The 3,000 Part Computing Lesson

Every so often there comes along a new daft idea (or a newly-packaged old idea that has been mangled out of recognition (and thereby rendered useless) so that its “inventor” can be designated as a guru. Me? Cynical? Never!) One of the more unfortunate manifestations of this phenomenon was the three part lesson. It sounds good and logical, but then the thing that usually happens happened: Ofsted started insisting on it, and Headteachers demanded to witness it in every lesson. Woe betide the brilliant but hapless teacher whose lesson plans failed to include the three parts.

Anyway, I was trawling through the Freedman archives when I came across this article written in 2004. Although it refers to “ICT”, it could just as easily refer to “Computing”. The insistence on the three part lesson has since been thrown into the dustbin of education history, thank goodness  -- though I daresay there are still some Headteachers who swear by it.

Having a structure to your lesson is definitely good – but having a prescriptive approach like saying all lessons must have n number of parts, where n is any number you like, appears to have no firm basis at all. In fact, for a thorough debunking of the rigid application of the three part lesson structure, I recommend Tom Bennett's book, Teacher Proof.

Buying Tom’s book via the above link will help to put a few more morsels of food on my meagre table through the Amazon affiliate income I will earn. You know it makes sense.

Anyway, here’s the article. Enjoy.

The 3,000 Part Lesson

lesson plan

The idea of the 3-part lesson is not exactly new. Long-in-the-tooth educationalists will recall the original description of the 3-part lesson:

“First I tells ‘em what I’m going to ell ‘em, then I tells ‘em, then I tells ‘em what I told ‘em”.

To be fair, and also boringly pedantic and modern (which is probably a tautological statement in itself), the first part of that is a declaration of lesson objectives rather than of intended learning outcomes. Even so, you can see the similarities between this “old-fashioned” approach and the current “conventional” wisdom.

I wouldn’t mind – in fact, I think the formalisation of the concept of the 3-part lesson is very useful. But there is no consistency. The 3-part lesson has developed into the 4-part lesson, and I’ve recently come across a project that promotes the idea of the 6-part lesson, and a school which bases all its lesson planning on the model of a 7-part lesson.

None of these goes far enough.

I propose the 3000-part lesson. Based on the “ideal” lesson time for discrete ICT of 50 minutes, the 3000-part lesson would itemise exactly what was to happen in each second of the lesson. Nothing would be left to chance.

I do have some philosophical questions though. For example, part 1 of my ideal lesson is “Preparing to change the mind set of the pupils entering the classroom”. Should this be counted as part 1 of the lesson or, because it actually starts before the lesson, is it more legitimate to regard it as part 3001 of the previous lesson?”

Please send your answers on a self-addressed postcard.