Most teachers can recall one or two lesson plans which, when delivered, didn’t resonate with students. Regardless of their age, it’s not easy to get a classroom full of students to pay attention, participate, and learn. Thankfully, today’s educators—especially those with a master’s degree in education—are privy to a number of strong teaching strategies that not only stimulate students, but make the learning experience memorable.
The National Education Association (NEA) is the nation's largest professional employee organization and supports all teachers, from online learning experts with a BS in Instructional Design and Technology or MS in Education to principals holding an EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration. The NEA follows current brain research which shows that new information is more likely to be retained when it is presented in a rich and engaging manner. The NEA also suggests that given their brain development, young adolescents learn best through teaching techniques that:
Present limited amounts of new information, to accommodate their short-term memory.
Provide opportunities for them to process and reinforce new information and connect the new information with prior learning.
Reinforce learning with a varied approach, using lots of involvement and hands-on activities.
Require problem-solving and critical thinking so that brain growth is enhanced and strengthened through practice and exercise.*
An interactive presentation technique has been designed to help educators deliver their lesson plans. Referred to as the New American Lecture, it is taught in a number of online master’s in education programs because it integrates current brain research and can be used in all subjects and at all grade levels. In short, when teachers introduce new lessons using the New American Lecture format, they present information for about 5 minutes, pause to pose structured questions, and continue repeating this pattern. In doing so, the teacher is providing students with five kinds of support:†
Connecting the learner to past knowledge while also building new connections
Using a “hook and bridge” approach, teachers design an activity that hooks students into the content and then builds a bridge that links students’ initial ideas to upcoming content.
Teaching the learner how to organize and collect information
This is accomplished by providing the student with a visual organizer that lays out the structure of the content.
Increasing student involvement and making the content memorable
Activities which require participation and memory devices are used to facilitate student retention of material.
Helping students to process and integrate information
Educators introduce periodic breaks for thinking in order to foster a deeper processing of the content being presented.
Assisting students as they apply and evaluate what they have learned
Synthesis (or comprehension) and reflection activities are introduced so students can better assimilate the information.
A number of education researchers have challenged the New American Lecture, saying that it relies too heavily on audience participation. However, when seasoned teachers were asked to comment (such as those with an online master’s in education), they felt that the lesson plans they delivered in this format were highly successful. While a good bit of preparation is required on the part of the presenter, a strong lesson plan in this format can open the minds of learners to new concepts and possibilities.
*Lorain, P. Brain Development in Young Adolescents: Good News for Middle School Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.nea.org/tools/16653.htm.
†Silver, H. F., Strong, R. W., & Perini, M. J. (2009). The Strategic Teacher: Selecting the Right Research-Based Strategy for Every Lesson. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.