Your guide on how to use teaching resources successfully
In the world of education, it is no secret that teachers face immense pressure, overwhelming workloads and unrelenting demands. Your role as a computing teacher, extends beyond imparting knowledge and teaching pupils how to write programs; you are mentors, nurturers and facilitators of growth for the next generation.
However, the weight of these responsibilities has reached unprecedented levels, leaving many computing teachers feeling overworked and burnt out. The demanding workload has become a critical issue driving a concerning trend of teachers leaving the profession.
It is no wonder that sights such as TES, Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) and Teach Computing have exploded in popularity with teachers trying to find ways of reducing their workload by purchasing or downloading pre-made teaching resources.
But how can you trust that the resources are any good? And what is really the best way of using them in your classroom?
The pitfalls of using pre-written lesson plans and materials
While pre-written teaching resources undoubtedly offer convenience and time-saving benefits to educators, it is crucial to tread carefully when incorporating them into your classroom. As with any tool, there are potential pitfalls that computing teachers must be aware of to maintain the effectiveness and integrity of their teaching.
In this section, we explore some of the key challenges that arise when relying extensively on other people’s teaching materials and lesson plans. Understanding these pitfalls will empower you to use teaching resources strategically, ensuring a well-balanced and engaging learning experience for your students.
Lack of customisation: Pre-written teaching resources may not cater to the specific needs of your students as undoubtedly you will have students who have individual specific needs and require a different approach than the original author had intended. The structure of the lesson may not fit your timetable, such as assuming you only have 1 lesson a week with your students when you actually have to fill 2. Or maybe they are written for a 1 hour lesson but you only have 45 minutes.
Loss of creativity: Excessive use of pre-written materials can stifle your creativity and unique teaching style. Many of us got into teaching because we dreamt of developing interesting lessons for our students. Not many of us thought we would be reading from a script with no input into what we are presenting. Losing your creativity can lead to monotony or boredom, or even an emotional disconnect between you and the subject matter, which your students are sure to pick up on.
Difficult to find resources that meet your needs: We’ve all been there and downloaded a lesson from TES only to discover that it isn’t quite what you imagined. It either didn’t go into the detail you required or included so much detail it made the lesson dry and uninspiring. You may have been able to use a small part of it, but it took you more time to adapt it then it saved you.
The benefits of using pre-written lesson plans and materials
Ss, what are the benefits of using pre-written teaching resources.
Save preparation time: Good quality teaching resources often come with ready-to-use materials, such as lesson plans, worksheets, presentations and other interactive activities. Instead of starting from scratch, teachers can readily access these resources and integrate them into their teaching. When you can save time in preparing the majority of the lesson you can have more time for differentiating the lesson for your students’ individual needs or getting on with the one hundred and one other things that are requiring your attention.
Access to expertise: Using well-crafted pre-written materials allows teachers to leverage expertise they might not possess in certain subjects. This is especially useful for non-specialist teachers who can lack confidence in the subject matter. It gives them a valuable “jumping off” point and can help them gain confidence quickly.
Curriculum alignment: Pre-written resources can help ensure that the curriculum standards are met effectively. Ofsted have said that “The national curriculum for computing established computing as a foundational discipline that every child studies” and therefore they will be looking at how well the national curriculum is covered when they do their inspections. By using pre-written teaching resources from a reputable author you can ensure that the curriculum is covered, without wasting time re-inventing the wheel.
Strategies for successful implementation
Using pre-written resources in your classroom opens up a treasure trove of possibilities for computing teachers. They can be used to save preparation time and can add impact to your lessons with activities you may not have thought of. Yet, jumping into using other people’s teaching resources without thought is dangerous, so let’s have a look at how you can navigate it successfully.
Do your research: Before using any pre-written teaching resource, take the time to thoroughly research it. Ensure that it aligns with your teaching objectives. It is unlikely that you will be able to find one that exactly meets the individual needs of your students, but it should at least cover what you want to teach and what is required in the national curriculum. Look for resources that give a clear product description that explains exactly what is covered and includes preview images, so you are aware of how the product looks to ensure it meets your needs and teaching style. Ask your teacher friends what sources and individual resource authors they have found that they recommend. Read the reviews, not only for that one product but from other products that author has created, to see if they are well-regarded by other teachers.
Think about what you actually need: You may not need to purchase an entire lesson or scheme of work, maybe just look for worksheets, knowledge organisers or programming challenges that can compliment your own knowledge and build your lessons around them. Add your own examples, anecdotes and real-life connections to make the material more relatable and engaging for your students.
Adapt for different learning levels: Modify pre-written resources to accommodate different learning abilities within your classroom. This might involve simplifying complex concepts or providing extension activities for advanced learners. Some authors create resources specifically for particular learning difficulties. For instance, my Python Lessons and GCSE Computer Science Lessons are written with dyslexia in mind as both myself and my son are dyslexic, so it is something I feel strongly about.
Add interactive elements: You can use pre-written resources as a foundation to prompt critical thinking and discussion. Instead of presenting information passively, if you have obtained a particularly text-heavy resource encourage students to analyse and question the text. Supplement the text with hands-on activities, group discussions and collaborative projects. Interactive learning experiences can enhance student engagement and comprehension.
Combine multiple resources: Don't be afraid to use multiple pre-written resources to create a comprehensive lesson. Mix and match materials to craft a well-rounded and dynamic learning experience.
In the quest to navigate the plethora of pre-written lesson plans and teaching materials, computing teachers have discovered a potent tool to wield in their classrooms. While these resources offer time-saving benefits and access to expertise, it is essential to be aware of the potential pitfalls that may arise. Striking a balance between using pre-written teaching materials strategically and customising them to suit individual student needs ensures a dynamic and engaging learning experience.
By conducting thorough research, seeking recommendations and critically evaluating pre-written resources, teachers can ensure their alignment with the curriculum and their own teaching style.
Finding the right balance between purchased materials and your own content allows for a more personalised and innovative approach to lesson planning.
Embracing pre-written resources can save you preparation time, giving you the opportunity to focus on differentiating lessons, engaging students and pursuing professional development. Or just having a bit of a longer lie-in at the weekend!
Check out my Python Lessons and GCSE Computer Science lessons to see how they can save you time and can easily be adapted to meet your own students’ learning needs.