November 24, 2014

Setting Up Successful Lessons with What?/Why?/How?

Here’s a quick trick I picked up from a video that Terri Drain, a Southwest District Teacher of the Year from California (who you will be learning more about over the next few weeks), created a while back. It might sound very simple, but it has already had a huge impact on my teaching and, more importantly, my students’ learning.

The idea here is start each lesson going over that day’s “What”, “Why”, and “How”.

The “What” is the actual content of the day, our lesson’s objectives. I’ll usually use the same language that is found in my curriculum documents. As you’ll see below, I’ve actually been using SHAPE America’s Grade Level Outcomes (GLOs) as my mapping tool for this year.

Since I teach the younger kids (K-2), sometimes the language from the GLOs can be tricky. Because of this, when there is a tricky term in the content statement, I’ll underline it in red. Terms that are underlined in red are terms we need to define as a class. Here’s the “What” for today’s grade 2 lesson:

The second part of each class’ introduction is the “Why” of the lesson. St. George’s School of Montreal is really big the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework and tying learning into bigger, meaningful, transferable concepts.

I’m not going to lie, I still haven’t fully mastered how to marry UbD and my own method for backwards design (then again, I’m still new here).

However, I still want my students to understand the purpose behind each lesson which is why I take a minute at the beginning of each lesson to go over how mastering the day’s objectives will help in other ways outside of physical education class.

Here’s today’s “Why” portion of my board:

Again, the underlined terms need to be either defined (e.g. “what is a fundamental movement skill”) or discussed (e.g. “what are examples of sports or activities where you will need to be able to dribble with your hands”).

Finally, before setting out into our activity, we go over the “How” of our lesson. I want students to have a very clear idea of how they will know they have mastered the day’s objectives by the end of class. Making them aware of this has helped my students (well… for the most part) stay focused throughout our discussions and activities in our lessons. If you teach physical education, you probably know how easy it is for students to lose sight of the learning objective once they get into the activity (unless, of course, the activity is so well designed that they need to focus on the day’s objective to be successful).

Here’s today’s lesson’s “How”:

You’ll notice that I left some of the key words in the list of critical elements blank (except for the first letter). I’ve found that, with my younger students, this has been a huge help in helping them recall the items from the list during the first couple lessons in a unit (by the end, they don’t need the reminders anymore… at least not all of them).

So there it is: my What/Why/How board! If you liked the graphics I made for my board, you can download them for free on the Visuals page.

Again, a huge thanks goes out to Terri Drain for introducing this to me. I honestly feel like it has helped me bring my teaching up to the next level.

I know a lot of you use boards to help introduce your lesson objectives to your students. I’d love to see how you organize yours, so feel free to share a picture of your board in the comments below.

Thanks for reading and happy teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com.
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