I taught a lesson on Tuesday and it sucked…Real bad!
It sucked more than Maggie Simpson sucks her pacifier! I really felt for the 21 students, 4 teachers and the administrator who were observing. My face is still a little numb from how flat I fell on it! In my current position I bounce around from school to school modeling lessons and being observed. Every day is a “formal observation day.”
Side note: Not being at a single school is challenging because it’s tough to build a “testing laboratory” to try out new things. Although many teachers are willing to open their classroom, I might not be able to make it back to their school for a month. So in that respect, I’m like an educational nomad!
On Tuesday I was building the plane while flying it. It was the first time I had flown this task with students and it crashed. Here’s how it all went down:
- I anticipated all the students’ WDYN and WDYW for act-1. Conversations were flowing and I was happy.
- The main questions: Who won the race?
- While setting up Act-2, every group wanted to know who was faster and with some conversation they eventually wanted to know the distance the girls were running.
- I gave students the information they asked for, I let them go and…CRICKETS! They had no idea what to do or how to start!
- They knew the main question, they understood the information they had, but they had absolutely no idea how to use it.
I’m a firm believer that you can always add to the lesson but you can’t subtract. The problem was that after 10 minutes of questioning there was nothing else I could give them. My only option was to pull the plug on the lesson or walk them down the solution path… and there was no way in “hockey sticks” I was doing that. So I flatlined the lesson!
In looking back, I realize that I need to be more prepared to scaffold this and future tasks (especially when using problem based lessons). Normally I can rely on my questioning to save me but I need to do a better job anticipating the struggles that students will have. I need to do a better job making the math accessible. The students REALLY wanted to know who won the race and I let them down. But I am returning with great vengeance this tomorrow. I’m not waiting a month to return. I’m returning to “un-suck-a-fy” this lesson.
Here’s how…We’ll quickly revisit Act 1 with the WDYN and WDYW. Then there are some layers of scaffolding I now have in place to make the task accessible and it starts with the least helpful information because we can always add (or take away in this case):
Step 2 is to decontextualize the mathematics.
Step 3 is isolate the race routes. Separate the routes that both girls are running.
Now I am cautiously assuming that most students will be good to go from any of the layers I’ve added. I don’t think I’ve compromised the integrity of the standard to this point but if all else fails I’ll go to step 4 (aka: code blue).
Although it was really difficult to pull the plug on Tuesday I’m glad I did. We all want every lesson to succeed, especially when being observed. I could have plowed through and got to the end of the lesson but what’s the point? I hope I modeled that it’s ok when a lesson goes bad and that learning can’t and shouldn’t be forced.
It’s what I do from this teachable moment that I am most excited to learn about myself. I am really interested to see how this all turns out. Ensuring that I make the math accessible is an ongoing goal.
We’ll see how it goes tomorrow morning!