lesson plan

OBJECTIVE:.         The students will be able to

State their own favorites in several categories

Assist in manipulating data from a database

Recognize similarities of others and themselves

ACTIVITY: The students built a database with assistance from the teacher and manipulated the information to discover some similarities about themselves and college students.


Day One: We had a discussion about our school and others that go to school in different places.

Day Two: After receiving emailed information from some college students, the first graders participated in building a database of the information in the categories we collected.  We then had a discussion to see if the students that went to BSU and the students that went to Payette Primary had similar favorites in any of the categories.

Day Three: After we discussed in detail the similarities of each student with a BSU student, the first graders drew pictures of themselves with the BSU student that they had a similar favorite with and wrote a sentence to explain.

Day Four: The students shared their drawings and explained their favorites



Most of this unit was done whole group. The times that we entered data individually, other students were completing daily seatwork at their desks.

RESOURCE/REFERENCE: First Grade Curriculum/Payette School District


ASSESSMENT: The unit was assessed by teacher observation


Teaching Philosophy

My Approach to Teaching

The teachers I have had who stand out in my memory have some attributes in common: they presented their subjects in a way that caught my interest, clarified difficult topics and led me through complex areas, and put knowledge into context so that its relevance was apparent. These role models have influenced my approach to teaching: I view myself primarily as a facilitator of learning, rather than as an expert who simply delivers information to students. When planning a curriculum or interacting with students, I am always conscious of their different learning styles and rates, what they have already learned and what they will need to learn in the future. Feedback from students has been vital to the process of growth I have undergone since I began teaching: I learned from them, for example, the pacing of lectures, and effective ways to help them learn in small group discussions.

Personal contact with students is essential to my approach. Many need encouragement to talk to their teachers, so I emphasize my availability for informal discussion and my willingness to help them sort out any problems they have with what they are learning. My experience as a teacher is greatly enriched by this contact with students. I am fortunate to teach in a professional school where I can follow the progress of the students through the program and sometimes beyond graduation.

As I gained experience and confidence as a teacher, I came to regard teaching as my primary professional responsibility. Consequently, I moved into areas of teaching administration and faculty development. My current position as Assistant Dean legitimizes my efforts to effect changes in the medical curriculum, and places me where I can have an influence on the “learning climate” of the medical school. I am able to help my colleagues develop as teachers in my roles as local chair of the Canadian Association for Medical Education and as a TIPS teaching skills instructor. Several years ago, I began to be interested in the theoretical background for teaching and learning. I have attended meetings and workshops to learn about this and am currently enrolled in a distance-education diploma course in medical education. I have begun to do collaborative education research.

As a physiologist working in a professional school, I benefit from having students who are eager to learn an intrinsically-interesting subject. On the other hand, basic science teachers are often handicapped by having no clinical training, and therefore find it difficult to know the relevance of what they teach to the practice of medicine. Moreover, there is a torrent of new information in the basic medical sciences, and medical students have likened it to trying to sip from a fire hose. I have developed some teaching strategies to ameliorate these problems, including collaboration with clinicians for curriculum planning and teaching, and articulating clear educational objectives for myself and my students. Further, student autonomy is important in this situation: students must be encouraged to play an active role in determining what and how they learn. In so doing, they will develop the life-long learning skills needed to cope with progress in medical practice.

As chair of one component of a year-long course in Body Systems, I have had the opportunity of putting these strategies into practice. With my clinical colleagues, I have modified the content and format of the renal systems component so that it provides a bridge between preclinical and clinical sciences, and fosters students’ self-educational and self-evaluation.

I played an active role in developing a new course for the first year of medical studies: Introduction to Physiology is a model in our undergraduate program for its innovative use of demonstrations. As chair of this course, I continue to work with my colleagues and students to improve it and to demonstrate its unique qualities to physiologists around the world.


JANUARY 9, 2015

The Power of Storytelling in the College Classroom


By: Sal S. Buffo in Effective Teaching Strategies
Our students also love stories. A brief, well-told narrative can catch their attention and can set the mood for learning. We like stories because our brains operate in the same fashion. Stories allow our brain to use information in the most effective way. Our brains need the opportunity to classify and file information that is in relationship to each other. It doesn’t like that catchall closet of miscellaneous bits of information, it likes order, context, and continuity. Stories not only allow for a beginning and an end, but help us understand how we came to that end, what brought us there.I love stories; stories about life, our personal experiences, the happy and the sad. Stories teach us about how the world sometimes works and how we relate to it. When I was young, I used to love to hear my parents talk about their experiences when they were young. Their stories gave me the opportunity to learn not only about their lives, but also gave me a better understanding of my culture, the traditions of my family, and its history. In a sense, these stories gave me a better understanding of myself. Stories put into context information that would otherwise remain fragmented, pieces of this and that, thrown into a catchall closet in which items are tossed and usually hopelessly lost.

I try to start each class with a story. It could be a personal experience, a myth, a historical event, or anything that relates to that day’s lesson. Stories grab students’ attention. They become interested in not only what the story is about, but how the story relates to them. Stories in many ways touch the core of who we are, and that thing that makes us human. If you think back when you were a child and having a story read to you, didn’t you immerse yourself in the tale and perhaps think about how you would react if you were a character in the story? Philosopher James Stevens wrote, “The head does not hear anything until the heart has listened. The heart knows today what the head will understand tomorrow.” The things that we learn and remember usually stick with us because on some level we can relate to them personally. If we use stories in our teaching, it may give our students a better opportunity to connect to a more personal kind of learning.

Stories in the classroom can be a fundamental way of making discussions more meaningful. Interjecting that human component and assimilating ideas based upon our own personal experiences, not only allows students to begin to connect all the dots, but may aid in helping students feel more confident in their understanding of the subject matter.

Author and scholar Kieren Egan wrote this about teaching and storytelling: “Thinking of teaching as storytelling…encourages us to think of curriculum as a collection of great stories of our culture. If we begin to think in these terms, instead of seeing the curriculum as a huge mass of material to be conveyed to students, we can begin to think of teachers in our society as an ancient and honored role. Teachers are the tellers of our cultures role.”

I’d like to share a story with you

It’s always interesting to me when, at the beginning of class, I start with the words, “I’d like to share a story with you,” how the attention in the class changes. Students seem to put their focus not only on me, but themselves as well. It’s almost magical in some ways. It may be one of those few times where technology cannot replace the power of one person telling a story to another person.

So in using this notion, stories in our classroom can have four key advantages:

  1. Getting the students attention, as well as, focusing on the lesson at hand.
  2. Setting a platform for students to interact and comment on their thoughts about the story.
  3. Providing a stronger connection in the classroom, with you and fellow students.
  4. Giving students who normally do not participate in class, the opportunity to share their own personal experiences in relation to the stories shared.

Storytelling may be the oldest form of education. If I can, in some way, help students relate to what I am teaching, then their learning becomes more personal. So create a lesson which includes a story, give students the opportunity to become personally involved in the story, and you may find your students discovering a different view of the subject matter and the joy of learning itself.


SEPTEMBER 12, 2014

10 Recommendations for Improving Group Work

By: Maryellen Weimer, PhD in Effective Teaching Strategies


Many faculty now have students do some graded work in groups. The task may be, for example, preparation of a paper or report, collection and analysis of data, a presentation supported with visuals, or creation of a website. Faculty make these assignments with high expectations. They want the groups to produce quality work—better than what the students could do individually—and they want the students to learn how to work productively with others. Sometimes those expectations are realized, but most of the time there is room for improvement—sometimes lots of it. To that end, below is a set of suggestions for improving group projects. A list in the article referenced below provided a starting place for these recommendations.

Emphasize the importance of teamwork—Before the groups are formed and the task is set out, teachers should make clear why this particular assignment is being done in groups. Students are still regularly reporting in survey data that teachers use groups so they don’t have to teach or have as much work to grade. Most of us are using groups because employers in many fields want employees who can work with others they don’t know, may not like, who hold different views, and possess different skills and capabilities.

Teach teamwork skills—Most students don’t come to group work knowing how to function effectively in groups. Whether in handouts, online resources, or discussions in class, teachers need to talk about the responsibilities members have to the group (such as how sometimes individual goals and priorities must be relinquished in favor of group goals) and about what members have the right to expect from their groups. Students need strategies for dealing with members who are not doing their fair share. They need ideas about constructively resolving disagreement. They need advice on time management.

Use team-building exercises to build cohesive groups—Members need the chance to get to know each other, and they should be encouraged to talk about how they’d like to work together. Sometimes a discussion of worst group experiences makes clear to everyone that there are behaviors to avoid. This might be followed with a discussion of what individual members need from the group in order to do their best work. Things like picking a group name and creating a logo also help create a sense of identity for the group, which in turn fosters the commitment groups need from their members in order to succeed.

Thoughtfully consider group formation—Most students prefer forming their own groups, and in some studies these groups are more productive. In other research, students in these groups “enjoy” the experience of working together, but they don’t always get a lot done. In most professional contexts, people don’t get to choose their project partners. If the goal is for students to learn how to work with others whom they don’t know, then the teacher should form the groups. There are many ways groups can be formed and many criteria that can be used to assemble groups. Groups should be formed in a way that furthers the learning goals of the group activity.

Make the workload reasonable and the goals clear—Yes, the task can be larger than what one individual can complete. But students without a lot of group work experience may struggle with large, complex tasks. Whatever the task, the teacher’s goals and objectives should be clear. Students shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.

Consider roles for group members—Not all the literature recommends assigning roles, although some does. Roles can emerge on their own as members see what functions the group needs and step up to fill those roles. However, this doesn’t always happen when students are new to group work. The teacher can decide on the necessary roles and suggest them to a group with the group deciding who does what. The teacher can assign the roles, but should realize that assigning roles doesn’t guarantee that students will assume those roles. Assigned roles can stay the same or they can rotate. However they’re implemented, roles are taken more seriously if groups are required to report who filled what role in the group.

Provide some class time for meetings—It is very hard for students to orchestrate their schedules. Part of what they need to be taught about group work is the importance of coming to meetings with an agenda—some expectation about what needs to get done. They also need to know that significant amounts of work can be done in short periods of time, provided the group knows what needs to be done next. Working online is also increasingly an option, but being able to convene even briefly in class gives groups the chance to touch base and get organized for the next steps.

Request interim reports and group process feedback—One of the group’s first tasks ought to be the creation of a time line—what they expect to have done by when. That time line should guide instructor requests for progress reports from the group, and the reports should be supported with evidence. It’s not good enough for the group to say it’s collecting references. A list of references collected should be submitted with the report. Students should report individually on how well the group is working together, including their contributions to the group. Ask students what else could they contribute that would make the group function even more effectively.

Require individual members to keep track of their contributions—The final project should include a report from every member identifying their contribution to the project. If two members report contributing the same thing, the teacher defers to the student who has evidence that supports what the student claims to have done.

Include peer assessment in the evaluation process—What a student claims to have contributed to the group and its final product can also be verified with a peer assessment in which members rate or rank (or both) the contributions of others. A formative peer assessment early in the process can help members redress what the group might identify as problems they are experiencing at this stage.

Students, like the rest of us, aren’t born knowing how to work well in a group. Fortunately, it’s a skill that can be taught and learned. Teacher design and management of group work on projects can do much to ensure that the lessons students learn about working with others are the ones that will serve them well the next time they work in groups.