Quick and Dirty “Research-Based” Lesson Plans

In yesterday’s “Understanding by Design” department group collaboration sessions, my department group did the absolute minimum, while retaining our signature quality.

I say this because they said it first, if not in so many words.

The format requires seven elements. We provided exactly these seven, the whole lesson format shorter than a page. I like the way this department thinks — the shortest lesson plan I did in the credential program was at least three times that.

This format jettisons a minute-by-minute outline, listing state standards, assessment guidelines and listing of our students’ individualized needs in favor of a two-column format that favors brevity over verbosity.

Neato. Here’s how it broke down.

Anticipatory Set — In many regards, this would be your standard set induction. It’s meant to get students to predict what will be discussed in this lesson, even if it’s as simple as having students guess at what happens next in a history class.

What ideas define Americans? What rights and freedoms do Americans have?

Objective — Be sure to include who will do it — students — what they will do, in what format they will do it in as much detail as possible. If an essay, how many paragraphs? How much information will they define, describe or analyze?

Students will list and describe at least four major philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment during class discussion. Students will describe their connection to American democratic principles.

Input — For this lesson plan format, input is what the teacher does. Typically, it’s lecture. Input could be provided by students via their journal, and the teacher would promote class discussion based on their talking points and any within the following lesson that they didn’t discuss.

Input shall be provided post journal writing. Students should offer any number of the following:

* Life, Liberty and pursuit of happiness
* Freedom of speech, religion, etc.
* Separation of powers
* Social contract

The teacher will explain each of the following principles, including the names of the philosophers behind each pillar of American-style democracy.

Check for Understanding — Lecture is a marvelous way to teach, as it is very efficient, but it requires reinforcement. This lesson plan format requires that the teacher sum up the material in an easy-to-visualize form. The form is often tangible, although in the example of forms of government, a teacher could use cow metaphors to explain it further. It fits this category.

Students will draw a diagram that explains the four concepts above, including the Enlightenment philosopher credited with it as well as a brief description of its larger importance to American civic ideologies.

Guided Practice — The students are guided by the teacher through their individual practice activity. A math class would end with the teacher working a few example problems, and other subjects could benefit similarly.

Explain the diagram by going through the information for one of the concepts, i.e. Freedom of Speech.

* Freedom of Speech — Voltaire
People should be able to say what they want when they want, so that they may act as a check to an unjust authority figure.

Individual Practice — Students rehearse the information, with or without peer collaboration, so that they understand it.

Students will complete the remaining items of their chart.

Modeling — Usually, this takes the form of required materials for class. For this lesson, it’s relatively simple. This category could include a class set of maps, before and after a given historical cataclysm.

Required Materials: White paper, “poster-project” materials.


From what might possibly be the most complete cow metaphor list this side of the inevitable Wikipedia entry:

HONG KONG CAPITALISM — You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax deduction for keeping five cows. The milk rights of six cows are transferred via a Panamanian intermediary to a Cayman Islands company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows’ milk back to the listed company. The annual report says that the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Meanwhile, you kill the two cows because the feng shui is bad.

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