Recovering from a Failing Lesson for Teachers

It happens to the best of teachers. You plan out the perfect lesson, thinking you have covered all of your bases. Partway through the lesson, you realize that the kids are just not getting it. Nothing seems to be making sense. What can you do when a lesson plan is clearly not working out? Rebounding is not as hard as you may think.

Imagine yourself in the middle of a lesson on the Civil War. You are trying to teach the kids about various battles that were instrumental in the winning-or losing- of the war. As you glance around the room, it seems as if every child is either zoned out or almost asleep. What can you do to get them back in the game? Try a few of these strategies:

Turn it into a game. Break your class up into teams and give them a question. The first team to find the answer and share it correctly gets a point. Prizes might be a giant round of applause from the rest of the class, so you don’t have to be prepared in advance. 

Co-operative groups are useful in many ways. Divide your class into groups. Give each group a large sheet of paper or poster board. Assign a different battle to each group. Have them make a poster that highlights the most important elements of their battle. Towards the end of the period, have each group share their findings.

Break your lesson up into smaller segments. Share information. Ask the kids to share it with a neighbor. After a short period-maybe ten minutes-review what you have already taught. For ideas on sharing with your neighbor, read up on whole brain education.

Review future lessons. Make sure they are geared toward the children and not the teacher.

Math class offers its own challenges. The concepts are so important, but so difficult for many kids to grasp. As you realize your lesson is way over their heads, give the kids a two-minute brain break to walk around the room and stretch. While they are busy, look over your lesson. Break it into small chunks. Settle the class back into their seats and do something funny. For example, pretend you are filming a movie. Hold your hands in a “V” and snap them together as you say, “dividing fractions, take two.” Your kids will probably chuckle. Use that response to start over. Break it down into small sections. Have students get out personal white boards and work on the problems together with everyone involved. Don’t move on until you are sure the majority of the kids have it. Work closely with the students that are struggling. It is better to learn a small section well than a large section poorly.

When a class is going poorly and you really need time to redo the lesson, think of other options.

Take the time to do reviews from former lessons. Hopefully, you will have each student’s name on a craft stick or some other item. Ask a question and draw out a name. That way everyone has to participate. You can use reference materials or use their memories.

Have students draw a diagram or picture of a concept or subject they should already understand. Randomly ask them to share their materials. Make sure you do not use this time to embarrass students who are having trouble. They can learn from the explanations of other students, too.

Make up a quick game of charades. Divide your class into groups and have them act out different concepts or words. 

Pictionary can be used the same way you use a game of charades. Quickly write down ideas and create teams. Ready, set, go!

Don’t let a lesson that isn’t working get you down. Think outside of the box and reclaim your class. Your quick, creative thinking will help your class grow and learn.