Dan unselfishly shared his lesson plans and format with the Pre-Kindergarten teachers of our Metropolitan district at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. I was initially overwhelmed by the amount of content his plans contained until I was able to sit down and study them. Once I could carefully look over his amazing work, it dawned on me that: 1.) There was a LOT of work put into them to carefully unpack each standard and match them up to instructional areas and 2.) They were VERY easy to use, covered all areas and standards well and made planning much easier.
I immediately set about revamping his format to work with my schedule. While doing this, I realized that there were several areas where my lesson plans had been lacking. First, I loved that he used an “Investigative Question of the Day”. I put this tool into practice at the end of last year and had the students and parents answer the question together as they came into the classroom each morning. This gave the parents a reason to come into the classroom and gave them an idea of the things we were learning about that week. It gave them a base from which to ask questions after school. It also helped ease the children into the classroom and gave them a chance to share items around our room with their parents. By the end of the year, it was my children reading those questions to the parents, and it provided the parents a chance to see their child’s reading skills in action.
The next thing I noticed about Dan’s plan was that he had his students sign in when they arrived to the classroom. I began this at the beginning of the year. I tweaked the idea a bit as the year went on. At the beginning, some children could barely hold the pencil and the parents were able to watch me model the proper way to help their child strengthen their fine motor control, guide their hand and verbally spell out their name. In January I added the children’s last names to the sign in and they were required to do both. In May, I took their names off the lines completely and had them writing their full names without models. At the end of the school year, I cut one signature from each child, each month, and put a page together for each parent to see how much their child’s name writing skills had grown throughout the year…from random shapes and numbers to full, neat and properly placed names.
Another huge thing that I took away from Dan’s lesson plans was his addition of Bloom’s Taxonomy questions at the end of each lesson. We all know we are asking a hundred questions over the course of a day, but having at least one example of each level of questioning right there in front of me made me more aware of what needed to be asked and how. It stretched my thinking and pushed the children. Once I had that first “Evaluation” or “Analysis” question written down where I could see it, it would automatically spawn more as I taught the lesson.
Not having to break down the standard for each lesson, but still being able to be sure I hit each standard each week saved me time; time that was used instead creating fun and interesting lessons. The children became accustomed to the schedule and understood quickly what standards we were covering each day of the week and what was expected of them.
Dan’s lesson plans were an excellent guide to what a plan should look like and how it can be robust, but also easy to follow and use.
~Sue Ellen T., Early Childhood Educator
Dan mentored me through my first year of teaching. It was a mid-life career change for me. Dan broke the Ohio Department of Education tasks for Resident Educators down into manageable chunks so I could stay up with the timeline without feeling overwhelmed. The feedback he gave helped improve my performance while keeping my confidence up, even on my worst days. He often asked, “What do you need? What can I do to help?” He answered every text, email, and phone call, no matter how big or small my dilemma. If he didn’t have an answer, he found someone who did. Dan has continued to be a lifeline for me in my second year of teaching, even though I was assigned another mentor. Thanks to Dan, I am creating the successful teaching career I had envisioned.
~Beth B., Pre-K Teacher
I have had several opportunities to work with Dan. Dan invited my 4th grade class to join his preschool class on a “Journey to Reading” week. The students from the two classes were paired up. We walked to the Cleveland Library for a tour of the library and a short story hour. During the following week, the students picked out books and my students read the books to their preschool buddies. The students also worked together to make a full-size paper model for the preschoolers to identify body parts. My 4th grader students wrote a descriptive essay about the activity.
Dan helped me prepare my portfolio for my Master Teacher license by showing me ways to improve the narrative of my experiences in the classroom. Dan shared with me his outline for writing Bloom’s Taxonomy higher thinking questions for my math and science lessons. I used his outline to improve the quality of the questions asked to engage students in the learning process. Dan helped me create a mini science bulletin board. The board has science graphics and questions for students work on as they come in the room.
Dan has the talent of creating a positive learning environment for students and adults.
~Annette M., 4th Grade Gifted and Talented