A Balanced Plan of different types of Activities, Nine Box Matrix
The purpose of this article is to explore an idea that could benefit teachers in ways which are different from traditional and nontraditional classroom practice. ‘Balanced planning’ is activity-based planning that is different from that in book-based or period-based teaching. This requires understanding and practice, particularly on integrating lessons around themes, crossing the boundaries of class periods, and balancing different types of activities. The aim of this writing is to explain what balanced planning is and present a simple and innovative planning tool that is known as the 9-box matrix. It is an example of how teachers can plan a balanced combination of various types of activities – oral, material-based, print-based, etc.
What is balanced planning?
Most teachers have their own perspectives and views about teaching and planning. They think of different techniques that ensure lessons have clear aims, measurable outcomes, appropriate materials, and helpful performance with warmers, fillers and closers to learning points. But balanced planning can be described in other ways. It means teachers plan their instruction in such a way that they can make a difference in improving learning outcomes. Balanced planning reflects all areas of a teacher’s plan, for a day, a week or for longer periods.
Why is balanced planning important?
Different individuals learn in different ways. No matter what the grade level is the lesson plan should include various types of activities. Balanced planning is important in this case because it promotes student’ achievements, supports their learning and builds a solid structure. It consists of a steady source of positive emotional support and promotes development of a broad range of skills and interest that’s mental, emotional and social. Current brain research reflects the importance of an enriched environment as necessary to brain growth and development. Enriched environment allows children to be active participators, not passive observers (Diamond &Hopson, 1999, pp. 107-108). To foster enriched environment requires the right amount of careful planning. As Verton (2015) puts it:
“A great lesson may be a flop because the students are particularly tired, distracted, or frustrated. Regardless, we need to be able to switch gears and adapt the lesson accordingly. As such, I would argue that a teacher needs to plan, but be careful not to over-plan. In other words, use a lesson plan as a guide rather than a script, and allow students to drive the lesson in a way that is meaningful to them”.
Therefore, to enhance proper learning skills, teachers require a strong concept of balanced planning.
What does balanced planning look like?
Balanced planning involves a 9-Box Matrix which suggests how much of each category (written/print, material, and oral) e.g. clay work or oral work like story telling can be usedas individual, group or whole class activities.
Figure 1: An unfilled 9-Box Matrix
- = should be used, (?) = may be used or sometimes, X = should not be used
The symbols indicate how appropriate it is to use each of the nine boxes – when to use frequently, when to use cautiously, and not recommended for use. This format can be used to plan activities for a day, or a week, or for longer periods, for example, as shown in Figure 2 below.
|Written/Print|| √ (?)
Figure 2: A sample completed 9-box matrix
If we think about a class arrangement for a day, it should begin with a large group activity like a conversation on known things, quick touching base with everyone and then the general activity which can be a story or discussion on an event, but it should cover all learners together. Towards the end of the lesson, different activities for different learners can be administered. If the teacher designs the activity for small groups or multi-level groups, the tasks could be in this arrangement: Group 1 will introduce the activity to the class, Group 2 work on new things, and Group 3 work on things familiar that need reinforcement (remedial work). In a small group, we can give individual tasksand give attention to individuals. Finally, we can conclude the day with learner interactions as a whole class plus a talk by local resource persons, and we can collect the materials produced (Gomes, 2007).
The learning will be successful when different learning principles are included in teachers’ plan. The principles are: (1) active involvement, (2) social participation, (3) meaningful activities, (4) relating new information to prior knowledge, (5) being strategic, (6) engaging in self-regulation and being reflective, (7) restructuring prior knowledge, (8) aiming toward understanding rather than memorization, (9) helping students learn to transfer, (10) taking time to practice, (11) developmental and individual differences, and (12) creating motivated learners (Vosniadou, 2001)
According to my observation and experiences, teachers may plan ahead about individual work such as drawing for understanding, true/ false statements, concept map and opposites. There might be other pair activities including the pair-share, pair-share-repeat & peer review writing task. Finally, group based activities like Jigsaw, definition and explanation and classroom assessment should be conducted.
“Language it’s like rain, moisture is feelings, cloud is thoughts, ideas, and rain is expression, form. Without moisture and cloud, there is no rain, without preparation of written work there is not creative work, we need to give opportunity for feeling and grow, gathering of moisture in the air. Thinking to start like the formation of clouds, outer expression or form, like the rain, does activities; allow opportunities for feelings, thoughts, and ideas to form” (Gomes, 2007)
The balanced planning approach in Bangladesh
The balanced planning system is not popular in Bangladesh since teachers are involved with more oral and written activities rather concrete or material-based activities. If we take the example of the classroom environment of Bangladesh, we discover that many of these schools hardly provide fun within education. Such fun may promote exploration and make learning more joyful. In rural areas, there is little use of an interactive method. Instruction is given in a traditional way so students are passive learners rather than having active involvement. One teacher commented that, “we tried to keep activity-based planning for the classroom, but there was a lack of adequate resources for different types of activities.” Some of the teachers are not familiar with the concepts relating to balanced planning.
Interestingly, an English medium school teacher in Dhaka shared a useful teaching tip after using the balanced planning approach.“I follow one sequence in learning, especially when I teach Math that is “ELPS”. E stands for “experience, touch and see” through concrete materials. L stands for language. Children should be asked to explain in words their thoughts to their peers. Sharing is important; it makes learning permanent. P stands for picture. Students have fun talking about it. S stands for symbol.”
The system of balanced planning is an important requirement for every teacher in every school of Bangladesh. By improving the system, education could be much more interesting for the young students.
In conclusion I would like to say that variety in teaching and learning can be achieved if the teachers follow the 9-box matrix to foster brain-friendly learning environment. This 9-box matrix is a very useful guide for teachers to know what should be done for their classroom. It also explains how various methods and activities complement each other. Together with appropriate teacher initiatives, balanced planning through the 9-box matrix will provide a balanced classroom, helping students enjoy their learning and reach their full potential.
(*Mrs. Sufia Ferdousi has been working as a PYP faculty who is dedicated to working with young children. Her passion is to guide teachers developing new strategies through different PD sessions. Sufia’s current goal is to become a professional development teacher, and she is looking for opportunities to build skills in this area.)
Diamond, M., & Hopson, J. (1999).The balanced curriculum, educating the whole child. Public Schools of North Carolina, State Board of Education, Retrieved from http://www.dpi.state.nc.us/does/curriculum/balancedcurriculum.pdf
Gomes, M. M. (2007). Accelerated learning as an alternative approach to education: Possibilities and challenges faced by CHOLEN, an NGO program in Bangladesh. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3275749
Vosniadou, S. (2001).How children learn. Educational Practices Series # 7 Geneva, Switzerland: International Academy of Education.
Verton, N. (2015, July 3). Finding balance in the student teacher classroom [TESL Blog].Retrieved Feb 3, 2016 from blog.teslontario.org/finding-balance-in-the-student-teacher-classroom.