Monday, August 3, 2009

52 Teachers, 52 Lessons #27: Most Critical Ideas & Skills

This week's entry comes from Alison, a math teacher in Massachusetts.

One of the most important questions for any teacher to ask themselves while planning units and especially whole courses is, "What are the three to five most critical ideas or skills students must learn in my unit or course?" Obviously, we want students to understand many concepts and be able to do lots of things, and hopefully a large percentage of those we teach will achieve this kind of broad mastery. However, we all have students, who for a variety of reasons, won't fully understand everything we would like them to. With these struggling students, I always try to keep my "short list" of critical ideas/skills in mind, and make sure that even if nothing else sticks, they leave the course with these three to five things. I introduce these concepts and techniques early in a course and revisit them periodically through the year. This type of prioritization also helps our students who excel in our course content.

When we are clear about what the most critical ideas in our courses and fields of study are, it helps kids who are great at learning all of the minutiae to see the broader terrain of a subject. And I've found that it makes me a better teacher, able to design more coherent units and courses and make better day-to-day instructional decisions!

Read more about this project here or add the 52 teachers 52 lessons tag to your favorites. Email your entries to teachforever AT gmail DOT com. Week 28 will be posted next Monday, August 10th.