Something I struggle with in preparing for lessons, especially lessons with a heavy creative focus, is the amount of work that should be done before versus during class. Prepping materials is never as easy as it should be, no matter how much time one sets aside. There are always factors one neglects to consider. For this reason I spent hours last night peeling stubborn labels from mason jar lids in preparation for a visual arts and poetry assignment today.
Ideally, a teacher would divert any prepwork that’s beneficial to students learning the lesson into the lesson – if we are working on hand-eye coordination with kindergartners, for instance, we should let them cut out cardboard shapes rather than do it for them. But when we are faced with significant time restraints, what becomes more important? Stressing the content, or giving a class scissor practice? The answer is not always clear-cut.
The best advice I feel I can give in this area is this: teachers must take the time out to make a model project or go through all the stages of a lesson themselves before inflicting any part of it on students. A paper-clay craft that you imagine may take ten minutes may take twenty or may take five, and it behooves us to know. I only ever fix the holes in my lessons by attempting to do them myself. If there’s something that’s catching me up from an art or content standpoint, I have to imagine my students will struggle similarly.
All of this may seem obvious: Yes, you should have a model ready for students, etc – but beyond that, you should be able to make improvements even between trying it yourself and asking them to try it. Though I realize prep time is also not always available, I don’t feel comfortable asking students to do something I have not done or could not do.
Last night I attempted to create a mock-up of our snow globe haiku project and learned that the poems would not fit inside those mason jars, so an alternative had to be found by the morning. And because I tried and failed, I found a solution that would help my students succeed.