Nithya: Hi, my name is Nithya Sriram. I am an educational psychologist and Cuemath expert. Teaching isn’t my job; it’s my passion. I’m also an inclusion expert where I train teachers on how to make classroom teaching more effective.
Sriram: What do you keep in mind when you’re planning a lesson?
I’m very conscious of the age of the target audience. Let’s say I am introducing fractions to third-grade students; I try to keep my lesson plan as simple as possible without introducing too many technical terms and try to teach the concepts through real-life examples.
For example, using a cake or pizza as an example helps the child to understand the concept of fractions quickly.
I’m very conscious of the learning outcome of every lesson. I always go for instantaneous feedback and assessments, which helps me to keep track of my students.
In any heterogeneous group, I try to classify my students into three categories - independent, moderately independent, and dependent. It helps me to focus and give more time to the dependent students. That’s one of the main reasons why I try to keep my batch size not more than 6-7 students.
“Be very conscious of the learning outcome of every lesson”.
Sriram: What are the strategies you use when you’re teaching in the classroom?
Establishing your presence:The child should know that the teacher is there to sort out his/her problems.
Efficient time allocation:This comes from categorizing the students. For example, I classify my students into three categories - independent, moderately independent, and dependent. More time has to be devoted to dependent students. But that does not mean we neglect independent students. At least 5 minutes of class time should be given to them. We need to keep encouraging the independent students to do better.
Engaging: From the beginning of the class students should know what is expected from them. We need to keep them engaged.
Encourage: We should encourage all the students equally. For example: If an independent student gives the correct answer, we should encourage them to move on to little more challenging problems.
Effective feedback: One child might be able to 3-4 worksheets in a given time while the other child might just be able to complete one. But accuracy is also essential. We need to provide feedback to students then and there. They should know what’s the right approach.
Evaluate your method and students learning outcome: When an assessment is being done, it’s not just about the students learning outcome. We should also evaluate whether the process you have followed has been effective or not.
Sriram: How would these strategies be used to improve a lesson plan?
Nithya: The following strategies help to improve a lesson plan-
Prior knowledge: To group students into independent, moderately independent and dependent, we need to check the prior knowledge or pre skills of them. For example: To do the word problems of fractions, one should have prior knowledge of various types of fractions, conversion of fractions, etc.
Age level:We cannot use the same technical terms while teaching fractions to third-grade students which we use while teaching to sixth-grade students. That’s why we should keep the age level in mind.
Motivational techniques:We should try to build some motivational techniques such as organizing math contests, giving good remarks, giving stickers etc.
Use as many analogies as possible:There’s no restriction on the number of analogies, but you have to be very clear about the concept that you’re trying to teach.
Flexibility: You can’t always expect the optimum output from each class. It’s humanly not possible. That’s when you have to be flexible.
Time allocation:The topics which are more important should be given more time. For example, Students have difficulty in understanding equivalent fractions. Therefore, more time should be given to it.
Sriram: How do you decide the learning objectives?
Nithya: Let me put the learning objectives in three phases-
Yearly plan: Yearly plan is a marathon; the goal is inflexible. All the students at the end of the year have to reach the line.
Monthly plan: Monthly plan includes the assessments that take place in school. Also, chapters which form the basics need to be given more time.
Weekly plan:Weekly assessment should be done to keep track of the child’s progress.
Sriram: What do you mean by structured learning?
Nithya: There is a misconception that structured learning is only for kids who have learning disabilities. Imagine you’re in a new city, and you don’t know the language either, how would you travel? You would need a map. Just like that, structured learning gives you a good road map. Lesson plans, learning objectives, structured way of teaching, etc. are all the maps to the concepts.
Sriram: How have teachers adapted to online teaching?
Nithya: A teacher never gives up. The computer was a black box for me. But during this COVID period, I adapted to technology very well. Many students whom I am teaching right now would not have been able to reach out to me if the technology was not present.
“Technology is a boon, not a bane”.
Sriram: How would you put professional development when it comes to a teacher?
Nithya: I think the degrees don’t matter, but you should look for constructive feedback. You should always keep learning from your students, peers, and other teachers.