5 tips for new teachers when adding apps to lesson plans
1st September 2015
You’ve made it. You’re in the first weeks of your first year as a classroom teacher. You’ve made your classroom cozy, you’re learning your students’ names and personalities, you’re establishing routines and rituals, and you’re building your lessons for the upcoming months. How equally exciting and terrifying!
One of the more scary tasks you’ll take on this fall is writing a lesson plan that grabs students’ attention and gets your objectives to stick in their minds. It’s likely that many lesson plans were handed down to you from a previous teacher, or were pre-written as part of a curriculum from a textbook series, which can be less than thrilling for those eager kiddos to keep engaged with.
One of the best ways to spice up those aged and canned lesson plans is to integrate an online software application, or “app” used on a computer, laptop or handheld device. Whether you’re creating a new plan or adding to an existing one, here are some helpful tips for making the task of adding apps to lessons a bit less daunting and a lot more fun. These tried and true principles are used for lesson planning in general and can also be applied to many aspects of teaching.
1. Begin with the end
Just as with creating lesson plans in general, when adding the use of an app to a lesson, think about the outcome for the learning experience first. Look at what the students need to know and how they will be assessed.
- What do you want the student to learn from the use of the app?
- How does this application connect to the objectives of the lesson?
- What kind of activity using the app will help you to assess the learning of the objectives?
- Make sure that students know what they are going to learn at the beginning of the lesson.
“If students know what they are to learn, you greatly increase the chances that the students will learn.” – Harry Wong, The First Days of School
If you are teaching a lesson on the elements of design, the outcome would be the students would know the elements and their characteristics, and be able show examples of them. The app you choose should allow the students to be able to learn those things. An example would be to have students use an app with drawing and type tools to create a document with examples and descriptions of the elements.
2. Don’t reinvent the wheel
This is the age old mantra of the seasoned teacher. Teachers stick together and share. When adding apps to lessons don’t take a ton of time designing a lesson before you’ve checked around for already written ideas.
- Ask other teachers in your building or district to share activities and apps that worked for them. This is a great way to get to know people and builds relationships that help everyone involved. It doesn’t have to be a teacher for the same subject as you. Just ask if anyone has great ideas for an app for “xxx lesson” and others will volunteer their knowledge.
- Look online for inspiration. There are thousands of websites with lessons that use apps. They are usually categorized by the type of device, app, or subject you want to teach. Online resources are great because usually the teacher that wrote the lesson has already tested it out.
If your classroom has iPads or your students use BYOD handheld digital devices, you can’t go wrong with Kathy Schrock’s iPads4Teaching website. The section “Classroom uses of the iPad” covers just about anything you can think of to incorporate iPads into lessons, and gives multiple lessons using apps available on iPads.
The acronym, meaning Keep It Simple Stupid has been used in the information technology industry for decades. Adding app use to your lesson plans should be kept simple so as not to be overwhelming to you as a new teacher or to your students.
- Don’t try to add several different apps or steps to lessons on the first go around.
- Remember to follow tip 1 and choose the app based on the objectives you wish to accomplish.
- If possible, use an app that you and your students are already familiar with.
- Try to incorporate an application that doesn’t require registration, downloading supporting software, or other time consuming hoops to jump through.
4. Have a backup plan
Whether a lesson plan includes an app or not, it is always wise to have a backup plan for new lesson activities. Any time students are going to be online doing an activity you should have a plan B for if the application, internet, or computer has technical difficulties.
- If you are making changes to an existing lesson the backup plan is simply to do the lesson as it was before your added the use of an app.
- When creating a new lesson plan that relies on an application, think about an analog or “low tech” option to use incase of a glitch or internet failure.
- If something doesn’t work properly let students know that this happens out in the real world and use it as a teachable moment for problem solving skills.
- If there are technical difficulties ask the kids if they have any ideas of how to keep going with the activity. You may be surprised at how clever they are in figuring out solutions.
One of the greatest gifts to your future teacher self is to take time to reflect after you’ve finished teaching a lesson. Especially important for lessons that involve online applications, make yourself sit down and type up your reflection on what worked and what didn’t.
- Be specific about every step of the lesson. What slowed the students down? What did they like the most?
- What were the best parts of using that particular applications? The worst? If the app didn’t work well now is the time to research other options for next time.
- Reflection is a good time to think about other steps to add to the lesson in the future. Is there a coordinating app that would work to further illustrate the objectives? Is there a way to incorporate technology in other ways?
- What could you do differently next time to help the students understand the connection between using the app and the objectives they needed to learn?
To conclude, new teachers, don’t be afraid to try adding activities using online applications to your lesson plans. Remember your students don’t know what you don’t know. As long as you begin with the end, don’t reinvent the wheel, keep it simple, have a backup plan, and take time to reflect you will be well on your way to creating and teaching lessons that will rock your first year.
Here are some great articles we found to help with lesson planning:
The New Teacher’s Guide to Creating Lesson Plans – K-5, from Scholastic.com
New-Teacher Academy: Lesson Planning – All Grades, from Edutopia
Back-to-School Guide For Beginning Teachers (And Not-So-New Teachers Too)! – All Grades, from Education World
Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson – All Grades, Harry & Rosemary Wong: Teachers.net
Here are a couple of resources from our blog to help with using technology in your classroom:
Need help managing apps, computers, laptops and iPads in the classroom? Impero has solutions that allow teachers to fully use technology to enhance learning while keeping kids on task and safe online. To learn more about Impero Education Pro classroom and network management software sign up for a webinar, email us at [email protected] or call 877.883.4370 today.