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The first step in designing Constructivist lesson plans

Lesson plans can be done in general for larger groups, but they should always incorporate things that the students personally enjoy or find motivating. This makes writing individual lesson plans easier, since you are tapping directly into what they personally enjoy.

For my son lessons should be designed around what he really likes or enjoys. For instance, he loves Dogman books. He also loves drawing and building. How do we merge these two together that would also include some math, some research, and some social studies or history to cover all the curriculum bases?

The first thing that comes to Jack’s mind – remember, we’re writing plans for what he enjoys – is creating an animated Dogman cartoon.

Now that we have a topic or theme, my role as the adult is to motivate, assist with research, help the student maintain focus on the project, provide materials, and assist with brainstorming.

Jack’s interest naturally leads to one of the first units we’ll be working on:  creating an animated Dogman cartoon. Now the adult designer needs to kick in. There are topics that need to be covered – 1) The animation format  2) The writing portion 3) Incorporating themes into the writing that will stretch Jack and through which he can do research and learn. 4) Math (math is involved in EVERYthing, so this is usually the easiest.)

Animation

Everything starts with planning, brainstorming, sketching and model building. How much and what type of animation is based, quite frankly, on budget, materials available, and the students personal interest. Do they like to draw? Build with clay? Have an enormous toy collection? From simple animated flip books, to working online with free digital animation programs there are an enormous amount of available formats to create animated stories.  And since everyone has a phone with a camera these days, it’s even easier to capture and convert images to animation. Animating characters, whether it is on paper, with clay, lego characters, or in a digital animation program, is entirely possible.

Writing

One of the first things Jack will need to complete is a story. And a story can be written around elements introduced by the adult such as social or economic issues requiring research, problem solving, and current or past events.

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel – there are great writing formulas to follow that guarantee success! Two formulas are below – see if you recognize them from stories you have read, television shows you’ve seen, or movies you have watched.

Novel/Film writing formula

1. A DIFFERENT METHOD FOR VILLAIN TO USE

2. A DIFFERENT THING FOR VILLAIN TO BE SEEKING

3. A DIFFERENT LOCALE

4. A MENACE WHICH IS TO HANG LIKE A CLOUD OVER HERO

(one is good, two is great, three is fantastic, four is perfect)

Part 1

1–First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.

2–The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)

3–Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.

4–Hero’s endeavors land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first part

5–Near the end of first part, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

Part 2

1–Shovel more grief onto the hero.

2–Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:

3–Another physical conflict.

4–A surprising plot twist to end the second part.

Part 3

1–Shovel the grief onto the hero.

2–Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:

3–A physical conflict.

4–A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the third part.

Part 4

1–Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.

2–Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)

3–The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

4–The mysteries remaining–one big one held over to this point will help grip interest—are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes the situation in hand.

5–Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the “Treasure” be a dud, etc.)

6–The snapper, the punch line to end it.

Short Story/ Television Show Formula

  1. Characters are in a zone of comfort
  2. But they want something
  3. They enter an unfamiliar situation
  4. Adapt to it
  5. Get what they wanted
  6. Pay a heavy price
  7. Return to their familiar situation
  8. Having changed

Themes

Stretching the character beyond the books is simple. Putting the character in an different culture or country means that Jack will have to do some research. It also makes for a good “fish out of water” story and the reader/viewer can learn about the new culture through the protagonists eyes.

Math

There is a great amount of math involved in frame rates, measuring for sets and characters, proportion of characters to set pieces and each other. Math can also be the element of the story, with either the Hero (protagonist) or Villain (antagonist) having to use math to create, or solve, problems.

Creating the plan for the first unit

So with these elements, and an interview with Jack, we will start to create our first unit.

What does this single unit (if several) cover from the Grade 4 curriculum?

Art, Music, Health Education, Information Literacy, Math, Physical Education, Reading AND Writing, Science and Engineering, and Social Studies. That is a complete sweep!