A Common Mistake with Lesson Planning that Destroys Classroom Culture

How to Build a Positive Classroom Culture by Avoiding This Common Mistake  

The biggest mistake I made as a new teacher was overteaching. See, I love teaching history and wanted to challenge my students to think deeply about all the things and often crammed way too much into each lesson. Another juicy paragraph of a primary source, another critical thinking question, an additional step to a fun activity- even though it would force me to rush my students through the finish line. 

I took me years to realize that this was the single greatest factor harming my classroom culture. 😕

Cramming too much into a lesson is probably the most common mistake that new teachers make. Luckily, there's a simple to fix that will have a big impact over time. 

If the goal of the lesson is to help students meet the learning objective, you want to ensure the activity and tasks are designed to help students be successful in meeting the objective. Simple, huh? But cramming too much into the lesson will actually have the opposite effect. Rather than helping students learn more, sometimes adding another page to read, image to analyze, or step in the activity, will take them further from achieving the learning goal. 

And thats not even the worst of it.

Rather than hammering down certain concepts and thinking deeply on those ideas to come to a sound understanding of the content, overteaching can just muddy the waters and lead to confusion. Worse than students’ not fully understanding the content, it can really destroy the classroom culture. 

Consider what happens when we have to rush through a lesson in the last ten minutes of class. Several students will get anxiety as they worry about not completing the work while encouraging poor work quality, and these both will lead to frustration. Now consider what happens if this is done regularly.

The class culture that you are working so hard to keep positive, supportive, and focused on academic excellence suffers immensely. 

The number one ingredient for a positive class culture might be creating a space where students know they can be successful when challenged. A place where students can work and struggle comfortably with the confidence that their efforts will lead to achievement.

When we routinely pack too much into our lessons, it does the opposite. 

Instead, consider what happens in a lesson where students can complete the work, get to the finish line, and then have time to review and reflect on what they achieved in just 45 or 60 minutes.

That’s why, just as the first 3-4 minutes are essential to build students’ curiosity and excitement, the last few minutes are essential for students to feel accomplished. Plan for a few minutes at the end of every class to review the learning objectives, gather student questions, and most importantly, to give students time to reflect on what they “learned and earned.”

If students are routinely given time to consider just how much they learned that day, how they improved on a skill, and to what degree they met the learning objective, they will develop greater confidence in themselves. They'll also come to understand that your room is a place where they can learn and be successful when they’re challenged.  

I hope this helps you plan out better lessons that lead to an improved culture in your room. Remember, more is not the answer!


Keep teaching and learning,
Dan Lewer
History For Humans

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