Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teaching Ideas for Longer Lessons in High School

English: Seymour, CT, September 24, 2008 -- Hi...
Teaching and Learning
by Richard D Boyce

This is the second of two articles on long lessons.

Long lessons of over one hour have been introduced to increase timetable efficiency in some educational authorities.

This article is about how best to use the time available. There are some negatives with longer lessons.

1. A teacher can't 'ad lib' in lessons with any success.

2. There will be fewer teaching periods per week - three instead of perhaps five.

3. There will be less opportunity to set homework.

4. A student's absence from the lesson means he/she misses a significant percentage of the class time for that week.

5. Many students find it difficult to concentrate for long periods of time.

Consequently, lessons must be well planned to give students the best opportunity to learn. On the positive site, the longer time allows the teacher the opportunity to use a greater variety of pedagogy. This will have a positive effect on those students who learn in different ways. Below is a list of the different ways you can use this extra time.

• Practical lessons;
• Short excursions;
• Teach and assess a small unit;
• Use computers, software, internet and hands-on material;
• Watch a video, film, DVD;
• Use the library;
• Give regular revision quizzes in the middle and lower secondary classes;
• Group discussion;
• Co-operative learning;
• Break the class into different ability groups to give more specialised support/teaching;
• Conduct surveys;
• Check individual's progress on assessment tasks, homework and have one on one discussion with the student;
• Experiment with a variety of teaching approaches/strategies;
• Teach a whole topic thoroughly from go to whoa;
• Break the lesson into two parts and teach two topics;
• Set a variety of homework tasks in an effort to create recency/frequency aspects of learning;
• Team teach with two or more classes with individual teachers using each other's expertise to enhance the interest and learning of their classes.
• Have a guest speaker/teacher talk or teach a number of classes assisted by the other class teachers;
• Administer assessment tasks (both traditional and non-traditional);
• Groups of short exercises such as seen in Brain Gym can be used to create whole brain learning;
• Mentoring/peer tutoring. Giving help to the less able and absentee students on their return;
• Give regular, short, sharp problem solving/critical thinking exercises;
• Guided internet research;
• Model for your class verbally how you would solve or approach an exercise or an exam question;
• Students conduct class surveys; do report writing or library research;
• Do last lesson review of work to be tested just prior to the assessment being done.

In shorter lessons, it is difficult to find the time to teach some, if not all, of the skills listed below to a satisfactory level. Lip service is often the best that can be done. The long lesson gives the opportunity to develop these skills and teach a new topic at the same time. Below are listed skills that a teacher must consider teaching to his/her students. It is, by no means an exhaustive list, simply a guide to get you started.

• Core/basic skills of your subject discipline
• Concentration skills
• Communication skills
• Listening skills
• Problem Solving/Critical Thinking
• Creative Thinking
• Dictionary skills
• Logical Decision Making
• Homework skills
• Study skills
• Calculator skills
• Computer skills
• Concept of a solution/argument/essay
• Text book skills
• Preparing physically for each lesson
• Examination skills
• Cooperative learning skills
• Organisational skills

Finally, you will need to remember these issues if you are to use the longer lesson time effectively.

No one can teach effectively for 60 or more minutes without a break. No student can concentrate for that period. Therefore, long lessons must be broken into parts preferably using different teaching strategies and not more of the same. The length of the parts will depend on the age and interest of your class.

Plan each lesson very carefully making sure you have extra activities or lesson ideas to use up the whole time.

Afternoon lessons require frequent changes especially with young or disinterested classes. The lesson must contain many activities during hot summer afternoons in particular.

Include a short five minute break in the middle of the lesson not so much as a reward for hard work but simply as a time to allow them to revive their spirits to begin again. Make sure your class realises that this is a privilege not a right and one which can be removed at any time.

You will need a strategy to allow absent students to catch up.You may simply give a quick review followed by handing out printed notes and worksheets. When a student is absent from a class where notes and work sheets are used, write down the names of the absentees on these sheets to hand out next lesson.

Our author has a career in the classroom of over 45 years. In that time, he worked with teaching period lengths that varied from 35 minutes up to 70 minutes. In the last ten years of his permanent career as a Head of Mathematics, he had to implement, with his staff, a 70 minute teaching period.

Later, other schools invited him to provide a workshop on the best way for them to implement the longer teaching period. The contents of that workshop and his experience in implementing the 70 minute period are what this article and "The Young Teacher's Guide to Longer Lessons" contains. For further ideas on other classroom issues, go to

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