Lesson Plan: Rafe's Classroom Secrets

Download the Lesson Plan

Jump to:


Our mission: Be Nice, Work Hard

Our motto: There Are No Shortcuts

Most classrooms are based on Fear. The kids are afraid of the teacher, failure, one another, and looking foolish. Our classroom is based on trust. That trust is built with consistency, kindness, and the reputation I have developed by staying in one place for many years.

This is a working classroom. We do not waste time. Children are invited to come to school early, stay late, and come during vacations. I am well aware that not all teachers can, or want, to put in many extra hours. However, I am proof that an ordinary person can create a special classroom with hard work.

I need to be the person I want the kids to be. I want them to be nice and work hard. Consequently I have to be the nicest person and hardest worker they have ever met. I teach by example and not lecture.


No lesson will ever be accomplished unless you have an outstanding system of classroom management. We accomplish this in two ways. First, the kids learn the Six Levels from me. They are based on Kohlberg's Hierarchy of Moral Development.

The children are taught to examine why we do things, and are given this model:

  • Level I: I don't want to get in trouble.
  • Level II: I want a reward.
  • Level III: I want to please someone.
  • Level IV: I follow the rules.
  • Level V: I am considerate of other people.
  • Level VI: I have my own code of behavior and I follow it (like Atticus Finch).

For an entire year, I model and encourage my children to be Level VI thinkers. They are model citizens not because of me, or reward, or fear, but because they develop a way of doing things -- their way. Because it is their way, they are always nice and work hard because that's what they do -- I have very little to do with it once they figure this out.


Second, my class runs on an economic system where children have jobs, get paid, but must pay rent to sit at their desks. They pay taxes and earn bonus money. They buy property. This system is outlined in the book There Are No Shortcuts.

Grammar: The kids will study a rigorous course of English grammar and be proficient writers and spellers by the end of the year.
Math: The students will understand all concepts of arithmetic by the end of the year. They will be able to get at least 90% on standardized examinations and be ready for mathematics and algebra.
Literature: The students will read at least 12 classics with me during the year, ranging from Orwell to Twain to Malcolm X. On their own time, they will read Newbery- Award-winning books and submit extensive reports on these at the end of each month.
Science: The students will complete scientific study in Life, Physical, and Earth science. They will learn the scientific method and become enthusiastic and organized scientists.
Music: All students will learn to read music and play an instrument. Many will play more than one.
US History: The students will believe themselves to be Americans. They will have an extensive knowledge of events from 1754 through the present. They will also understand our system of government.
Geography: The students will be able to label a map of the world. They will not only know there is a war in Iraq but where Iraq is. They will know when they help victims of the recent Asian tsunami where the tragedy occurred.
Economics: The students will be able to earn money, keep track of it, and balance a checkbook. They will understand the difference between renting and owning, and will have filled out tax forms.
Fine Arts: The students will complete several art projects and learn about great artists from Rivera to Monet. They will go to museums and have fun for the first time because they will understand what they see.
Physical Education: The students will learn how to play baseball and volleyball correctly using fundamental drills to excel. They will also run a mile in under 10 minutes.
Shakespeare: The children will perform an unabridged production of Shakespeare at the end of the year.


6:30 a.m.Doors Open

Students begin arriving (optional)

7:00 a.m.


Math Team begins

Students learn about solving difficult math problems and develop their critical thinking skills

8:00 a.m. Traditional School begins

Written Language

Students learn a grammar skill. They then write out 20 grammar sentences and must get 18 right or will have to do it again. (We call this the Dreaded Rewrite!)

8:30 a.m.



The children practice their skill of the day. Mental Math and problem solving are also incorporated into the lesson.

9:30 a.m.



This is the most important hour of the day. We read classics with passion and develop the joy of reading.

10:30 a.m.



We have a daily science experiment. These experiments are part of a month-long unit. Units include erosion, plant life, rocketry, oceanography, and chemistry.

11:00 a.m.



Students have the option of going outside to play or stay in to learn guitar. During the recess period we learn how to read music and play classical guitar.

11:20 a.m.


United States History

Using a combination of textbooks, DVD, and music, the children learn the history of the United States from 1754 to the present.

12:00 p.m.


Economics or Geography

On some days this period is used to pay students, make deposits, or balance accounts. On other days children study political geography. Our goal is for a child to label the world at the end of the year.

12:30 p.m.



Children go to lunch. After, they have the option of staying outside to play or returning to the class for guitar lessons. The lunch lessons feature rock music and singing.

1:20 p.m.


Fine Arts

The children work on several long-term art projects during they year. These include rug making, Mondrian paintings, and Hockney photography. This period is also used to continue music work that will be featured in the Shakespeare play.

2:20 p.m.


Physical Education

Baseball and volleyball fundamentals dominate the class schedule, as well as running. The children run a mile each day.

3:00 p.m.


Traditional School Ends

Shakespeare begins

As with guitar lessons and math team, Shakespeare is an optional activity that children from other classes join as well.

4:00 p.m.


Shakespeare ends

Students may stay in class to work on projects or rehearse music. Many leave around 5:00 p.m. Some say as late at 6:30 p.m. or 7:00 p.m.

Important Note:There is very little homework in my class. I am not a great believer in it. The kids usually have less than an hour per night. Good students make their own homework. They are reading for pleasure or practicing an instrument. That is more productive.