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Meet ALDO: Amazing Lesson Design Outline

by Miguel Guhlin
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Ever wish you had an easy-to-follow checklist when designing learning for students? I know I have…often. Some of my colleagues effortlessly design amazing lessons, but I have to plod through each point. But lesson design is something that is critical to ultimate success in the classroom for each student. That’s why I’d like to take a moment to share my latest version of the outline I use. You can also explore this choice board organized with the outline in mind:

As you work through this list, ask yourself, “What schema or plan do I follow?” If you show me your district’s mandated lesson plan format, well, that may not get the job done. At the end of this blog entry, I’ll share a heuristic, a Google Doc, that you can use. I like it because it combines many resources in one place and works to help you more efficiently plan your lesson design.

For now, let’s work through the major components of my Amazing Lesson Design Outline (ALDO). Ready? Let’s get started.

Did You Know?

Robert M. Gagne’s Theory of Instruction (1965) offers some suggestions worth revisiting. He divides instruction into nine events. Those events include 1) Gaining attention; 2) Informing learners of objectives; 3) Stimulating recall of prior learning; 4) Presenting the stimulus; 5) Providing learning guidance; 6) Eliciting performance; 7) Providing feedback; 8) Assessing performance; and, 9) Enhancing retention and transfer. You might also enjoy Mike Schmoker’s Focus: Elevating the Essentials visual  or Madeline Hunter’s version. Some prefer the Gradual Release Model. When considering amazing lesson design, it’s important to remember this is well-traveled ground. Find what inspires you.

1 – Relationships First: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Connections

Image Source: CASEL

“Teachers must place a strong emphasis on rigor, relevance, but most of all, on developing relationships with children,” says Dr. Asa Hiliard, former Director of Urban Studies at Georgia State University. I’ve seen this firsthand. Let me share that with you.

Watching my wife, a masterful second grade teacher, you’d never guess she had an outline. Her lesson design first includes building powerful relationships with her students. It has her finding out what TV shows they like, what they like to eat, their life story, and building connections through an ongoing conversation with her class. She focuses in to connect academic content to specific students. Her approach leaves me in awe. When she asks her students to get to work, they do. When it’s time to behave, they do.

The first part of my lesson design outline? It’s build relationships. As Dr. James Comer (Yale University) says:

No significant learning can occur without a significant relationships of mutual respect, teacher to student.

“Brain-based learning can positively impact student motivation, attitudes and academic achievement,” say researchers. Without relationships, students won’t trust what you have to say. Absent powerful relationships between students, you have no community. And that would be a tragedy because of the next step.

2 – Assessment

As coaches and teachers, we have to, as Dr. John Hattie says, “Know our impact.” If you don’t know where students are, you will be unable to give them feedback on future growth. Worse, students won’t be able to self-regulate their own learning when given feedback. Students have to be clear on what they are to know and do. They have to know where they stand in their own learning relevant to growth.

To gauge where students are in their learning, you need to assess them before, during, and after. And those assessments can be low-stakes. They can tie into a wide variety of strategies that are proven to work, including retrieval practice and spaced vs massed practice. They can also rely on a wide variety of digital tools designed for that purpose.

Tip: You may want to use the SOLO Taxonomy to chart student growth. Learn more about SOLO via this blog entry.

3 – Teaching and Learning

The first step for those savvy with brain-based learning research is to engage students. Once you have figured how to best engage students, give thought to another question.

“What high-impact approaches align to the learning intention?” That’s a question that kept me up and reading. How can we align effective, evidence-based strategies to students’ learning needs? You can find a variety of evidence-based, high-effect size strategies that you can use at the best time.

Remember, only rely on one strategy at a time. For example, don’t try to put in place two teaching strategies like direct instruction and flipped classroom. Pick one. The same for students. Avoid trying to teach students to do concept mapping and outlining at the same time. Focus on one until you and your students can do it really well.

Social Media Response to ALDO

Thanks to those of you on social media who have shared ALDO with others. Here’s what some of you are saying:

Fantastic visual representation of the stages of learning and using a critical lense when creating lesson experiences! I can’t wait to use this with our new Ts as they continue to deepen their thinking abt. teaching/learning. Thx! via Meg Burke

Thank you for this wonderful resource! I’m definitely sharing it with my teachers! After having a coaching conversation this morning with a teacher about her PBL lessons, this is a great resource for deep and transfer teaching/learning with intentional design. TY via Myla Lee

The “Amazing Lesson Design Outline” (ALDO) created by Miguel Guhlin @mguhlin for @TCEA features mountains of terrific teaching strategies intuitively organized. Wow! https://bit.ly/3A99v6M via Todd Finley

Great distinction between Surface, Deep, and Transfer Learning. via LanguageTeachingLab

Did You Know?

Get a guided introduction to Hattie’s work via the TCEA Strategies That Work courses. What’s more, you get powerful videos, a $49 TCEA membership, and CPE hours for the same or less than buying a book. You have fifteen courses to choose from, including the latest Evidence-Based Teaching course.

The Evidence-Based Teaching course provides a detailed walkthrough of the Amazing Lesson Design Outline (ALDO), including the research underpinnings. It’s the perfect way to introduce your instructional coaches, teachers, and administrators to research that works. Participants earn 12 CPE hours, a digital badge, and certificate upon completion.

4 – Assess and Gauge Progress

As you did in Step Two, take a moment to re-assess students. Discover where they are in relation to the learning objective(s). You can rely on existing goals.

ALDOA Cry for Help: I Can’t Form an Online Community

An email request for help came in the other day. My diagnosis? The teachers had not put in place (yet) what they needed to create a sense of community. As a result, it made everything they tried to do difficult. My prescription? Intensify relationship-building efforts with teachers and students. Also, put into place the following tips:

1- Model for teachers social and emotional learning opportunities for virtual classroom use appropriate for the middle school students.

2- Set up criteria, such as a rubric, not as a staff assessment but, for a self-assessment checklist teachers can use when planning lessons. That checklist is the Amazing Learning Design Outline (ALDO) that appears later in this blog entry.

3-Adapt evidence-based strategies to support instruction. For example, this includes direct instruction, jigsaw for introducing concepts and ideas, classroom discussion and/or reciprocal teaching for digging deeper, problem-based teaching, and self-reported grades. Remember, use only one strategy at a time depending on the learning intention.

4-Implement coaching for results. I like Diane Sweeney’s model and suggest you explore the Coaching for Results series (Parts ThreeFour, and Five are relevant here). Diane Sweeney has a handy one-pager that is designed to assist coaches with teacher work. It incorporates formative assessments, including entry/exit tickets.

5 – Reflect

Make sure to take some time to reflect on what worked and what did not for both you and your students. What role did technology play in enhancing teaching and learning? You might also ask yourself, What could I do differently next time? How can I assist students in becoming more metacognitive about their own learning experience?

Remember that reflection isn’t only for you as the teacher. It is also for students to engage in.

Get ALDO, the Amazing Lesson Design Outline

Ready to get the ALDO? Keep it by your side as you are planning a lesson or preparing activities. The links to digital tools and resources will soon become gateways to new ideas.

View the ALDO | Get a Copy


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