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CPM Teaching Tip #13

January 4, 2012

How do you typically plan for each lesson you teach? The best advice is to do all of the problems from a given lesson yourself first (use the student book). This work will help you see the problems as the student will. You should be able to anticipate where they will have questions and make a list of some questions of your own to help them deal with them. Next read through ALL the teacher notes that discuss the objective of the lesson, the core problems, the suggested lesson activity, possible study team strategies, and closure. Now you are ready to complete your planning. Put in time limits for each portion of the lesson and do your best to follow them. Do not let the students control how much time they spend on something. Top students will often go too fast and ignore the deeper questions and students who often take a long time to do their work will, if given the opportunity, take the entire period to do one problem.

If this is your first year teaching the course we suggest that you follow the lesson as it is written, then after you have taught the entire book and are comfortable with the overall objectives and content, you can use your professional judgment to adjust the lessons the next time you teach it. Creating simplified versions of the problems or turning them into “worksheets” instead of following the lesson is not recommended.  Doing so can reduce or eliminate the thinking that is required of the students. The thinking about and grappling with new ideas is what gets to the deeper understanding and long-term retention of them. Nonetheless, working with the students requires some flexibility. I once heard some good advice from an elderly woman:  in life you cannot plan too much but you also have to be willing to go with the flow once you are in the moment you have planned for. Carefully monitor the work of your students during class and adjust your plans as needed.  Have fun listening to their thinking and watching them learn math!

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