Backwards and Forwards…or is it Forwards and Backwards?

I won’t lie – I was never a huge fan of Backward by Design Lesson Planning! I wasn’t a fan of how it looked, to me personally it didn’t make much sense and overall I just found it confusing. I think the problem was that I had started off my Teachers’ College experience in a school that actually taught me how to lesson plan a particular way and that’s the way I’ve been lesson planning. When I got to my current institution, I was kind of thrown into the BbyD ship without any precursor as to what it actually was and how to successfully use it. Truth be told, I hated it – I still sometimes do, but I’m starting to understand why it makes sense and how efficient it actually can be. I’ve noticed that all my professors use this format to lesson plan, so I’ve decided that I am now all hands-on-deck for this concept. Maybe there is actual method to the madness! Here are my thoughts on my new found love of BbyD Lesson Plans:

It actually does make a whole lot of sense! I would hope that a teacher would know what they wanted to teach and what they wanted from a lesson before a they went about creating a lesson, but there is so much more to just the bare bones that we don’t think about when we need to make a lesson. For example how will you find out if your students have understood and learned from what the lesson was about? When we use BbyD Lesson plans that the first thing we tackle and from there we are able to plan out the rest. Think about it logically, you don’t plan a vacation with purchasing a ticket to an unknown destination, you choose the destination then purchase the ticket.

I’ve noticed that there are three basic steps in this lesson plan:

1) Identify desired resulted

2) Determine Acceptable Evidence

3) Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Trust me, I know it seems completely weird to be doing things from the end and then moving forward but that’s the beauty of this design – you start from the opposite end of the planning process we typically go through to design course. BbyD however leaves teaching activities until the end and starts with the desired results of that teaching.

 

Give your Brain a Break

As much as we know this to be true, students spend a good portion of their day cooped up in a desk with their brain constantly being bombarded with new, useful information and skills. We as adults get antsy and anxious when we have to sit still for a period of time – just imagine how the kids feel! With more and more time being cut out of movement activities such as physical education and a whole lot of indoor recesses in the winter times, it’s important for teachers to squeeze in some physical activity whenever they can and Brain Breaks are a great way to do that.

We’ve been doing this years but very few people have asked why it is we choose to learn being seated for minutes, sometimes hours on end. In my ECS class, we are currently exploring with Brain Breaks and I have so far learned that sitting all day can actually have some serious drawbacks for students. Students find it hard to pay attention and focus when their brains are turned off and you can see it on their faces – those blank faces mean something!

All teachers can pin-point that one students who naturally starts to fidget in order to get their body to desperately move in order to turn their brains back on. But why then do we as teachers instantly request them to get back in their desks, sit still and pay attentions – essentially getting their brains to shut off again?

Okay, so maybe we can’t exactly add more PE into our schedules or send kids out in -40 weather, but we can give students “Brain Breaks” throughout the day. Brain breaks are great because they are short, little, energizing bursts of activity that kids up and out of their desks and get the blood flowing which sends oxygen to the brain. Brain Breaks don’t need to be elaborate plans they can be as simple as a quick two minute stand up, stretch and run in the place next to your desk activity. Brain breaks can be done periodically and be scheduled right into your lesson plan! It’s really not that hard to do at all and students, regardless of their grade love them! You can do a fun little dance to a new song, a touch your nose and pat your head exercise, or even a few yoga moves they can do while standing!

Below are some great resources for you to use in your classes when you do brain breaks! These make them fun and super easy to do. Best of all they’re all free! There are hundreds of different activities you can do with you classroom if you surf the web. Find the ones you think your class will love and use those as a guide to adapt them to meet your needs, making sure to always switch it up!

 

Move to Learn Fitness Energizers: More than 30 fitness videos for students K-8 with routines kids can do alongside their desks.

Go Noodle Brain Breaks: Tons of free, short videos to get kids moving in the classroom, including short Zumba routines.

Teach Train Love: This teacher has compiled several lists of fun Brain Break videos from YouTube.

Action for Healthy Kids: A Pinterest page full of classroom brain break ideas, including some for middle school.

You never have to go through “it” alone.

I am now back to grind in my second semester of Teachers College, and over the break I did a lot of self reflecting on how the previous semester went for me. As I was reflecting, I realized that I was burned out – I was tired – emotionally and physically drained, and I lacked motivation. When I asked myself how I ended up getting to that spot I found myself thinking back to all the times my professors had said “It only gets tougher from here on in”. What the heck was that suppose to mean? I know teaching is a demanding profession. I know that there are sacrifices that need to be made. I know my job isn’t your typical 9am-5pm job. My question was, why is everyone trying to convince me of this? It felt as though I was stressing myself out from all the upcoming years of even more stress.

This semester I am looking forward most to my Elementary Health Education class. Initially, I thought this course would just be about how to teach Health education to students in the Middle Years. I thought it would be how to look at Health Education as a cross-curricular component(which it is), but I never thought that it would be a course about how to take care of health of myself as a teacher. I was interested in learning the different strategies used by other Educators about how they take care of themselves as well as their students. What has been the most interesting so far has been all the different ways we’ve been looking at how to deal with stress and the pressures of being a first year teacher.

Here’s what I’ve gotten so far (I’m sure this list will be added to throughout my career and by no means will I ever be an expert at dealing with such a thing)!

  1. You are never going through your stress alone!

Every teacher and educator has been in your spot before and there will always be someone else who will be in your situation. Chances are you have another teacher friend going through the same problem, so don’t be afraid to accept it and look for help.

  1. Do something you love once a day.

This one is super great because you can take this into the classroom and challenge your students to do the same in their lives. Find something that you and your students can do together, but also find something YOU love doing. It can something as small as bringing in fresh flowers to work or something like making your favorite meal once a week. This gives you something to look forward to throughout the day and adds something different to your daily routine. I dare you to try something different everyday!

  1. Find great support outside of work.

We know teacher friends are the best friends, but it’s important to have a voice of reason and a listening ear outside of the work life. Friends outside your teacher circle, your gym buddy, your significant other, and family might be the people you need to talk to at the end of the day. Often times when we surround ourselves with likeminded people we tend to complain more about situations. When we have a good support system outside of this we tend to vent out our situations instead of complaining…yes! There is in fact a difference.

  1. Every day is a new day!

Okay so today wasn’t the greatest; you spilled coffee on your shirt, the photocopier jammed first thing in the morning, your principle needs you to change your bulletin board, your students were having “one of those days”, and report cards are due in t-4 hours….so what?! Tomorrow when you wake up, it will be a new day, with new adventures and maybe even some new obstacles. Leave the past the in past and look into the daily future. You have students with blank minds waiting to be filled with new knowledge. Embrace it!

These are just some of the small concepts I’ve picked up along the way in my EHE Class that I think were especially important. Everyone has different ways or dealing with the stress that comes with our profession. The most important thing is to remember that there are resources available for you when you need them – ask you administration and your teacher friends for resources if need be, but never be afraid to admit that there is an issue. There is often a stigma that comes along with being a teacher; that we always have “all together”, but the fact of the matter is that it is hard to be “together” all the time. Every teacher before, after you and even right now with you know the feeling. Do what you need to do in order to look forward to the next day.

If you need more ideas here are two other great blogs that I found to be great help!