Every teacher uses the textbook differently, customizing it to match students' needs, the teacher's personality and teaching style, program expectations within the building, and local, state, and national standards. The process outlined below is just one way to work from the textbook, but will hopefully give you a place to begin.



See the end of the page for a summary checklist of all these ideas.



Key Questions to Ask



Selecting the Content

  • Who are our students?
  • What compels them?
  • What matters to them?

Structuring the Content

  • How will you capture learners' interest and attention?
  • What are learners likely to know already about these materials? How will you activate prior knowledge?
  • How will you help learners to make sense of the content?
    • What do learners need to know before they work with these materials?
    • What misconceptions or misunderstandings are learners likely to have about these materials?
    • What will you need to "unpack" in order to facilitate understanding?
    • How will you structure, sequence, and package the content?

  • How will you help learners to make meaning from the content?
    • How will you engage them in thinking deeply about the content?
    • How will you engage their feelings?
    • How will you connect the content with their personal experiences?

  • How will you actively involve learners with the content?
  • How will you support the development of language skills?
  • How will you give learners opportunities to show that they know?

Sequencing & Scaffolding the Content

  • Pre-: What do learners need to know BEFORE they work with the content? How will you prepare them for each activity?
  • During: What will LEARNERS do with the content? How will you scaffold it? external image msword.png Activity Plan Scaffolding Template.doc
  • Post: What will learners do AFTER they have interacted with the content?
  • Closure Activities: How will you help learners to summarize, reflect, connect, extend, and preview?
  • Assessment: How will evaluate learners' understanding so that you can make informed decisions about what to do next?





Objectives


Before you ever begin planning, you should determine what you want students to know and be able to do when they finish the chapter and state that information in the form of objectives. The objectives you determine should reflect national, state, and local standards, and should be aligned with your district's curriculum (which may be based on a textbook, or a more general document that establishes content guidelines and benchmarks for student performance which may or may not be connected to the district's most recent textbook adoption).

If you are using a textbook, one place to begin writing objectives is to look at the end of chapter exams, the chapter quizzes, and other performance-based assessments that come with the text. Without even looking at the chapter first, what do those materials tell you that students must be able to do? Your answer to that question will determine the substance of your objectives.

Assessment Level


Next, you should think about how you will evaluate whether or not students have successfully met the objectives you have established. Will you assign a project-based assessment or ask students to complete the exams that come with your textbook, etc.? What kinds of experiences do you think students will need in order to prepare them to successfully complete the assessment task(s) you have identified?

With these end goals in mind (your final assessment and the experiences students will need to prepare them for it), you are ready to begin looking at the chapter.

Chapter Level


1) Identify (i.e., make a list) of the key components of the chapter (from the textbook's perspective). You will probably want to include:

  • Communication Skills
  • Cultural Topics
  • Grammar Points
  • Pronunciation Goals
  • Study Skills
  • Vocabulary Topics

Textbooks are often written by teams of people, each working on a different part. This means that the activities within a lesson or a chapter may not always be complete or well-sequenced, and that sometimes the activities in the ancillary materials do not support the textbook very well (or vice versa). This is where you must begin to exercise your professional judgment as a teacher.

Using a table or matrix can help you begin to identify how well the activities in the text support one another and align with your objectives.

#
Objectives
Grammar Topics
Vocabulary Topics
Language Skills
Cultural Topics
Pronunciation Skills
Study Skills
1







2







3







4









Activity Level


2) Read through each activity CAREFULLY and ask yourself these 5 "P" questions, jotting down anything you notice on a Post-it and stick it next to the activity:

  • Purpose - Why do you think the textbook authors included this particular activity? How do you think they intended for it to support students in developing their language skills? Do you think the activity accomplishes its purpose?

  • Prior Knowledge - What would students need to know and what skills would they have to possess in order to experience success with this activity?

  • Pre-Reading/Listening/Viewing - What would students need to do BEFORE this activity in order to ensure that they experienced success with it?

  • Problems (or Misconceptions) - Is there anything missing from this activity? What problems or difficulties do you think students might have as they try to complete the activity?

  • Possibilities - Can you think of other activities you know that would accomplish this purpose better than the one in the textbook?

Lesson Level


3) Now examine the chapter or lesson as a whole, using the following questions:

  • Pertinence - (Cover) - Are there any activities that seem like a waste of time to you? Are there any activities that you know you cannot do with your students (for whatever reason)? Cover those up with a Post-it.

  • Priorities - (Star) - Which of the remaining activities are essential in helping students make progress in the language? (Put a Post-it with a star next to those.)

  • Pacing - (Time) - How much time will each activity take? Mark that on its Post-it.

  • Put in Order - (Number) - Does the order of the activities make sense (in terms of progressively scaffolding students' language development)? If not, put a small Post-it next to each activity (use a different color from the ones you used in #2) and then on the Post-its, number the activities in the order that makes the most sense to you.

  • Plan - Now, given this information, try to think about how the ancillary materials that come with the textbook (such as CDs, paired activities, videos, workbooks, etc.) might fit with the textbook and help fill in some of the gaps in the lesson.

4) Can you think of a context around which you could organize the lesson that would help the lesson "hang together" better? (Often, the textbook chapter's vocabulary list and/or cultural content will provide a helpful clue.)

Chapter Level (Again)


Now it is time to think about the chapter as a whole.

5) Hardest - Which components will take students longest to master? (Usually, I would recommend teaching the hardest stuff as early in the chapter so students can have daily practice on it throughout the chapter.)

6) Easiest/Least Important - Which components are easier or less important for students to master? (In other words, are there items in the chapter that, if not mastered, will not keep students from being understood by native speakers?) These are the items you should teach last and spend the least amount of time on.

7) Future Chapters - If you are having trouble deciding how to divide up the time you have, look in the next chapter to see what students will need to understand well in order to understand what is coming up next.

Once you have a strong sense of what the chapter is asking students to do, why, and how you might divide up your time, you are ready to do the actual planning! These questions will help:

  • What will I omit?
  • What will I teach?
  • In what order will I teach it? (Chapter Level)
  • What ancillaries will I use and in what order? (Lesson Level)
  • What will I need to replace or add (in terms of teacher-created materials)? (Activity Level)
  • What will I need to adapt in order to better meet the needs of each particular class? (Learning styles, personalities, special needs, etc.)

This template will also help:




Supplementing the Text


As you plan, you'll want to think about activities you have done in the past that are similar to (but better than) the textbook activities in accomplishing your objectives for the chapter. Often, the textbook activities make great "pre-" activities that prepare students for the supplemental activities you might prefer to use.

Also, don't feel compelled to constantly come up with new things. Take advantage of the ancillary materials that come with the text! Depending on your text, some of those materials are excellent! (For example, I have had great success with many of the paired activities from Bravo, Dime, and Paso a Paso. Bravo and Paso a Paso also have very nice graphic organizers that accompany each chapter, along with some outstanding workbook materials. Juntos has a great realia kit and many good textbook and workbook activities, but I didn't care much for their paired activities. Ditto for the French and German materials--although I obviously have less experience with those.)

Don't Forget the Students!


Now, when you are all done, ask yourself Helena Curtain's famous question, "Why should this matter to students?" Take advantage of every little opportunity to make the lessons in the chapter emotionally engaging, intellectually satisfying, personally meaningful, and physically comfortable. In other words, ask yourself about the following 5 factors:

  • DOING - How will these plans engage students' bodies (hands)?
  • THINKING - How will these plans engage students' heads?
  • FEELING - How will these plans engage students' hearts?
  • MEANING - How will these plans engage students' values?
  • COMPELLING - Have I planned activities based on what I want to teach, or compelling experiences based on what students need and want to learn?





Summary


Objectives


1) What should students know and be able to do when they finish the chapter?

Assessment Level


2) How will you assess whether or not students have mastered the objectives you have chosen?
3) What experiences will students need to prepare them to be successful on the chapter assessment?

Chapter Level


4) What are the key components of the chapter?

Activity Level


5) Ask yourself about the following five elements of each activity: purpose, prior knowledge, "pre-" activities, problems, and possibilities

Lesson Level


6) Ask yourself about the following five elements of each lesson: pertinence, priorities, pacing, put in order, plan

7) Can you think of a context around which you could organize the lesson that would help the lesson "hang together" better?

Chapter Level (Again)


8) What are you going to teach and in what order?
  • What will I omit?
  • What will I teach?
  • In what order will I teach it? (Chapter Level)
  • What ancillaries will I use and in what order? (Lesson Level)
  • What will I need to replace or add (in terms of teacher-created materials)? (Activity Level)
  • What will I need to adapt in order to better meet the needs of each particular class? (Learning styles, personalities, special needs, etc.)

Student Level


9) How will you engage students?
  • DOING - How will these plans engage their bodies?
  • THINKING - How will these plans engage their heads?
  • FEELING - How will these plans engage their hearts?

10) Why will this matter to students?
  • MEANING - How will these plans engage their values?
  • COMPELLING - Have I planned activities based on what I want to teach, or compelling experiences based on what students need and want to learn?



See also: Curriculum Development, First Days of School, For Beginning Teachers, Instructional Strategies, Proficiency, Review Games, Service Learning, Special Needs, Staying in the Target Language, Substitutes, Teaching Culture, Teaching & Learning Styles, Textbooks,
21st Century Technologies



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