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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Lesson Planning

In graduate school I had to plan a few lessons for courses. I wrote lesson plans during internship as well. However, I was not prepared for certain aspects of lesson planning that I experienced when I started my job. When I first started planning lessons, my principal told me that she wanted my monthly lessons to tie into what teachers were teaching in the classrooms. I work at a school that uses the IB (International Baccalaureate) curriculum. Students focus on a unit of inquiry for a period of time. Sometimes a school counselor can come up with a lesson that aligns with the unit of inquiry. For example, one unit of inquiry was "Solving it Myself." For this unit, students work on learning to solve problems on their own before asking an adult for help. Other times, a school counselor cannot base their lessons of the unit of inquiry, such as for transportation or magnets.

I consulted with some of my supervisors and professors from Lehigh about this. Dr. Fuller, author of the Entirely Elementary blog and Lehigh University Adjunct Professor, suggested a lesson on repelling and attracting friends for the magnet unit of inquiry. This was a great idea, but in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted the freedom of teaching about the necessary social skills for successful friendships, academic skills, careers, etc. in a way that I was excited about. Like many of the students I work with, I don't like doing things just because I was told to. I question everything and stand up for what I believe in. In this case, I felt that by solely focusing on the unit of inquiry, I would be doing a disservice to students by not addressing the personal/social, academic, and career domains outlined in the ASCA National Model.

In addition to being told to focus my lessons on the unit of inquiry, I was also told I was going to have to submit my lesson plans. Being a first year counselor, I was afraid to speak up and tell my principal what kind of lessons students would benefit from. Knowing that I had to submit my lesson plans made me feel like I could not disregard my principal's request. Instead, I asked teachers in each grade to tell me what they would like their lesson for the month of September to be about. Each grade gave me suggestions for what they were looking for. However, most of them told me that they felt it would be nearly impossible to align my classroom lessons based on some of the units of inquiry. Most of the teachers just wanted me to come in and teach their students about social skills, friendship skills, empathy, etc. It can be beneficial to ask teachers for feedback about lesson plan topics. You still have the room to be creative when creating the lesson plan.

In the end, my principal never asked to see my lessons. I was advised by another counselor in my school to just pick a topic for each month and come up with a lesson plan for each grade. Starting in October, I did just that. Planning became a lot easier and I felt more enjoyment planning lessons that I knew students could benefit from. I was also more excited to teach my plans as well.

Leader in Me Connections
As I was planning each lesson, I started to realize that my training in Leader in Me had really affected me. I could easily tie each of my lessons to at least one of the seven habits. I thought about how exciting it would be to work in a school where I could tie my lessons back to the Seven Habits. I wanted to bring the Habits into my lesson plans, but I was told that I couldn't here. Instead, I was supposed to use the IB traits and learner profile. Sometimes I throw in the IB traits and words from the learner profile into my lesson, but I know I would do a much better job tying in the Seven Habits into my lesson plans. In any of my blog posts about my lesson plans, I will always have a section connecting my lesson plan to the Seven Habits. There will be a picture of a lighthouse next to the associated Seven Habits. I hope it helps counselors working in LIM schools.

When writing out my lesson plans, I follow the format my brother was taught at Moravian College. In each lesson plan, I have a section for unit, grade, general learning objectives, strategies for diverse learners, instructional procedures, materials, and references. I also include the Pennsylvania Academic Standards, ASCA Student Competencies, and ASCA Student Mindsets and Behaviors. I highly suggest this practice.  It is always best practice to have one or two learning objectives. Adding in PA Academic Standards helps you demonstrate the importance of having a school counselor in a school. If you can demonstrate that school counselors can help teach students PA Academic Standards, you may have an administrator that is more willing to spend the money to have you there. I use ASCA Student Competencies and Mindsets & Behaviors for a similar reason. It is part of my accountability as a school counselor. It wouldn't hurt if I work toward becoming a RAMP school either! I hope that this helps you with your lesson planning in some way, whether it be with connecting to the Seven Habits, formatting, or consulting with teachers on topics!

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