Evaluating Lesson Plans
The chosen lesson plans were prepared for students from 1st grade (http://www.cal.org/siop/pdfs/lesson-plans/dragonfly-lesson-plan.pdf) and 7th grade (http://www.cal.org/siop/pdfs/figurative-language.pdf) respectively. Both lesson plans use the SEI strategies, although not all of them. While the “dragonfly lesson” does focus on students’ independent competence by asking students to discuss dragonflies with their friends, there is no indication of critical analysis in the task that is a necessary part of SEI strategies (“Strategies”, n.d.).
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However, the “dragonfly lesson” plan provides explicit learning strategies that students use to solve a task (writing sounds and letters of a word, explaining what a dragonfly is, etc.). It also encourages students to use metacognitive and cognitive strategies by telling their partners what they have learned about this insect. Academic vocabulary (“insect” and “hunt”) is addressed, whereas graphic organizers help students learn how to read and write these words. Teacher-student and student-student interactions are supported by sharing ideas about the insect with the class and a partner. All instructions are written and presented in simple, comprehensible English.
The figurative language lesson also incorporates the majority of SEI strategies. It provides instructions in simple English, builds background knowledge of students by introducing the poet Langston Hughes and figurative language.
The plan also encourages students to use critical thinking by answering the question of how a person can be a rose or a song. Interaction is supported by the discussion of the words and phrases used in the poem and the identification of literal and figurative language during the review. During these discussions, students will be able to apply their language skills and communicate with English-speaking peers, supported by the teacher and peers. The “Literal/Figurative” chart, completed at home, will help the teacher evaluate the student’s progress and assess it. Academic vocabulary is addressed (everyday objects and metaphors) and supported by the “mystery bag” activity and “Literal/Figurative” chart.
The content area used for the observation was English Language/Arts, where I observed a teacher with a five-year occupational experience teaching elementary students vocabulary by utilizing SEI strategies. The lesson was taught in a children’s development center in California. The classroom age was 3-5 years old.
The lesson introduced vocabulary related to farm animals with the help of toys and flashcards. To motivate students, the teacher encouraged them to play with animal toys without explaining the purpose of the game; students seemed interested. After that, the teacher used the presentation strategy by naming each of the animals and showing the toys to the class. The majority of the students were English-language learners and not familiar with the words. The teacher encouraged them to repeat the names of animals, as well as the noises they make (for example, “moo” or “bark”). He also used flashcards with animals that students were expected to name.
The majority of students were able to remember the words correctly. The teacher used simple English and instructions that were easy to understand, but he rarely asked students to discuss any topic together or answer a question related to farm animals. According to the SEI standards, questions are an essential part of a presentation (“SEI smart card”, n.d.). However, students were invited to repeat new words, as well as portray various animals so that others could guess them. Both the teacher and students demonstrated interaction with the classroom environment (toys, flashcards) that facilities independent learning and is required in the SEI standards (“SEI smart card”, n.d.).
During the practice/application phase, students were divided into teams (two or three students per team) and provided with sets of flashcards that contained all animals introduced during the lesson. The teacher named an animal and students had to touch the matching flashcard as quickly as they could. This game fueled interaction between some of the members who were shy at first and helped ELLs react quicker to the new vocabulary.
Even though the teacher’s explanations were provided in simple English, I had the impression that they were less detailed and therefore unclear, which was not aligned with their developmental and English proficiency levels (“SEI smart card”, n.d.). Some of the students had difficulties with the instructions due to a lack of further explanations.
During the review/assessment phase, students received worksheets with farm animals, where they needed to match different pictures of the same animals. Throughout this activity, the teacher supported and helped students if they had difficulties by asking them questions such as “what animal is that?”, “have we played with a toy that looks like this animal?”, “what noise does this animal make?”, etc. This activity fostered communication among students and helped the teacher assess whether they remembered the new vocabulary correctly.
The teacher used different SEI strategies such as comprehensible instructions in simple English, a supportive, understanding environment for ELLs, active interaction with students, and assessment at the end of the lesson. However, the cultural differences of students were not addressed by the teacher. No critical thinking via discussions was encouraged as well, and no questions were prepared to foster student-student interaction. In my opinion, the teacher needs to add more questions to the lesson plan to encourage students to think about the new vocabulary and talk to their peers more often.
SEI smart card. (n.d.). Web.
Strategies. (n.d.). Web.