• Michelle Bickhaus

Writing the Classroom Lesson Plot


Teachers, have you ever stopped to consider the volumes you could fill with the lesson plans you’ve written over the course of your career? YOU really are the rock-stars of the writing world. In some ways teachers are the Beethovens of the world because you not only consider words but you think about rhythm, melody, tempo, dynamics, and more as you write your plans even though you likely do not think about it in those terms. Your writings don’t stop at mere words or stories. You are conceiving a symphony in the classroom…right there at your crowded little desk.

If that surprises you, then let me illuminate all of the orchestral skills you’ve been employing as I also illustrate how these incredible teacher skills are akin to composing and conducting.

As a teacher you are crafting, as you write your lesson plans, a script which when implemented becomes a melody of sorts – your sonata, nocturne, symphony, or whatever the subject matter/lesson calls for. Your inflection and intonation adjust to the words, phrases, and sentences which you “perform” during your lesson. And perform you must! We all know that when we’re in front of a class we are on stage. What’s more is that YOU are, in most cases, conducting as well as playing all of the instruments. You are keying the video clip, starting the slide show, playing the audio, moving the prop, and what have you. You have created the amazing set in your classroom. You have most likely purchased many of the props with your own money. Really, you’re more like the entire opera company!

Take a look at this visual representation of one of Beethoven’s Symphonies:

Compare the symphony graphic to the development of plot as it correlates to lesson:

When we assess our lesson plans with an eye for creating a trauma-informed environment, it behooves us to be as strategic as possible. Most teachers do this intuitively but if you’re having trouble with student behavior you might reflect on this practice and whether or not you are including elements of plot development and/or music development in your lessons.

As you note the elements included in the class development you’ll see mindfulness, game, and breathing ball. These are elements I’ve covered in other blogs, except for the breathing ball which will come in a later blog. Keep in mind that these are quick strategies/interventions and will not take a big bite out of your lesson, but they pack enormous power in terms of keeping your students functioning in the frontal cortex of their brains.

It is important to keep in mind that, just like any great story as well as a beautiful orchestral work, we are not confined to one form. This is just one representation and usually the lines look more like this:

These peaks and valleys could represent lesson introduction, mindfulness, journals, game, mindfulness (repeated in a fresh way…perhaps only 25 seconds), lesson, breathing ball, lesson, game, etc. What is vital is that you plan or compose the lesson with interventions built in. It’s also necessary to have an encore or two ready for when students need it. This encore might be an additional breathing activity or yoga pose. The students need you to have these strategies integrated into the lesson and they also need you to be attuned so that you recognize when the need arises for a ritardando, repeat, diminuendo, etc.

Stay tuned for a future post on breathing balls and more strategies for regulating students.

“Where words fail, music speaks.”― Hans Christian Andersen


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