Lesson plans should be guidelines — not requirements

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(A post mostly for newbies. Again, for new readers, please pass this URL on to any new teachers or others who you think might enjoy the read.)

If students are asking lots of questions about your expectations for an assignment, somehow something has gone wrong. Your clear, concise directions missed their target. Please don’t feel that’s a criticism. When a teacher knows exactly how a process works, that teacher can easily make assumptions about student background knowledge. Especially new teachers may be surprised by the knowledge or lack of knowledge that their students are bringing to the table.

Just because changing fractions to decimals was in the previous year’s curriculum, that doesn’t mean that most of your students retained that knowledge. We are going fast — often too fast, in my opinion — in order to hit demanding, curricular goals. Many portions of the preceding year’s curriculum will probably require review. So what do you do if you are trying to explain the day’s assignment and you find yourself encountering a forest of questions and a sea of hands?

You probably should adapt or drop your assignment. Yes, that assignment is in the lesson plan. But if a large group seems confused and you only have a few minutes before the end of class, you will be better off giving students a pass on homework for the night. You don’t want students to spend their evening butchering your reinforcement activity. Fixing bad habits later will slow you down much more than waiting another day and taking review time to get ready for that assignment.