This post is for teachers using the CHACER framework for lessons.
With anything we have to be careful of things going stale. At the moment I’m into Topic 2.7 in Criminology and I’m thinking, “I need to change it up a bit.” While my kids are loving the unit, I think mixing it up couldn’t hurt.
If you’re using the our teacher support packs you’ll be getting comfortable with the CHACER approach and the other nuts-and-bolts of teaching that we’re trying to encourage with our themantic resources.
I love the routine and structure of CHACER, starting with getting some life and energy into the lesson with a fun and engaging consolidating activity (like charades or a Kahoot) and then hooking kids in with a cool video (like cows being castrated) or simply an interesting talk. I actually also love the check-in phase when I get to sit back and relax and have kids come and show me their work. This one-to-one talk time is so valuable, but unfortunately I only get to see about 1/3 of my kids work due to time constraints.
Themantic lessons are designed on a rule of thirds: about 1/3 of kids should reach the extension, 1/3 just finishing check-in and 1/3 still working towards understanding. This is natural and the reality of teaching any group of students.
Mixing it up…
But next week I’m going to flip a lesson. Usually this means to give kids work to do at home before the lesson, which is super easy to do with our textbook – just give them the next lesson in the textbook and assign reading for homework. But I’m going to flip it in a different way: I’m going to start with the check-in, which will invariably mean students will have to read (or have read) the textbook lesson at home and then only after everyone’s shown me their answer to the lesson’s guiding question, we’ll move on to some fun videos and quizzes to consolidate what they’ve just learned. So we’re kind of starting in the middle, going back to the start, and then finishing at the end!
I figure this might serve a few purposes:
- I will get to check everyone’s work (hopefully) as they’ll have a whole hour to answer one guiding question.
- I can assess how long it takes individual students to read and complete the guiding question.
- It gives excelling students longer to tackle extensions and learn evaluative terminology like generalizability and population validity, etc.
- It adds some variety for students and disrupts any monotony setting in.
- Kids who want to get ahead will know exactly how to do this (read the lesson before class!)
Themantics is about doing the basics…
The CHACER model is also based on another pretty basic idea: in any lesson we want students to have a chance to:
Writing: While they might groan at being asked to write an answer to the guiding question even though they know the answer, being able to articulate thoughts on paper is a really important skill and one we can always develop. And if a student’s so able that they can do this easily, it’ll take them two minutes. Time well spent.
Embedding formative assessment…
The best types of activities (the A in CHACER), I think, are those that produce the answer to the guiding question without students knowing it. If they’ve solved the problem and have been engaged doing it, and can show you their answer, there isn’t a need to have to write an answer to the guiding question because they’ve already shown their understanding and can move on and be extended. This is one way I’m trying to keep the variety in the teacher support packs and unit plans to avoid things going stale.
In the last two years what I’ve really noticed is that my energy levels have a massive impact on the class. If I know where the lesson’s going and what we’re doing and I’m excited about it, this fuels the kids energy, too.
If you’ve got other ideas for making lessons more engaging, or feedback on our lesson ideas, please leave a post in the comments.
Travis Dixon is an IB Psychology teacher, author, workshop leader, examiner and IA moderator.