Lesson Plans, Maps, Journeys


Lesson Plans, Maps, Journeys

1 Jul ’12 Teaching 0

A rather busy week has meant I was sifting through a ladened Google Reader. For the most part it is a headline filtering although I find myself clicking through, digging deeper into more posts these days. This weekend a ‘lesson planning’ theme caught my attention (here and here) after my mid week, thoughtfully planned (barely) ‘satisfactory’ lesson left me ‘disasspointed, sorely disappointed,’ and questioning (common place) lesson planning process, again.

Here is the situation. Teaching PSRE for the first time in my career, I try to be diligent in my preparation and it is my nature to try and make lessons as active as possible. I thought I had constructed a thorough Yr9 lesson on the given theme of ‘remembrance.’ I thought I had planned, timed, and prepared the lesson well, perhaps even a little more than usual being the introduction to ‘Remembrance.’

Origami starter (with some learning)

The lessons starter with an origami task, a hook for later on in the lesson. Students entered the room with 3 or 4 coloured A4 sheets each, laid out on their desks, a handful of rulers on each desk to help students create squares from the A4 rectangles.

With both a flash animation (live website PowerPoint plugin) and YouTube ‘how to’ video at the ready to support student progress. I reluctantly assigned a generous (at least that is what I thought) 20 minutes to the task, with a series of posted question prompts to point to as we were working. Why cranes? Why multi coloured paper? Why so many? In truth, it was only three sheets per student, three cranes per student, but I had hoped we would be able to leave a origami border around whiteboard for the classroom teacher to return to.

Main Tasks

Task 1: I had created a YouTube playlist and planned to show the students the historical context to Hiroshima (Hiroshima Atomic Bomb, 1945 – A Day That Shook The World). I had read up on the topic, prepared for students questions and had a handful of truth or false statements to transfer into the exercise books.

Task 2: Next was a virtual trip to Hiroshima courtesy of Google’s World Wonders Project, photos of the amazing remembrance shrine made from thousands of cranes.

Task 3: The 1000 cranes fable and the 2000 crane Sadako Sasaki story.


I planned to see what else students knew about remembrance and to revisit the WALT questions before students had to re-tell the Sadako Sasaki story to their partner. I even tagged some additional videos to the playlist, just in case a few students were inspired.

What Happened Next

Think Question of Sport. Run VT. Students walk in, see paper and rules and they are immediately curious. They start picking and trading colours before the camera cuts to the teacher (me). I take a step forward, welcome the students and share that the first task is practical, that it is origami and that are first task is to create a square from the A4 sheets….’ and then the VT pauses.

What I did not plan for was a) for those students to not know how to create square from their A4 sheet and b) for so many of them to give up so easily on the step by step animation tutorial.

‘I can’t do it,’ was sadly the most overused student comment. Nearly as overused as ‘Learning is what you do, when you don’t how to do it.’

We eventually got to three squares (although some were rather tatty) but the animation was a road block. Even when I demoed how to do it at the tables, students wanted me to use their sheet to demo, and were angry when I unfold my work, so that they themselves could do it. Of course they now had the creases now scored in.

Nearly 40 minutes into the lesson I brought this ‘starter’ activity to a close with just twenty completed cranes, over half created by just two students who acted as coaches for their peers, after they had completed their prescribed three cranes.

I showed the main historic video and move swiftly onto the images of the cranes at the memorial site, having insufficient time to tell the story of Sasaki and why the cranes were there in the first place. We didn’t even get any where near the Google World Wonders Project.

Of course, there is an argument that the task was too difficult (really?) or that the sequencing of tasks was erroneous. I mean, it may have been more motivating to show the video first, but I honestly do not think that it would have made that much difference. I just honestly didn’t expect to have experienced the practical difficulties that I did. The hook just didn’t bait the fish or I need to order origami sheets?

In reflecting on the lesson planning process – I really felt that the lesson plan could have worked, it may well work given a second outing. As you would expect from an experienced teacher, I felt that I have covered the vast majority of the points David Didau’s list however 75% of the lesson plan was not taught because of an “unknown – unknown.” There was a lot of learning going on, sadly, most of it mine; before and during the lesson.

Maybe we will make poppies next year.

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