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Do we still need the three-part lesson?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by TES_Rosaline, Jun 25, 2019.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Are you a fan of the starter, main and plenary approach to teaching? Is it still the most effective way to run a lesson? Would you prefer a different way to conduct teaching in the classroom?

    ‘In the earliest phases of training, teachers are introduced to three-stage lessons. The simplicity of the starter/main/plenary approach allows teachers to break learning into phases. The issue for me is that learning doesn’t work in these big chunks.

    As a way of conceptualising the importance of different lesson phases, starters, mains and plenaries are a good introduction – but that’s where it stops.

    Lessons need to be planned more intricately than this if we want students to truly succeed and teachers to be able to respond effectively to misconceptions in learning.’
    Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and lead teacher in English


    What alternatives do you think could replace the starter, main and plenary method?
  2. knitone

    knitone Lead commenter

  3. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    Not a fan of a plenary.

    I sort of check understanding as the lesson goes on... by the end of the lesson we usually peer assess so I can cut down on my marking burden a bit.
  4. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter


    Yeah, more intricate planning. Absolutely. Bring it on.

    And a total waste of time. 30 primary kids when it's windy. Or snows. Or it's hot. Or it's December. Or July. 30 primary kids with an ability range from functioning like a typical kid of 3 to to a child of 10. Some of whom have presented at the school gates having had a breakfast of half a Twix and some a balanced meal with carbohydrate, protein and a portion of fruit.

    No, what we need is fewer people telling us how to do our jobs.
  6. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    I was once observed by a county advisor delivering what for me was a standard lesson at the height of the episodic lesson boom. She'd seen a few of us and gave feedback to all at the departmental meeting after school. All had done well, but I received particular praise for having not only the standard three episodes, but a mini-plenary, a smaller supplemental starter later on when they weren't doing things right and other things I knew nothing about. I just taught like I always had, it became legendary in the department of how to BS to suit an "initiative" when just doing what you always do. I think it was the jingles, adverts and vignette of the guest star that swung it.
  7. bonxie

    bonxie Senior commenter

    Overly detailed planning is a waste of time. A good teacher is willing and able to change what they had in mind for a lesson to suit the needs of the children whilst the lesson is actually taking place. Anyone who has spent an inordinate amount of time planning the minute details of a lesson is going to be very reluctant to veer away from that plan if it turns out that the children aren't capable of what was planned/are capable of much more/a child makes an interesting comment that is worth spending time following up during that lesson.

    The important part of planning is the thinking that has gone into it, not the part written down. Just enough to jog the teacher's memory is all that is needed or useful. Teachers should be left to plan in a manner that suits them. Only if the children aren't making appropriate progress should anyone else need to intervene and give advice.
  8. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Yes which is why some new entrants to the profession teach very poor lessons . It takes skill, experience, initiative, the capacity to think on your feet, confidence and a ton of other things which many teachers who have learnt their trade and have in spades ) to veer from ‘the plan’ ......excessive planning and keeping to the script .... absolutely not ...
    agathamorse, blazer, cissy3 and 6 others like this.
  9. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    Yeah Mr Riches is talking bumpf... he just can't admit it because the system will penalise him.
  10. irs1054

    irs1054 Star commenter

    The three part lesson is a good rule of thumb for general guidance but a bad master when it is applied too rigidly. Quite often you need to improvise because something unexpected arises.
  11. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Indeed - not a single original idea in the article. As usual with such gumph, it is usually delivered in three parts

    The Starter: This is the point to take a relatively simple concept (i.e that a lesson can generally be described in 3 parts) and make a ridiculous assertion about how everyone incorrectly applies it rigidly and and unthinkingly.

    The Main: This the opportunity to explain how the wrong assertion is applied. Ideally, one should describe the detrimental effects of the wrong assertion that isn’t really being applied in terms that no one who has been in a classroom would recognise. To this you should add some banalities from teacher training that everyone knows, but try and disguise with some trending phrases you have learnt ‘constant evaluation of the learner’ ‘constructive feedback’ that sort of thing.

    The Plenary: This bit should be about you. Now that everyone is aware of the incorrect assumption that they don’t really apply, and have been reminded of stuff they have never forgotten, you should give some examples of how you lifted teaching to a new high, discovered just how much more your students learners had in them and the revelation of the gift that is your teaching ability - because now after many years you are actually becoming an average teacher. Pop it all in an email and send to TES; they are bound to publish it. :rolleyes:
  12. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    It's a ridiculous notion that someone who wanted to see their name in educational lights ever thought that teachers would not see through the fact of fatuously renaming "beginning, middle and end", and pretty devious to call an actual structural design a "method". You could almost fall for that one.
    Assuming a lesson is, say, 60 minutes then whatever you do in the first ten minutes is the starter, whatever happens for the bulk of the rest is the main, and whatever happens at the end is the plenary. Therefore the one alternative to "starter, main and plenary" is abolishing the concept of a fixed unit of time being a lesson. Ergo no lessons! Yay!
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It's hilarious really. The self-deception we practise upon ourselves.

    Education at your mother's knee. Fathers are also available. Learning by playing with siblings. Mixing with other families. Finding a mentor. Learning a craft. It doesn't really work 1:30 or even 1:15. But we decided we ought to educate all children somehow or other. We weren't going to spend a lot of money on it. Obviously. Not the grubby masses. So we industrialised it as best we could. A production line.

    That's what it is. It's a compromise. A fudge.

    But we have to pretend there's a nobility to it. There isn't. We do the best we can under far from ideal circumstances. Let's be honest. Not as an excuse to do a poor job but to be realistic about what's possible.
  14. Mangleworzle

    Mangleworzle Star commenter

    The problem is the number of experienced teachers has fallen dramatically in some schools and with management who have only themselves taught for a short time, they can't imagine that others know and can do things they have yet to learn, especially when they get to observe and comment on others.

    Many of the educational initiatives and "need" for 3 part lessons and detailed planning come from those who haven't mastered their craft by putting in their 10,000 hours. The sad part is that rather than learn from those who have, they simply dismiss them because they can't believe others can do things they can't, this is proven by their respective places on the management-managed hierarchy.
  15. yodaami2

    yodaami2 Lead commenter

    Before anybody ever formalised 3 part lessons I had the subtitles, starter, main and pudding in most of my lessons. I also had many sides! Depending on how the main went down.

    Formalised lesson PowerPoints are bringing me down, especially when now the book scrutinies are checking we are all using the same resources.
    agathamorse and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  16. cissy3

    cissy3 Star commenter

    And even that is debatable, as I don't buy this idea that progress is made in these plodding incremental steps of even length, but rather can be rather more like this:


    (Although I hesitated to use a graph as an illustration, as one school used to get us doing this carp for each pupil taught. .. and I wouldn't want to encourage it!)
    agathamorse and grumpydogwoman like this.
  17. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Of course. Don't you know people make good money out of telling teachers how to do their jobs?
  18. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    The straightjacket of the OSTED-friendly three part lesson and compulsory groupwork was a significant reason for me resigning my post. My KS3 pupils were supposed to be undertaking a GCSE level course from Y7 onwards, in less than the prescribed number of guided learning hours. It was individually assessed ICT-based creative work and they simply didn't have the time for all that ruddy faff. When a member of SLT told me that I had to slow them all down to conform with OFSTED's lesson observation requirements, and to consider their results expendable as a consequence, I threw the towel in.
  19. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Context is everything. As demonstrated by @magic surf bus

    I can just imagine my reaction as a pupil!

    We settle down to get further through Merchant Of Venice and Millie gives us a stupid starter! As if we didn't know why we were there! We're in the middle of MOV and we want to get on with it. The way to do that is open the book and start reading! Millie would stop us when she wanted to make a point. We didn't need a plenary either. It had only been 50 minutes!

    Different context. Different subject/kids. But that lesson style wasn't appropriate for us most of the time. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. One size does not fit all.
  20. Bobbbs

    Bobbbs Occasional commenter

    Nope. Never did.

    "We'll continue this next lesson" is a sign that they actually did some damn good work.

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