Teacher's guide Guide

abbreviation note: it's cumbersome to write 'Teacher's Guide' every time, so we're trying the abbreviations 'Tg' / 'TgG' (for 'Teacher's guide Guide').

So you've written a lesson pitch! The next step is to turn it into a Teacher's Guide, so that it can be taught.

What is a teacher's guide?

A teacher's guide is something that should enable someone who has never taught or seen the lesson before to try teaching it. This means it should contain both a lesson plan (what happens in the lesson and when it happens) and any other background information that someone would need to teach the lesson. This could be theoretical material like “how brushless motors work” or practical (such as the instructions for how to set up one of the experiments). It should also contain advice on how to teach the lesson. For instance, it could show good ways of explaining a difficult concept, useful diagrams, or how to facilitate a student team meeting.

Examples of lesson plans can be found here (salt water battery) and here (CCB).

Below is a set instructions to guide you through the process of creating a teacher's guide from a lesson pitch.

1. Lesson Philosophy

First of all, if you haven't already, take a look at the lesson philosophy. This explains what PEN is looking for in its lessons, and will probably be helpful in writing the teacher's guide.

2. Rough Lesson Outline

First (you may have done something similar in the lesson pitch), write out a rough outline of what happens in the lesson, in order. Include:

Front-of-the-class work (what individual concepts are explained to the class, what teacher demonstrations are done, and when this all happens) Individual student work (building work, experiments, design) Team student work (building, experiments, design, discussion, etc)

An example rough outline is here.

3. Information Brainstorming

Using the rough outline as a guide, brainstorm everything a teacher might need to know in order to teach the lesson. Make sure you've covered all of these areas:


If there are any experiments or demos that need to be built in a specific way by the teacher, include exact instructions (with full materials lists and preferably with diagrams) on how to build them. Include any troubleshooting tips - common ways the experiment can fail and how to fix it, etc.

Student Design/Building work

If there is any student-generated design aspect, explain how this works. Is it done in teams? Pairs? Individually? Are students guided through a brainstorming/idea selection process, or are they left to design themselves with input from teachers? What tools and materials are available to them? Do they draw out a design first or just experiment with the materials?

If you've read the Lesson Philosophy, you'll know that it's highly discouraged to show students an example of a design you made earlier, since it's likely they'll copy it. Bearing this in mind, explain how a teacher might explain the design requirements without showing any direct, already-built examples.

Other student activities

There may be some student activities in the lesson that do not involve building or experimenting, such as group discussion, making a Pugh Chart, or drawing. Explain what these are and what they involve.

Background Information

Include all the background theoretical knowledge a teacher would need to know in order to teach this lesson. This knowledge doesn't have to be in a “teachable” format, just cover all the concepts a teacher would need to be familiar with. It can consist of explanations you write yourself, or links to other good explanations of the concepts elsewhere.

Remember that the teacher's knowledge might need to be broader and more in-depth than what they are actually teaching. They may need to answer student questions, explain things in different ways, or troubleshoot experiments.

Also remember that another teacher might have less background in the area than you do – try to include as much background info as possible, even if just in the form of links.

“How-to-Teach” Concepts

While the teachers need to have a general knowledge of all the concepts involved, they also need to know how to present these concepts to the students.

Explain the “narrative” of how the concepts are taught. How are they introduced, and in what order? How are they ordered so that the flow makes sense to the students? Are some concepts prompted by doing demos/experiments first, or is the concept explained before the demo? For each of the individual concepts, suggest good ways of explaining them. This could include analogies (e.g. explaining electrical current by comparing it to water flowing through pipes), or by diagrams drawn on the board. Try to include pictures of diagrams.

Remember that not all analogies will work in different places – or even between individual students. For the most difficult concepts, try to include three or four different analogies or diagrams that explain the ideas, and encourage the teacher to think of more.

Full Bill of Materials

Look over all the experiments/demos/building activities and write out a full list of all the materials you are using. Relate them to the number of students using them (e.g. one can per pair of students). Don't forget things like pens and paper for drawing exercises. If the materials are non-specific (i.e. locally found materials) just specify their function (e.g. rigid rod, about 2ft long, thumb-width).

Local Research

If applicable, write any research the teacher needs to do about the place and group of students they are teaching. For instance, they may need to research suitable analogies for certain concepts, locally relevant problems for design challenges, or locally available building materials.

4. Finalize and Format

The TgG should be a series of several different documents:

Background info

Format all the information you found in a document under category headings (we suggest you use the headings listed above, unless different ones are more relevant to your material). You can write the background information into the document, and/or provide links to other sources.

Full Bill of Materials

Lesson Plan

Re-read the the rough lesson plan from Step 1. Make sure it makes sense in terms of the experiments and concept presentation you've described.

Make a finalized lesson plan. Include time estimations with each activity (e.g. idea brainstorming ~ 10 minutes) and number estimations for group work. Also include references to the background info document if relevant, particularly for experiments/building and “how to teach this concept” sections.


Ned, 2011/09/02 17:58

Grace responded to my question on the team wiki, saying basically that formatting is the planned next step. And then she didn't transfer her comment over to the new site. :p

Anna, 2011/09/01 16:37

Drive-by Anna approves (yet again) of philosophies and methods.

But I'll echo Ned's question as to the formatting of the teacher's guide.

I'm also confused (on a mundane structure-of-the-article level) about the fact that we seem to lay out two different outlines for things: Steps 1-4, and then a separate organizational structure explained under Step 4. Does Step 3 include both the Background Info and Materials (as stated in Step 4)? Is Step 4 for the TgG rather than the actual Tg? This is a minor problem, and can likely be fixed very easily with a bit of re-structuring and re-wording. Perhaps if we lay out our suggested organization of the Tg at the beginning…

Ned, 2011/08/24 13:06

I like the use of examples, and the note to come up with many analogies.

I'm curious, though, as to the layout of a teacher's guide; are they meant to be sectioned as this guide is, or to give an idea of what kind of thought should fill out the chronology of the rough outline?

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