Starting things off

I have a wide variety of thoughts on “5 step lesson planning,” its necessity as an early pedagogical tool, and it’s shortcomings. But one thing I’m clear on: if we’re going to do it, let’s make sure we think through all five steps. We spend a lot of time making sure we’ve got the perfect practice, the perfect way to introduce new material–but how often are we thinking about the perfect closing to a lesson? Or, most important to me, the perfect opening?

I really believe that for students to process the logical ideas of math, they’ve got to do it by struggling through the thinking themselves. It can’t just be spoon fed to them. I really believe that if students are going to see math as an interconnected body of ideas, then everything they learn has to built on what they’ve learned before.

All of these beliefs suggest to me that we’ve got to open every single lesson in the right way: in ways that hook the students enough to make them willing to work through challenge, and in ways that are mathematically meaningful enough that students are going to be able to build on previous knowledge.

And yet instead we almost always have a “Do Now,” where we spend five minutes reviewing old material. It’s often completely disconnected from what we’ve done before. It often discourages students from engaging, because from the first moment of class they feel threatened, like they’re going to get things wrong.

We’ll talk throughout the year about better approaches, but for now I thought I’d link to two recent blog post I’ve come across that suggest some possibilities.

First, consider learning something from the storytellers on TV, and do a re-cap, instead of a warm-up. Hook students into the story of math, re-ground them in the essentials, and also prime them for what’s to come.

For those of you that have bought into the idea of building tasks and problems into your year, here’s a nice run down of potential ways to start facilitating difficult problems.

Have some other ideas about how to start off class well? Let us know in the comments!

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