Lots of times, I get teachers and administrators that come in to watch me teach and I almost always get the same question: where do I get the ideas for my crazy lessons? The students I teach are almost always engaged (there are plenty of “off” days though – especially this time of the year). Usually, we’re going into great depth in the topics we’re covering. So, where do these ideas come from, and how can you spark some fresh new ideas of your own?
One of the first things I like to remind myself is to never stop learning.
We are the models for our students! How can we expect them to be life-long learners and risk-takers if we do not model that for them? So I’m constantly looking for experiences and activities that I can use in my classroom. If there’s an interesting online course or resource that I think would apply to my classroom, I’ll take it! Twitter has become a HUGE tool that I use. When I attend #edchat nights on Tuesdays or #artsed nights on Thursdays, I feel like I get to attend a grad class for free. The ideas that constantly flow in these online forums are incredible. Use those ideas and connect them with your own classroom.
Which brings me to my next point: keep an open mind!
I have seen too many teachers read resources and say “this is great for elementary students, but I don’t see the value for middle/high school”. This irritates me to no end. As high-quality teachers, we are more than capable of gleaning the crux of the content and using that in whatever level we are teaching. Our students lose so many valuable lessons because teachers close off to the possibilities they can learn. Every conference, meeting, or professional development has value (even if you’ve heard it before). I have gotten some of my best ideas when attending something I’ve already seen before….it allows me to synthesize the information in another way.
Finally, one of the absolute BEST ways that I find ideas for my lessons is by talking and listening with my students.
We need to relate to them and make the content we are teaching relevant if we are going to guide them towards making concrete connections. The only way we can truly relate to them is by finding out what they are listening to, watching, and doing. I watch “The Voice” on NBC because my students want my opinion on it. I also watch Modern Family on ABC for the same reason. One is a show that I can use purely for my music class and one is a show that can be used to discuss issues beyond the classroom. I use pop, rock and country music to relate to the classical composers of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. We can use it all! It’s just a matter of building a relationship with our learners and providing the path for them to create their own knowledge.
What interesting ways do you get your ideas for your lesson plans?
What’s a really fantastic lesson plan idea that you’ve put into place? Please share with us – we’d love to hear from you! And, if you’d like to submit a lesson to share here on EducationCloset, just contact me.
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.