Easy peasy lemon squeezy: Maximum effect lessons when you have minimum time.

I don’t know where exactly this phrase came from, “easy peasy lemon squeezy”. It popped in my mind and refused to leave, bubbling up from my subconscious from a television show or movie I’m sure. (If anyone recognizes where it comes from drop a comment and let me know because it’s kind of driving me crazyJohn-lemon trying to remember!)  I love this phrase because it perfectly describes these lesson sources when I’m slammed and have no time for planning and preparation. Plus, when I repeat it a few times in my mind it’s a happy little calming mantra.

During periods of time consuming events (both school related or family related) I sometimes find myself in a pinch. I know what I need to be covering for the day (lesson plans are always due at least a week in advance, of course) but I either a) didn’t have time to make copies of whatever I used last year, b) didn’t have time to set up a lab due to unforeseen events which prevented me from picking up needed lab supplies or the time to set out materials and equipment, c) honestly don’t like what I used last year but have had zero time to prepare an alternate assignment, or d) I’m teaching a new subject and am starting from scratch. Whatever the reason, and they are numerous as well as plentiful, I sometimes find myself in need of an easy lesson. I need to make lemonade, if you will, out of the lemons that are being hurled at my head and making it difficult to think about anything school related. Here are my go-to “easy peasy” lessons. If you have technology available they are SUPER easy peasy. If you don’t, but you at least have a teacher computer hooked up to a projector and at least 10 minutes to make copies, these will have you covered. Not only does it give you a lesson, but it gives you a QUALITY lesson that is student-centered, engaging, teaches key concepts that the students need to know, includes reading critically, and writing as a formative assessment. It is also integrating technology, if you have that available. So, this is not “busy work”. Slap the appropriate TEK on the board and I would be perfectly happy having an administrator coming in to observe and evaluate while I move around the room monitoring and helping students as they work on this lesson.

  1. CK12.org  This website is basically an online textbook EXCEPT that it is customizable (unlike my textbook, which often has passages that I find are over my students’ heads, contains extraneous information, or doesn’t throughly cover something that I professionally deem important), is more interactive than a textbook, and includes auditory stimulation in addition to visual. If you have the time, you can create your own lesson, but this post is about NOT having time, so in that case it takes a quick search to find a lesson on your desired topic. The lessons developed by CK12 are always high quality, so when in doubt and starved for time I go with those, but there are many lessons created by other teachers available to use also.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 8.55.23 PM CK12 lessons typically include a reading passage, written at an appropriate reading level (the lessons can be searched based on grade level) which include links for key terms and concepts if the students don’t know them, short videos embedded which are actually informative and engaging (without having to search youtube and preview videos for hours), and pre-written review questions (ranging from 3 to 6 or so) over the material. If the student takes the time to read the passage, watch the video(s), and answer the review questions- one lesson can take up to 30 minutes. Since I have 45 minute class periods this is perfect.

To take up the last 15 minutes, many of the lessons have a practice option (blue box at the top of the page) and I’ll give the students a goal of 10 correct. When they hit that goal they raise their hand Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 8.52.22 PMto show me and I’ll check them off for part of their daily grade. These are better than worksheets because 1) you don’t have to make copies, 2) they continue to ask the same question in a different way if the student misses it, 3) they get automatic feedback about whether they answered correctly or not,  4) if they miss a certain number a link to tutorial material they can study pops up in a prompt, and 5) the questions are in random order so the students can’t just copy off the first student to finish.

If the lesson doesn’t have the blue box practice questions, or you don’t have a student to computer 1:1 ratio, it also works great to find a complementary lesson and have it available for any students that finish and have extra time. (This is a great way to differentiate for GT students that finish quickly- add a complementary lesson that takes them more in depth. This also differentiates for the special ed students that need more time, just have them do the one core lesson.)

There is the option for the students to log in to classes where you can assign specific lessons (but you have to set these up ahead of time, so the time-saving option is only if this has been done previously, otherwise you can skip this step and give the students the link to the particular lesson directly or insert the link into google classroom if this is your MO.)

Note: There are a few interactive simulations available but the ones that I have used haven’t been great, so proceed with caution and make sure you preview them.

Limited technology option: If you don’t have computers or laptops available for each student print out the reading passage and make class copies (this saves copy time, just ask the students not to write on them and you can use them all day).You’ll only need to make about 30 copies, which should easily take 10 minutes or less, and you’re ready to go! Show the youtube video to the entire class on the overhead projector. Post the questions on the projector screen and have the students answer them on a separate piece of notebook paper.  The blue box practice questions option can be done as a class, but this removes the individual differentiation so this isn’t ideal.

2. PBS Learning Media This website is an amazing resource for a quick lesson. Today I used it for plant behavior in biology. I copied the link into google classroom, had them launch the interactive, and the students watched 5 videos (with accompanying, single paragraph, written explanations) showing the time lapse of plant reactions to stimuli of light, gravity, day/night cycles, etc. I’ve also used the light wave behavior interactive in the past with physics.  In both cases, I outlined the major topics (from the interactive) on the projector and had the students complete their notes (we keep science journals) by defining key terms and summarizing the information while using the interactive . If you are limited by technology you can project from your computer. PBS has lovely photography and topics that are high interest and relevancy. My students were oohing and ahhing over the time lapse videos.

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 9.47.34 PM

Under the interactive there is a link to support materials which usually include a single page summary (“background essay”) which can be printed off and another page with 3-5 discussion questions. If the students complete a notes outline (which, again, can be done by listing the major topics and key terms from the interactive) and use the summary page (make class copies if needed) to complete the review questions, you have a 30-40 minute lesson ready to go.

There you have my two favorite websites when I am pressed for time. Luckily, someone else has put a lot of time, effort, and care into the lessons available on these sites, making my “lemon” situation into a calm, relaxed, lemonade sipping day watching my students engage and interact with the material and best of all, learn. Easy peasy!

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