It’s a huge learning curve for lots of us. We see the potential, but there are so many things to figure out – how am I going to collect homework – or am I? What do I do with all these cool downs? How do I carve time out of an already packed lesson to make the time spent on homework and the things I learn from cool downs valuable?
Time could be a question to figure out all by itself. The minutes per lesson are tight. The students are slow to engage in conversation and productive discussions so everything takes longer than it says. People say to trust the curriculum and I do . . . I know each part is carefully inserted to bring students to conceptual understanding AND procedural fluency . . . . but all that just makes it harder to leave anything out. I feel unprepared to make the important teacher decisions that often have to happen on the fly in front of kids. What can I skip? What do I stop and address? I know when something seems important, but you keep saying it is all important. And the quote in my signature tagline mocks me every time I send an email:
“The greatest influences in the quality of the education that a student receives are the decisions that a teacher makes on a daily basis.”
I do not have a classroom of my own, but I am working with some amazing, caring, and talented teachers who are rolling out OUR/IM 6-8 math this year, and I hear and see all of this. We listen to the teachers and districts who are on their second year and hear:
“It was like that for us too at the start.”
“Don’t worry it gets better as you all learn the routines.”
And that is great and encouraging, but many of teachers feel like they are drowning now. Waiting a month for the rescue boat that is coming seems a long, painful wait away. They see individual great stuff, but, bottom line, they are awesome experienced teachers and they just aren’t used to not knowing what they are doing.
And on facebook and twitter I hear other teachers saying the same things. So let’s address this head on and get you a life preserver TODAY.
Idea 1: Use a time machine
It would be awesome if this was actually an option. If we had a year of teaching this curriculum under our belt, we would know what was coming, when something was a big deal that we had to address right then, and when we could wait for it to come up again later.
Idea 2: Accept not knowing and keep treading water
This just isn’t okay. If we keep teaching without knowing where we are going and trying to do everything and go over everything, we are going to get desperately behind and not finish the curriculum. And we may collapse from exhaustion.
Idea 3: Prep a week at a time
I get it. Prep is a ton of work at this point. Every weekend I sit down and prep for the week just as if I was going in at 7:45 Monday morning to deliver the lesson. I have done it a couple of different ways, but I have to say nothing beats:
- Working through the student lessons and homework and then reading the teacher guides to see what I was supposed to get out of them.
- Doing 4 or 5 lessons in one sitting to see how things will flow throughout the week.
With the vast experience of being on my 4th week, I suggest:
Sit and do 4 or 5 student lessons including homework, peaking a teacher’s guide only when necessary to clarity. You can really feel the overlap and spiraling when you do that. Then go back and read as many of those teacher lesson notes as you can manage time for. Read the last couple as you progress through the week.
Some adaptations I was able to make this past week when I planned that way:
For 7th grade, I realized the second activity from lesson 11, which contrasted scales with units and scales without units, was a nice lead in to lesson 12, which had as a learning target:
- I can write scales with units as scales without units.
- I can tell whether two scales are equivalent.
If part of lesson 11 needed to run over the the next day, that was going to be fine. If the students have done well on pre-diagnostic test problems 1 and 2, skip the first activity of lesson 12 to get that extra time. If not, consider skipping optional activity 12.3.
For 8th grade, which I have been doing all along, it seemed there were 100 things that bled together like that. I could condense lesson 7 a ton, because the ideas were repeated in 8, 9 and 10. However, doing them all together I noticed the rigid transformation in activity 7.3 was the same set of moves need in 8.3. If I skipped 7.3 originally because of time, I could have students look back at that page if they were struggling with 8.3.
If you want to get as close as possible to the time machine idea, this batch lesson prep is the way to go.
Words of wisdom from OUR/IM 6–8 Math Guru Sara Vaughn during her first year with the curriculum:
“I finally got into a groove and became much more efficient in preparing for my Open Up classes. Rather than preparing daily as I had done September through January, in February I started batching my lesson preps.”
(Here is the rest of what Sara had to say at the beginning of her OUR/IM journey.)
And this was Sara at the end of her year 1:
“I could write for days about how jazzed I was each day as we learned math in an entirely different way this year. I could tell you how I learned something new each and everyday, not only about student learning, but also about math. You need to experience that for yourself though. Please be smart enough to do that the week or at least day before your students do. It will make you so much more efficient and effective than I was. I eventually got ahead of them, but not far. I am excited for next year for sure!
OUR made me love, adore, and treasure teaching Math 8 for the first time ever. It was fun. It was meaningful. It was amazing. I cannot thank OUR enough for bringing joy into my classes through quality curriculum. I would have never thought that possible, but I lived it.”