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Crux

So I signed up for that better lesson thing.

And I’m not using it.

Take this recent lesson from my pre algebra class, for example.

The obvious WCYDWT is fractions.

The trick, what made my lesson work, is that I had kids figuring out how many people you could split it between, smallest number you couldn’t split it between, ways of changing them so you could still split them amongst the same number of people. Then they got to do it again with this:

This went for about a day and a half before I even broached the idea of numerator or denominator. These are kids who’ve heard those terms before, and for whom they are big off switches. They see fractions, and their brain shuts off.

By ignoring the nomenclature, and making them do all the work with pictures of chocolate bars of various dimensions, they’ve now got a handle on what some of the relationships are – they get common multiples and equivalent fractions in a visceral way, rather than just symbols on a page.

And to get them there, I need just those images, not much more. everything else follows on what they’ve done, building on their work. (I need a good way to integrate a document camera and annotation software into Keynote. I’m desperate for it. I would sacrifice a thousand IWBs to get that capability).

But I have no idea how to make this work as a written lesson plan. Sure, I can write something up that would satisfy an administrator. But the actual learning, the pacing, the building up on previous knowledge, is all so dependent on the student and the class, on how they react to it, that I can’t create an algorithm to describe it. The best I can do is make a map for people whose skills are similar to mine. Or I could let them come watch. But how do you index that, and how do I distill the good essence without poisoning it with the dozens of mistakes I make (and learn from) along the way?

Making lessons is easy.

Sharing them is hard.

{ 6 } Comments

  1. David P | September 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    This works for me!

  2. Gerben | September 15, 2009 at 1:06 am | Permalink

    Nice example.
    Your problem reminds me of my days as a software engineer. Lots of engineers make software for themselves, some of them are really great pieces of software. But sharing them with other people means: documenting, version control, user interface improvements. In the end not many people share their software….

  3. Jason Dyer | September 16, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    You just did.

    I think what is needed is something like “New Games Journalism” — a personalized, moment-by-moment anecdotal approach to lesson plans, which gives an account of what happened and why. Of course this is already happening at blogs, but no administrator in the world as far as I know has ever designated such a “lesson plan”.

  4. Jackie Ballarini | September 19, 2009 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Another vote for “you just did”. I like the image & the idea. Thanks!

  5. Mr. K | September 19, 2009 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    BTW – the images are from Problem Pictures.

  6. jenneane l | September 29, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Mr. K – I’m a first time visitor to your site and can tell I will return frequently. Loved the candy fraction idea. How did the students respond? What were your biggest problems? It’s great to see your ideas using simple manipulatives (not always technology based) that make sense. Thanks!