|How great will it look on flat paper and will it flop in reality?|
In a recent lesson, the students lead the class. We put the Roman Empire on trial. We had prosecuting and defense attorneys, eight witnesses and a class full of jurors. I, of course, was the judge...as well as teacher.
My lesson plan was skeletal. I didn't have pivotal questions, only that of the Aim, although there was some procedure and form of assessment outlined. Since my students were running the show, I knew that I would need to be on my toes to react at times that could not be predicted. I jumped in at points when it either seemed appropriate or necessary. When our emperor stated he was Trojan, for example, I suggested he might mean Trajan. At another point, I brought up latifundia. I prompted our Roman legal expert with additional questions--which, unfortunately, he seemed unable to answer despite the fact we had looked at the Twelve Tables the previous day. At yet another point, I had to advise our prosecuting attorney to quit lecturing to the witness, but given we weren't a law class, I let some leading questions go.
The kids really did a great job. The lawyers were contentious. Our emperor was haughty. Our Christian was incensed. Our "Barbarian" professed, "I'm not like that!" The emperor wore his laurel-wreath crown. The Gaul donned a mustache and a straw hat. It was great fun.
The lesson went well. The jurors made charts to weigh the evidence. They wrote verdicts at home and supported them with evidence. It was collected and assessed the following day. Rome was overwhelmingly found guilty. Our prosecuting attorney said Rome was ambitious. And our Prosecuting Attorney is an honourable man!
It is too bad that given the rubrics of Danielson, my lesson can't speak for itself. It must closely follow some template and be analyzed as an entity unto itself. It should include some of the buzz words of the day. The best lessons, however, mold themselves not around a piece of paper. They mold themselves around student reactions and points of heightened student interest. Sometimes, it is some event of the past twenty-four hours which brings historical issues better into focus. My best questions are formed for individuals and in reaction to what individuals say. They cannot be predicted on a piece of paper. This is why a lesson plan, particularly one assembled with a time-consuming attention to detail, is a very poor indicator of the success of a living, breathing lesson!