example: “You seem to understand the difference between solids and liquids. On your own, list ten of each on the two-column chart we created earlier.”
Example: “We did well on those problems. On your own, choose any eight problems from page 34 and solve them on this paper. Try to solve some of the harder ones.”
Not every lesson incorporates all seven steps, and sometimes the seven steps make take place over the course of two or more lessons.