- Sometimes teachers plan lessons or units that are disconnected to their desired student outcomes, like the Plinko effect.
- It’s important that you consider the pegs and barriers that exist with your students. It’s better to look at individuals and groups of students, and determine how to remove barriers so that the chip can fall into the desired slot. The best way to do that is to plan with consideration of the learners first. Then design the lessons to meet their needs.
- Learn the steps to take to avoid planning Plinko.
I have a confession to make. The Price is Right is one of my favorite TV shows. There’s something about that game and the way people win prizes. The sounds and the excitement are really compelling.
One of my favorite games on that show called Plinko. If you are not familiar with that game, contestants stand high up behind a board that has a bunch of pegs. They drop a token from the top. Then watch it maneuver through the pegs until it lands in a resting spot at the bottom of the board. Each slot corresponds to a dollar amount that they win. They try to aim for the big money, but the pegs change the direction of the token and they never know where it’s going to land.
Is lesson planning like Plinko?
Watching Plinko, I made a connection to what I sometimes see in lesson and unit planning. Hard-working teachers with the best intentions often seem to plan lessons and units that are disconnected to their desired student outcomes. They use the standards, find appropriate curriculum materials, and put together quality lessons that should result in student success. In theory, we should be able to reliably predict what students will learn. However, we very often find ourselves with a significant number of kids that don’t master what we are trying to teach them.
It’s better to look at individuals and groups of students, and determine how to remove barriers. The best way to do that is to plan from the middle, considering the learners first and then designing the lessons to meet their needs. Click To Tweet
I know from watching Plinko that aiming that chip dead center does not usually result in the chip landing in the center slot. The twists and barriers cause the chip to go in an unpredictable path. You could decide to begin at the bottom slots, and work your way back to the top of the game. The problem with that theory is that without addressing the pegs and barriers that cause the chip to switch direction, you still cannot reliably determine the path.
As teachers plan their lessons it is not as important where you begin the planning… from the beginning, or working backwards.
The important thing is that you consider the pegs and barriers that exist with your students which cause them to take in the content in very different ways. So much work is done filling in gaps and accelerating instruction after accomplishing the main teaching. It’s better to look at individuals and groups of students, and determine how to remove barriers so that the chip can fall into the desired slot. The best way to do that is to plan from the middle, considering the learners first and then designing the lessons to meet their needs.[scroll down to keep reading]
How to Avoid Planning Plinko
So how do you avoid Planning Plinko? The steps to planning should go in this order:
- Consider the learning needs and behaviors in your class.
- Take the content and connect the concepts with the learning strengths of your students.
- Design the lesson either from front-loaded or backward design.
- Anticipate the things that will go smoothly, along with what will be a challenge.
- Address the challenging sections with effective supports.
- Strengthen the sections that will go well with additional challenges to push thinking.
- Know what will demonstrate mastery and design your evaluation accordingly.
Using these steps you should be able to focus on what is important in your lessons, which is creating opportunities for students to engage and master the content. When you remember that the design is secondary to the process, you can more effectively connect your desired outcomes with the learning strengths of your students. The “meat” of the process is in that middle section, the one with all the pegs that change your direction. Making that the primary focus of planning should help you be successful at Planning Plinko. And imagine the thrill of knowing that your chip is going to land in that high-value slot!
About Martin Silverman
Martin Silverman is a father, grandfather, husband, and long-time educator in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. He is committed to providing the best educational experience for the students and families at Salinas Elementary school where he is principal. Martin has worked in urban, suburban, and rural districts as a teacher and administrator. His interests are in creating and nurturing school culture, providing enriching experiences for students and families, and developing future teachers and administrators.
As a former bilingual teacher and administrator, Martin is committed to providing ELL students with quality programs to develop their unique skills. He hosts a podcast called The Second Question, which highlights educators and provides them a forum to discuss ideas, and to honor the teachers that have influenced their lives.