Positive Change

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Education: Lesson Plans

Introduction

Day in and day out, teachers of course use lesson plans to guide their work. By relying on this familiar, and inherently flexible, resource, THI can introduce critical thought about positive change into any subject, from art to biology to history.

We envision a system that takes certain themes and topics and looks at them in different classes, encouraging students to approach issues in different ways.  The first step towards creating this system of lesson plans is evaluating them in an objective manner.  Our outline for doing so appears below.  The second step is to provide educators with links to the best plans out there and with enough initial information to choose among them.  We have created a chart of these plans to allow a point-by-point comparison among them, streamlining the search for new content.

Criteria

In evaluating these plans, we have kept in mind that no single strategy works in all school systems, or even in a majority of schools. As such we have tried to strike a delicate balance here of providing what we consider to be the best educational resources, while still offering enough choice so that teachers may select what will work best in their individual classrooms. 

Our analysis can be boiled down to questions of content and structure. On content, we ask how it relates positive change to subjects already taught in classrooms, focusing on whether it encourages students to think critically about how they can change our world. As for structure, we evaluate how effectively and clearly content is presented, asking if it is done in a manner that is both efficient and adoptable in a wide range of schools.  The outline below presents what we feel to be the best answers to these questions.

Will some teachers find that documents that do not fit this rubric better suit their classrooms? Of course. But hopefully these criteria will aid all educators in deciding what to include in their classrooms.

 

Criteria by individual section of lesson plan

Grade Level

- Content & structure appropriate for expected skill level of targeted grades

- Challenges students while remaining feasible

- Covers two to three grades, facilitating adoption across school systems

Time Requirements

- Total time not in excess of three hours total for flexibility

- Allotted time appropriate for scope of lesson

Subject Overview/

Background

- Subject related to/based on classroom material to build on student knowledge

- Background materials must address new issues of positive change

 

Objective & Goals

- Frames the lesson in terms of theme and questions to be posed to students

- A general goal for all lessons is to engage students in positive change

 

Materials

- Reading materials should be assigned both in class and as homework

- Photographs and videos should be used when available and applicable

Student Activities

- Ideally should center on student discussion/debate of assigned materials

- Alternative activities can be explored as well; group work, writing, or artistic projects all provide alternative means of engaging a subject

- As computer access is not universal, their availability should not be assumed or required by the lesson

Extensions (if time available)

- If extra time is available, in-depth projects can be started. Examples include:  research, structured debate, and connections to other subjects

Evaluation (if necessary)

- Evaluation is not our goal; it is to build student knowledge about positive change

- If it is necessary, evaluation should be based only on participation and engagement in the classroom

Resources

- Easily accessible and includes options for both educators and students

- Resources must be balanced to preserve the objectivity of the lesson

Standards

- Whichever standards are locally applicable, though universal educational standards (such as the new American National CORE) are preferable.

- Standards are not essential to our task as we seek to expand education in new directions

 

Exceptions

This web of lessons can work in all academic disciplines but one:  foreign language.  We do not mean to say that positive change has no place in the study of language, but rather the opposite, that learning a second (or third, etc.) tongue is one of the best ways to expand our understanding of the globe.  This ability is a vehicle for change, in that it emphasizes that all citizens of this globe have a role to play in advancing our global society.  And we encourage a deep commitment to demolishing language barriers.

As lesson plans lack the ability to transform language instruction, they too cannot transform educational systems.  Tailored to work in as many of these systems as possible, they focus on small segments of curricula, when frequently it is the entire academic approach that needs to be changed.  Thankfully, there are thousands of organizations working to transform schools around the world so that they better serve students and we would be remiss if we did not honor their efforts to improve this fundamental engine of human development.

We encourage you to support these groups, which range from the huge grant making power of The George Lucas Educational Foundation to the small, targeted projects of donorschoose.org.

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