In the past two weeks, I have shared two blog posts about my current challenge for myself to reduce full-class instruction (see posts on Evolution: Changing Instruction…Again and Reducing Full-Class Instruction). I think it’s important to trace the evolution that occurred over this year and years prior that made it possible for me to dramatically reduce my full-class instruction to almost none.
A First Step: choosing core problems
If you are familiar with the Eureka Math/EngageNY curriculum, you know that, although it’s an amazing program, it’s very teacher-directed. While that’s not the intention, per the program authors, that is how it plays out if you follow Eureka as it is presented. My colleague and I began our evolution away from teacher-directed instruction by identifying one or two problems that were critical, doing those problems with the whole class, and then moving into independent student work on the other problems in the lesson. In addition, we began to make notes documents that allowed us to solidify for ourselves what we needed to teach the students and moved the responsibility for using the information effectively onto the students.
A Second Step: electronic options
This year, I challenged myself to give students the option to watch an electronic version of my lesson rather than watching me teach it “live.” Because I have been making videos of my instruction for a few years now, I have a video library, which allowed me to quickly incorporate this option quickly without having to record a new video daily. Offering this option felt like a huge step when I first started it, but, when I looked over the progressions rubric by Dr. Novak and Dr. Rodriguez, I realized it wasn’t really empowering the students–it’s just offering an alternative to a full-class, teacher-directed lesson. I wanted to do more, which led to the “By the end of class…” documents described in earlier posts.
A Third Step: work days
A third piece of the puzzle was that my colleague and I have been practicing what we call “work days” with our students. “Work days” came into being as we noticed that we often had one day that was instruction-intensive, followed by one or two more days where there was no new content to teach. On the second and third days, students were using the material or procedure or process taught on the first day to try novel problems and applications.
Be patient with yourself
If you decide to accept the challenge of moving away from full-class instruction and moving towards “empowering students,” I encourage you to keep in mind that it is a process. It has taken me over three years of working with Universal Design for Learning to be in a place to write this blog post and I predict I’ll be revising my practice from here! It won’t happen overnight.