Monday, January 28, 2008

Work Flow, Lesson Design, And Differentiation

When I started teaching I used to dread the mundane task of filling out the lesson or unit plan sheet: numbering the objectives, making sure they aligned with state standards, spelling out student objectives, breaking down the activities by calendar, tweaking the rubric to align with everything I just listed, and so on. It seemed to take away from the natural flow of a unit or lesson. And nobody really check on that stuff anyway, except when I put in three years of weeknights to get my "professional" teaching certificate.

A luxury of teaching at an independent school is I you really feel independent in the way I craft lessons. I no longer fill in numbers from a grid of skills and standards. Instead, I try to create as flexible and dynamic of a learning environment as I can, and I look to capitalize on the teachable moments. Not to mention, I have time to work with students individually during the school day. All this sounds great. In fact, I remember saying to myself and to some colleagues from the public school where I began my career that all of the excuses and reasons for students not being able to achieve were non-existent here.

Yet a simple word has changed the kind of attention I'm now paying to lesson design. The word, the title of this post, is work flow (is it one word or two?) I've heard it before but I'm hearing it a lot more now from laptop vendors, software companies, and teachers, and I'm starting to use it myself because, well, it flows. It just a way to define how we work, how we take and idea and turn it into a product. Very appropriate for 21st century learning since it's more about producing. I find myself talking about products: digital assets, learning objects.

Next move, I examine my own work flow. I think it's pretty standard. I have a small moleskin cahier that I carry everywhere. In it, I make lists and webs and brainstorms (I get the graphed paper). Then I have my notebook where lists become prose, then my blog, slideshow, word-processed document. Couple this with the results of my Strength Finder 2.0, and my work flow makes a lot of sense for how I think and my areas of strength. And as I think about the kinds of lessons that I create, they all follow the same framework as my personal work flow.

This is where I find myself as I write units in the second semester. How can I understand my students' work flows and write assignments that allow them to engage in a successful process? Are there steps that need to be in everybody's work flow? How should this affect the way I deliver information?

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