The focus of my school experience critical reflection is the effect of lesson plan on classroom management. As a trainee teacher I identified from my first placement that, pupils rarely responded positively to some of my lessons which I had spend a lot of time preparing. Work was often incomplete and pupils seemed easily distracted, resulting in frequent disruptive behaviour in the classroom. These comments were echoed by my subject tutor during her visit. (See appendix1 Observation). It became clear that there was a link between my lesson plan and classroom management, a view supported by Reynolds and Muijs (2001) who offer an excellent review of studies into teacher effectiveness and concluded that the main factors influencing pupils' performance are: the opportunity to learn and time on-task, (time on-task is strongly influenced by classroom management, which creates the conditions under which high-quality teaching and learning can occur). Unsurprisingly, the main research findings on classroom management refer to the following areas: starting the lesson; seating arrangements; establishing clear rules and procedures; maintaining momentum during the lesson and ending the lesson, all of which point to proper lesson planning.
Reflecting from above, it became very clear that in other to move forward particularly in my second placement, I had to do an entire review of my lesson plan and incorporate strategies to have control over my classroom. My teaching and training plan for SE2 centred on lesson planning and classroom management. My action plan even included a lesson plan check list. (See appendix2, appendix3, appendix4)
For a successful lesson,
pupils have to be clear about what is to be learned & how it fits in with what they know already and the structure of the lesson,
be actively engaged in their learning process so that they can make their own meaning, be able to work independently when required to do so,
use assessment to help them to improve and
Be confident that they can succeed because the right conditions for learning prevail. (DFES, 2004)
Resolving the issues
Putting this into practice and the ideas in my teaching plan as well as support from my mentor, I began implementing this in my year 7 and 9 class. I chose to signal this 'new start' by rearranging tables and insisting on a deliberate seating plan and learning the names of all my students. I also arranged the tables in a double horseshoe rather than in groups. (Thankfully the class teacher and mentor were very supportive).This seating arrangement was made in such a way that I could see all pupils, thus enabling me to identify when pupils are losing concentration and intervened to refocus them. (Appendix5: seating plans for year 7Ab and 9Ab). My mentor always advised me to stand behind the class and observe the group when they were on a task (Appendix 6: lesson plan evaluation). In my first series of lessons for year 8, I used the 'What I'm looking for' (WILF) stem to help me remember the learning objectives and success criteria whenever I started an activity. All my lessons now have a starter which is either linked to the day's lesson or the previous one and they have really helped in settling the class. (appendix7: extract from reflective journal) The promise of a game at the end motivates pupils and contributes to the pace during lesson. Telling pupils how long each activity would last helped them to stay focused. This was particularly true for the teacher-led phase in which I introduced new material. Again, timing helps to inject a sense of pace. Loop games, follow me cards etc, each containing a question and the answer to another question - require preparation, but they do encourage pupils to work together and listen to each other at the same time as reinforcing knowledge
Next steps and setting future targets
Reflecting on my experience observing and teaching so far, I have learnt that lessons should have a clear structure and be well planned to help pupils understand the content of the lesson and its relationship to what they already know (Appendix 9: lesson observation). Reynolds and Muijs (2001) have shown that effective lessons use starters which review and practise what was learned during the previous lesson. This allows the teacher to find out what pupils remember of the content of previous lessons, and to identify what needs to be reviewed in further detail before moving to other learning contexts (Appendix 8: excepts from reflective journal). The objectives of the lesson should be made clear to pupils from the onset, with examples such as 'today we are going to learn about â€¦', or through writing the objectives on the board or on a flipchart.
During the lesson, the teacher needs to emphasise the key points of the lesson, which may otherwise get lost in the whole process. The teacher also needs to plan for review points and differentiation. At the end of the lesson the main points should once again be summarised, either by the teacher or, preferably, by the pupils themselves, perhaps by asking the pupils what they have learned during the lesson. (Appendix7 excerpts from reflective journal on plenary)
Teachers should also do well to explain such demanding topics using a variety of methods & different teaching styles,(See appendix10:lesson observation) in order to help pupils with different learning styles ( Brophy 1992;) and material should be presented in small steps pitched at the pupils' level, which are then practised before going on to the next step. This allows pupils to gain a sense of mastery over the content and will stop them getting bored or losing the trend of the lesson. (Rosenshine and Stevens 1986)
I have also learnt that successful management of pupil's behaviour in the classroom does not lie simply in applying a menu of strategies; it requires the application of the best pedagogy and practice and an appreciation of the values and beliefs which lie behind the school's ethos. The most effective element in reducing classroom disruption and off-task pupil behaviour is the teacher's fundamental skills of planning. Kounin (1977) found that what teachers did in anticipation and in their planning was far more effective than their reactions to events and incidents. Pupils are more likely to engage in learning and not engage in off-task activities if the lesson is well planned and the teacher has high expectations and makes them clear, applies rules, routines, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly, uses the language of mutual respect, avoids over-reaction and confrontation; deploys a range of techniques and strategies adopts a positive approach to problem solving.