Mrs. Cook's Corner

Improving a Learning Activity

ISTE Standards for Educators 2.d

Model and facilitate effective use of current and emerging digital tools to locate, analyze, evaluate, and use information resources to support research and learning.

This week I was tasked with coaching a fellow educator in improving a learning activity. “Peer coaches work to improve a learning activity that is commonly used in their school…” (Foltos, 2013) I decided to work with my coachee, Gurminder. Prior to being a coach, I was on her 6th grade team. We knew that we wanted to work with the opening lesson of our Module 2 on Bud, Not Buddy. We had taught this lesson 4 years in a row, and each year we tried to jazz it up so that our students would get more out of the lesson. Foltos asks us to consider this question, “What is the context in which this lesson occurs in your curriculum?”

The lesson asks students to view a picture taken in the Great Depression era of two young African American boys. Through discussing this photograph and reading chapter 1 of Bud, Not Buddy, students are supposed to make connections to help them understand what life might be like for Buddy.

During the Great Depression, more than 200,000 vagrant or orphaned children wandered the country as a result of the breakup of their families.
Shahn, Ben. “Homeless children, Natchez, Mississippi.” Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

We have always thought that this lesson misses an opportunity for background knowledge to be built. So we were excited to have this time to transform this lesson. Our plan is to find content that will help engage our students as well as create images and connections to the novel the students are reading. We want to use technology to create something authentic and dynamic for students.

Learning Design Matrix

We took a look at the Learning Design Matrix that was presented to me by Les Foltos, (my professor this quarter). On the matrix there are four categories, Standards-Based Task, Engaging Task, Problem-Based Task, and Technology Enables and Accelerates Learning. Because we have always wanted to enhance this lesson, Gurminder and I gravitated to the Technology Enables and Accelerates Learning.

In the Technology Enables and Accelerates Learning, we selected to three of the bullets to work towards:

  • Gather relevant information, assess its credibility, and organize, analyze, and synthesize information to solve real world problems.
  • Foster student discovery of a concept or construction of their own understanding of a concept.
  • Create knowledge, share and use it with authentic audiences

We focused on these three bullets when thinking about ways to transform the lesson. The intended goal for students is to have a variety of resources available when building their knowledge so that the time period can come to life for them. That meant that we needed to curate a variety of print, video, and audio resources about the Great Depression so that students could build background knowledge and make connections to Bud in the novel, Bud, Not Buddy.

Gurminder and I spent a few days curating resources. The next steps will be to review the material, especially the videos and see how an Actively Learn can be created using this material.

So, this is where we are in the Lesson Improvement process. Stay tuned to next week’s blog to see where Gurminder and I have taken this project.Sources:


  • Foltos, L. (2013). Peer coaching: Unlocking the power of collaboration. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  • EL Education Curriculum. (n.d.). Retrieved from

4 thoughts on “Improving a Learning Activity

  1. I am not familiar with the ‘Bud, not Buddy’ book – and this looks like a wonderful learning experience for your students. I am looking forward to seeing what relevant information you decide to include in this lesson plan, and how you will synthesize it all to make this a better learning experience for your students!

  2. Melissa, the resources you’ve put together for this lesson are amazing and will surely bring the Great Depression to life for the students. I can’t wait to see what you end up doing as your final design.

  3. Hi Melissa,
    It is a great job you did to improve the lesson of Great Depression on context. It is important to help students to engage students as well as create images and connections to the novel the students are reading. Your resources can help them to construct knowledge and lead dynamics learning on this content. Thank you for the sharing.


  4. Melissa, your blog utilizes the learning matrix to support intentional instruction design while demonstrating why we want to continue to revise as we re-teach. You have a firm grasp on the acceleration of learning; this makes you a wonderful coach. I know that so many students are fortunate to be on the receiving end of your supportive and engaging learning opportunities. I am willing to bet, many of these students are so enthralled in the learning that they do not realize what they have learned until the refection phase.

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