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Dear Otto: What’s a typical lesson

Posted by on September 24, 2013

tech questionsDear Otto is an occasional column where I answer questions I get from readers about teaching tech. If you have a question, please complete the form below and I’ll answer it here. For your privacy, I use only first names.

Here’s a great question I got from Lisa:

Hi there! Wondering what your typical classroom structure is like. For example, I will be teaching k-5 in 50 minute classes.

Hi Lisa–I just did a webinar on that topic over at CSG so I’ve put a lot of thought into this. When I teach tech, I want students to be as independent as possible, have fun, and not be intimidated. Here’s how I accomplish that:
I break it into 2-3 pieces. I start with a warm-up, ala Responsive Classroom (if you’re familiar with that). It can be keyboarding, a quick student presentation. Something like that. Then, I do the primary goal of the lesson–a tie in with classroom inquiry, skills training. I wind down with free time on inquiry-based websites I make available on the class start page. Students can pick one of their choice from a list.
A couple of bullet items you want to be sure to cover in your lessons:
  • Differentiate for learners. Show multiple ways to an end so everyone gets it.
  • Maintain order–no walking around the classroom. No changing stations because ‘my computer doesn’t work’. No going across the room to get help from a best friend. Stay in seats. Figure out how to solve a tech problem. Get help from a neighbor.
  • Rules–collect rules from students at the start of the year and follow them.
  • Clean up before they leave–get students used to leaving their stations as they found them.
  • Have enrichment available—websites, keyboarding, other. Students don’t always finish at the same time. Have enrichment websites available on the class internet start page so they can quickly move on to those. They can even be games and simulations that tie in with inquiry.
  • What to do when it all falls apart (equipment doesn’t work, network is down)—embrace problems. Pause, get student thoughts on fixing things. Be flexible. The goal of technology is critical thinking, problem solving. That is never more evident than when ‘Things Fall Apart’.
  • Keep lessons as independent as possible so students can move forward with as little assistance
    • teach them to be problem solvers
    • keep a To Do list either on the Smartscreen or the class internet start page

Every lesson has three strands woven through whatever else you do:

  • Problem solving
  • Vocabulary
  • keyboarding

Even when ‘things fall apart’, you can pursue those and have a successful day.

What do you do in your tech class?.

To ask Otto a question, email me at

More tips for running your tech class:

5 Free Digital Tools for the No Budget Classroom

How to set up your tech classroom

163 Websites for Teachers to Integrate Tech into Your Classroom

Dear Otto: How do I teach keyboarding in a 25-minute class?

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Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor of a K-8technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of dozens of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. She is webmaster for six blogs, CSG Master Teacher, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blogger, a columnist for, IMS tech expert, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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