Learning To Plan

Pic 1One of the characteristics of people who are good at Managing their Impulsivity is their ability to plan. They are good at establishing goals and then planing out the steps required to reach that goal.

However, in many classroom situations the planning is being done for the students. Teachers routinely plan out the learning path, the steps for the assignment, or the order of the tasks that need to be completed.

Of course this sort of planning is part of your skill as a teacher. You couldn’t expect most students to have sufficient skills to plan these learning experiences for themselves.

And there’s the catch 22. On one hand you want them to master the art of planning, and on the other you need to do the planning, prioritizing and sequencing for them in order that they reach other learning outcomes. What to do?!

Fortunately there is some middle ground; getting students to engage in some of the planning process themselves. Here’s one possible strategy to help return some of the planning to students:

  1. When you design a task that has structure, order or sequence, first delete some or all of the indicators that tell students what to do first and what to do last.
  2. Randomize the order of steps by cutting the task up into parts or rearranging them on the page.
  3. For very young students you might cut the task in two, asking them to identify where to start and where to finish. For older students you might give them only 6 of 10 steps, then tell them to put the steps in order and work out which steps they need to add. What is important is that there is just enough planning required to keep the student working in their “Goldilocks Zone” – and this will change over time.
  4. With (some or all) of the indicators of order removed, and the steps provided randomly, ask students to complete the planning for the task

This strategy can be applied to anything that has order or structure. This might include the structure of an essay, a scientific experiment, the recipe for making a cake, a flow chart for a computer program, the process of constructing a painting and many more.

What’s important is that as teachers we recognise when we are robbing students of a planning opportunity (see The Things We Steal From Children), and then design our teaching to give just enough planning back to the students to help develop their ability to Manage their Impulsivity.