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Tips for Making Minor & Major Lesson Adjustments

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Your perfectly planned lessons may not always go according to plan, but this doesn't have to be a problem. This lesson provides teachers with tips and advice for making lesson changes on short notice.

Why Change?

Sticking to your meticulously designed lesson plan can keep things organized and timely. But that doesn't discount the enormous value of flexibility, particularly when it's required. There are a variety of factors that go into creating a lesson plan, and it can be difficult to remove one or more of those elements because they are simply not working. Successfully making minor and major lesson adjustments is about recognizing two main components:

  1. Knowing when to change by reading your students
  2. Knowing how to make the best adjustment

When to Change

You are the best judge of when and if a lesson needs to be changed. Sometimes the students may seem preoccupied or the information is too easy or too difficult. No matter the situation, in addition to your own discretion, there are several other tell-tale signs that a change needs to happen.

  • Students look bored.
    • This includes looking out the window, head on desk, or working on homework from another class.
  • Students have stopped asking/answering questions.
    • When students stop asking or answering questions, it can be a sign of boredom or of confusion. If students look confused, ask a few comprehension questions and adjust the lesson if necessary.
  • You don't have enough time to start a new unit, but there are 10 minutes left.
    • When a planned lesson goes quicker than expected, some of the adjustment ideas in this lesson can be used to fill time at the end of a class.

A minor adjustment generally involves a relatively short activity to help students refocus and reengage. A major adjustmentusually takes more time and may not allow for a return to the original lesson plan.

Read the Students

There are many reasons why a student may become inattentive in class. The material is too difficult or too easy. There are other, more important things in life to think about. The class is boring and the material seems irrelevant.

Any of these reasons may cause a student to slump down, cross her arms, and fight the temptation to close her eyes. If you can recognize the signs of disengagement, you can more easily make an adjustment. However, it's important to note that you shouldn't alter your lesson if the majority of the class is with it. Changing an entire lesson to accommodate one or two sleepy or otherwise uninterested students is unfair to the others.

Before adjusting a lesson, you should think about why you are changing the lesson. Every group of students is different, so you are the best judge to determine when your students either need or desire a change. In addition to boredom, look out for confusion. Some students are reluctant to say they don't understand for fear of peer judgement. If you feel that your students are becoming lost, a minor or major lesson adjustment may be just the thing.

Sometimes it's the teacher who needs a change. If you teach the same material to different groups of students, it can be difficult to maintain the enthusiasm you had for the material after the tenth time you've taught it. Whether it's the students or you who want to change a lesson, be sure to make the appropriate change!

Adjusting the Lesson

The decision to adjust a lesson should be made on an individual lesson basis. Some students may understand and enjoy content that other students find difficult to follow. Here are a few ways to adjust or alter a lesson in order to increase both comprehension and stickiness.

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