An Example of one of My Lesson Plans

Common Core Standards school methods
It appears that public school administrators are now (2012) beginning to try to use a method they call Common Core Standards methods.

If they can do it well, they might (finally) have something!

It appears to me that they have now come up with a method I used during the early 1970s when I taught science in Thornridge High School in Dolton, IL.

It seems that each Teacher and Administrator is now 'winging it' to a great extent as to how they should go about providing quality education. In the spirit of helpfulness, I have decided to present one example of what I had done beginning in 1970. The general concept is broadly applicable, and even though I needed to spend significant time in creating each subject Lesson Plan, the time expended was not tremendous, and a Teacher (including me!!) could use the same Lesson Plan for that specific subject in following years.

Many of the High School science classes I Taught were in Earth Science, and I have chosen one of the Lesson Plans for those Classes.

This specific Lesson Plan can be applied to a Family Discussion, as well as in many other venues. A major intention is to try to encourage all students to be actively involved in thinking.

Hello, Class. Today, I am going to give you some ideas to begin with, and during the last half of our Lesson Period today, YOU are going to be telling ME how we might determine How Far the Moon is Away.

A neighbor kid has lots of toys, and I borrowed two of them to help us out today. Notice on my Lab Table Desk, it is mostly clear, except for two tiny model Lawn Chairs. Now, imagine that we were little people sitting in them. We would see a HUGE open space, so we would have to be careful not to fall off the edge of the Lab Table, Right?

But then we look WAAAAAYYYY out and we see Mark's head staring back at us (from his seat in the first row). It is rather scary, yes, but we have learned to have to deal with that giant face up there in our sky! (I always chose students who enjoyed a playful attitude, and my student always beamed back with a giant smile for having been chosen for this project).

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So we are sitting in our little lawn chairs and we start wondering if we might be able to figure out how far that giant Mark is from us. The huge empty space eliminates us from ever moving beyond the top of the Lab Table. We ARE going to assume that we little people have the sorts of things that school students often have, but NOT any complicated stuff such as RADAR.

Any ideas that we might try?

Various kids raise their hands to express ideas, but I never endorse or criticize any ideas. THAT is left for other students to do.

Depending on how the discussion goes, I might occasionally find it necessary to offer an idea of my own, but the thirty brains in most Classes come up with many good and bad ideas.

For example, when a student suggests the idea of THROWING something at Mark's face, to then try to figure out how far it flew, I 'conveniently' produce a small bullseye target on a Post-it Note which I ask Mark to stick on his forehead! (My students liked to play along and nearly all actually put the bullseye on his forehead, but they all knew that I would never allow anyone to throw anything at them!

But the class nearly always quickly realized that such an approach is not very useful and they would soon drop it.

In many Classes, there are often two or even three DIFFERENT ideas being pursued by various students, and there are usually lively discussions criticizing the other approaches and defending their own. I generally can stand back and listen! Fifteen to thirty ACTIVE BRAINS operating!

If the discussion bogs down, I might mention that I placed the Lawn Chairs 2.5 inches apart, and I ask the class how many eyes they each have. They KNOW that I would not ask such a dumb question if it was not somehow useful. In some of my more spirited groups, sometimes someone says '62 eyes', just to play along with the game.

If the discussion still stalls, I ask another playful student if I might borrow his head for a few minutes, but that I did not need the rest of him. When that becomes a problem, I grudgingly concede that I might let ALL of him climb up to sit on the Lab Table.

Some student usually figures out where I am going, and he or she asks the second student to close his left eye and look at Mark with just his right eye, and then blink to look at Mark with just the other eye.

At this point I act dumb and ask WHY. The class starts getting really excited because they all want to explain to me that we have two eyes so we can tell how far things are away from us. And one or more students adds that Mark looks like he moved sideways a little bit from each eye.

I then offer that the second student's eyes are about 2.5 inches apart, and we all wonder if that is some amazing coincidence! They ALL know that it is not!

Usually a student, or if necessary, I, ask how Mark looks in comparison to the back wall of the (large) classroom, and we establish that Mark seems to shift back and forth as he blinks each eye.

If necessary, I might ask if anything might be different if his eyes were farther apart. Usually, some student is way ahead of me on this.

The second student then is told to get down off the Lab Table, and we look at the two Lawn Chairs. Eventually, we decide to move the Lawn Chairs to the far ends of the Lab Table. And I produce a Protractor and ask if it might be of any use.

If any student was taking Trigonometry or knew some of the basics of Geometry (similar triangles), that student then often takes control. Usually, that student uses the blackboard to draw a big triangle, including the two lawn chairs and Mark's head. Everyone in the class knows they could use a Protractor to measure the angle they see at each Lawn Chair between Mark's head and the other lawn chair, and everyone agrees that our little people COULD measure the distance between them (if only by walking it off).

Once this discussion is completed, I Summarize that now, the little people KNOW how far Mark's face is from them, although I usually then added that I did not see WHY anyone would CARE about how far Mark's face was away!

Depending on how long this discussion took, I might add some additional info regarding Surveyor's Transits and Sextants, which accurately measure angles. But that sometimes would get left out if we took too long to work through our thinking and logic.

I then suggest that we now KNOW how to figure out how far the Moon is away from us! Instead of Mark's face, we have the Man in the Moon. Instead of a Lab Table, we have the surface of the Earth, which we can get around on. I would then add, SEE?

Nearly every student sees that what we had just done is really the same. So now they have to start coming up with ideas so they can explain to ME how they are going to figure out how far the Moon is away.

Where in many classes, kids rarely think at all or even doze off, they generally WANT to participate in these activities, because they seem to be fun! My students came to realize that on many days, we would have such participation exercises. Even students who rarely spoke up, were clearly following along and thinking. Relatively few of my students were bored with such things.

My students quickly got motivated to WANT to participate. So one day, they would show up and I have a big block of ice on the Lab Table, and a glass of Iced Tea, and a tea kettle screaming away, and a cup of steaming hot coffee. And I would ask them 'What temperature is in in our Classroom"? Students would volunteer to go up to the wall thermostat to read the temperature, and of course, I would let them do that.

And as they got back to their desks to report their findings, I would have picked up the glass of Iced Tea and was drinking from it. As the students reported their findings, I would turn to stare at the glass of Iced Tea, without comment. I wanted THEM to think through what I might be thinking about.

I WANTED them to have to think through stuff like that, where they would then EXPLAIN to me that the AVERAGE temperature in our room was as the students had found, but that different parts of our room might be warmer or cooler than that average.

See the theme here? My job was often in just PROVIDING SEEDS of comments or ideas, where THEY did most of the grunt work of actual thinking!

Near the end of School Years, I occasionally had a student who would stay after class, to inform me that I was really LUCKY to have had such smart students, as it really never seemed to that student that I really TAUGHT them very much! PERFECT!

When a student told me that, I took it as the highest possible compliment that I had run my classes fairly well! Instead of always LECTURING them all day every day (which WAS still sometimes necessary), I had put my effort into creating Lesson Plans which involved the students as much as possible.

This presentation is among several different presentations meant to provide ways of improving the American public school system's performance. Here are links to the presentations:

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in October 2012.

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Carl W. Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago