Planning Lessons that Align with Local, State, and National Standards(NSTA Standard 6-Curriculum)
Excellent planning is the backbone of excellent teaching. During my time in the teacher preparation program, I have learned that there is no substitute for good planning. Planning an engaging and meaningful and lesson goes a long way towards showing students that you care about making learning fun for them and warding off potential behavioral problems.

Steps in lesson planning
  1. In order to assure best alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment (C=I=A), I begin with identifying learning objectives to be met after the end of the lesson. I identify learning objectives and how they will be assessed, in other words what do I expect students to be able to do after the lesson . I derive many of these objectives from the Virginia SOLs, specifically the Biology Curriculum Framework which identifies essential skills and knowledge that students should master.
  2. After determine the desired learning outcomes of the lesson, I consider my students’ prior knowledge on the subject. I may know this already from working with students on similar content or I may give students a formative assessment to inform me about their current level of understanding. I also attempt to determine any misconceptions that students may have on the subject, so that I may explicitly address these misconceptions that can impede learning. One strategy I have used to identify misconceptions is completing a curriculum topic study (CTS), which identifies main themes of the subject, real-world importance and common misconceptions. See a sample CTS that I compiled here.
  3. Once I am aware of my students’ prior knowledge and misconceptions, I consider how to get students to build on their current knowledge and skills to accomplish the new learning outcomes.
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    The 5E Learning Cycle
    Finally, I begin to plan lesson activities utilizing the 5E learning cycle. In this learning cycle, students are first engaged in the lesson, then explore the lesson concept (building on prior knowledge), then the concept is more formally explained, and finally students extend their skills and knowledge by applying and practicing the concepts. Evaluation is incorporated throughout the lesson. This cycle may take place in the course of one lesson, many lessons, or their may be several cycles in one lesson. The important thing about this is that it allows students to work with their prior knowledge and new ideas to form conclusions before an explanation. Equally important is that this explanation is followed by opportunities for the students to actually use their new skills and knowledge, a step that is essential for student learning. To see examples of this learning cycle in action, see lesson plans for a unit that I planned on evolution here .

In addition to planning individual lessons, it is important that these lessons have connectivity that integrates their learning into big ideas of the curriculum. It is also important for me to plan on a larger scale to ensure that I stay on pace to meet all learning goals. To accomplish this, I have created an annual plan for a biology course to ensure that I cover all state standards in the course of a year. This plan also includes quarterly projects, which serve as enriching alternative assessment items that allow students to more flexibly and creatively showcase their knowledge and skills in addition to traditional assessments.

Effectively Incorporate Technology into Lessons
Technology provides opportunities for students to engage with material in new and innovative ways. It can also be a temptation to incorporate technology for the sake of technology, I try to integrate technology in a way that truly enhances student learning,. This frequently means implementing technology that allows students to visualize, explore, and manipulate concepts and materials that they could not otherwise access. For example, I’ve included here materials that I’ve developed to go along with a gizmo that allows students to manipulate the evolution of parrots. I also included an extra challenge sheet for students who work faster than their peers, which is especially a concern in independent computer-based activities. For more detailed discussion on how I make use the opportunities that technology affords, please see the educational technology section of my portfolio.