Frequently asked question: Why in the “I thought we were doing less” am I asking you to Do. The. Work.?
Answer: So you and your students can have more fun.
For underserved and historically undereducated students classroom learning experiences often lack dynamism. I’m not talking about teachers standing on their heads entertaining their students. I am referring to a missing component during the lesson planning process, one that ensures students have the tools they need to access the work independently and successfully while their teacher(s) circulates and facilitates only as needed.
The missing component in lesson planning: Doing the Work before Assigning it to your students.
Doing the work first, allows the teacher to mitigate surprises. Surprise! The assignment is too easy. Surprise! Students don’t have the tools to access the assignment.
In order to maximize students' productive time on task there can be no surprises. The only way to avoid surprises is for teachers to Do the work… Before giving it to students.
Doing the work is an important part of lesson and unit planning. It's easily where the majority of our time and energy should be spent; that is, designing classroom learning experiences that are intriguing, inspiring and engaging. Learning experiences that will allow us to do the least during class, while we observe and facilitate our students doing the heavy lifting, thinking and doing.
Too often students are assigned work that is outside of their zone of proximal development, i.e. too challenging or not challenging enough. Add to that the lack of contextual connection to students’ lived experiences whether that be their lives outside of school, what they are learning in another class or a connecting-thread in class and disengagement becomes students’ only escape from work that is not worth their effort.
Sometimes work that is too challenging or not challenging enough leads to us doing laps around the classroom helping (redirecting and re-engaging) individual and small groups of students for the entire class period. At the end of the day we are completely exhausted, while our students pack up and run out of the building full of energy. Harry Wong warned us about this in “First Days of School” (1997).
So what am I STRONGLY suggesting here?
I am suggesting that you, the classroom teacher, or substitute teacher, complete any and all work/assignments before you give them to your students. Do Nows, MiniLesson practice questions, Classwork, Exit Ticket, Homework, Quizzes, Interims, Projects, etc.
Whether you teach kindergarten or AP Calculus. Do.The.Work.First. Before assigning the work to your students.
When You Do the work, you will often find that the lesson "as is" does not quite meet your students' needs. Often the lesson is too dense, goes around a mulberry bush and doesn't get to the point quickly enough causing unnecessary confusion, leading to students checking out and being off task. To avoid this, teachers must Do the Work themselves, ahead of time, before assigning it, a critical step in lesson planning.
Doing the work ahead of time provides teachers the opportunity to plan scaffolds as well as extensions.
Doing the work ahead of time allows teachers to identify which individual lessons to condense, combine, extend over a few days, or scrap altogether.
Doing the work ahead of time gives teachers the opportunity to be creative in helping students make meaningful connections between what they are learning and their lived experiences (whether prior knowledge, current event or something else).
As we work to Keep It Simple, SuperTeachers doing the work before assigning it to your students will allow you to plan a learning experience that requires the least amount of effort on your part during class, while maximizing your students independence, effort and engagement.
Below is a short video I created on this topic as part of the KISST Series ~ Keeping It Simple SuperTeachers
Be sure to leave your comments here and/or there (on YouTube) so we can learn and grow together in service of our young people, who are absolutely our future.