Math is important and that’s why it takes forever to plan for. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. I actually do believe it. Despite my greatest attempts at avoiding math in every day life, it’s everywhere. My students refuse to believe me and when I tried to mention the importance of fractions and making sure things are in equal parts (ie. birthday cakes, pies, class pizza party), my students kindly put it,”tell them to suck it up!”
So what am I going on about? Math is connected to everything.
Big Ideas are one of the concepts that I have to get my head wrapped around. Having been taught how to teach at the I/S level in specific subjects, the term “Big Ideas” was relatively new for me – when it came to math.
In a nutshell, they are key concepts that you want students to learn. They are way more than just our overall and specific expectations from the Ontario Curriculum. This concept has been extremely helpful in my planning (once I was made aware of it!) This past school year, I had a 2 grade split and next year I will have a 3 grade split! Rather than planning for three separate grades, I can focus on the big ideas and differentiate as needed.
For more information on Big Ideas that includes some examples, I suggest looking at Marian Small. This powerpoint, was extremely helpful when I was trying to figure out what “Big Ideas” meant (I was making it a lot more complicated in my mind!). She also has a number of books that would be AMAZING to have!
Determining your “Big Ideas” will definitely make planning long range, unit and lesson plans so much easier!
Long Range Plans
Long Range Plans are the perfect opportunity for me to see where I want my math program to go by the end of the year. It’s also the perfect time to see where I can make some cross-curricular connections. Since math in integrated into almost everything we do on a daily basis, developing a long range plan for each subject allows myself the opportunity to see HOW I can make everything connect. For instance, when it comes to data management I can easily make a connection to Geography as my students are required to read different types of graphs in both subjects. It also provides that “real world” opportunity so I can hear less “I’m never going to need to read a graph! I want to work for the MNR!” Instead of planning two separate units – 1. how to make graphs and 2. climate, patterns, etc., I can just combine the two and make the lessons that much more engaging!
I recently discovered Canadian Teacher LRP Tool and I’m definitely interested in using it once my planning kicks into full gear! I don’t think I’d use it as my only resource but I think it can definitely have some uses.
I’m really good at making Unit Plans – in theory. I just can’t stick to them. At least, I couldn’t this year. I could barely plan 2 days in advance because the needs of my students were constantly changing. Finding out at the end of May that they can’t round or divide is frightening (I started teaching them in March!). Obviously, the Unit I had planned was put on hold. But the most important part of my unit always stayed the same – what did I want in them to be able to do at the end?
Backward-down design is crucial. Thinking about the end of the unit is so much more important than the start. When you’re planning that next unit, think very carefully about what you want your students to know at the end. Everything else you do before the end can change (and it probably will).
Once you have the end in mind, think about where you want to start. Next think about how you plan to do your assessments? What kinds will you be doing? How often?
Finally – the most important thing I learned – is think about where their gaps might be, especially if you’ve never taught them before. Don’t assume they know anything. The best thing I did was stopped assuming they knew how to do something and started thinking like they didn’t. If they know how to do the concept you’re about to teach them – they’ll tell you and you can pass it off as review. I have a feeling there’s a student in your class who will be grateful that you reminded them how to multiply two digit numbers!
Here is a useful template from the “Ontario Curriculum Planner”
This is going to be your meat. This is where your 3 Part Lesson that I told you about is going to come in. This is also the area that you will probably constantly be changing. No matter how much you plan, students can and WILL surprise you. Maybe they are completely clueless and you need to take several steps back to fill those gaps or maybe they catch on a lot quicker to a concept than you thought they would.
For example: I had one class during my practicum that struggled severely with using a protractor. So, when I went into my next class, I was prepared! I planned an elaborate lesson on how to use protractors and it was engaging! It was perfect… Except my students thought I had completely lost my mind and were extremely insulted that I thought they needed to learn how to use such a simple tool. Luckily, I had my next lesson ready and we moved on. It would have been an extremely long hour!
If you’re looking for a template to get started with this website has a complete list of useful ones. I particularly like Template 14 because it’s designed with the 3 Part Lesson in mind.
When I think about the upcoming year and the amount of information I’ve learned in such a short amount of time, I know there’s things I want to change or incorporate.
- Include Big Ideas. While I might have been doing this anyway, I think it need to make it more clear in my planning.
- Use 3 Part Lessons Again, I was doing this but I need to make it more evident.
- Long Range Plan This year, I’m not being thrown into a class. I have so much more time to do this and I need to do it. I’m good with my unit plans, I just need to make sure I have a LRP as well.
- Include Guides To Effective Instruction This will help better understand not only my thinking but as well as student thinking.
- Continue to Plan Cross Curricular. Nothing beats hitting two birds with one stone. It’s more engaging for the students and so much more can get done.