Welcome back to school! The beginning of the school year is always a whirlwind for me. From decorating your classroom in anticipation of meeting your new students to greeting parents on back-to-school night, September can be a challenging month for a lot of us. Whether you are using the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum for the first year or the third, here are just a few suggestions from teachers I’ve picked up along the way.
- Don’t skip things in the curriculum. The pieces of each lesson build on one another.
It may look like a warm up here or a cool down there can be skipped. However, what we have found as we worked through the curriculum in year 1 was that each part of a lesson or unit is integral in the overall trajectory of learning for students. A concept taught in lesson 2, for example, may be a key component in later lessons or even other units. The one thing I have consistently said over the course of the school year and still rings true now is: “Trust the process!”
- Allow your students to struggle.
This can and will be difficult. As teachers, we want our students to succeed so we ask questions, provide support and try to make their experiences with math positive. However, it is okay to allow them the time and space to struggle. Yes, there will be activities where it seems no one will understand what to do. Yes, there will be times when you think it isn’t working. Again, I go back to “trust the process”. Think about the types of questions you are asking your students. Can you guide them without taking away their ability to think through the problem on their own?
- Stick to the suggested times for lessons: Don’t over teach.
When I spoke about “overteaching” during early professional learning sessions, many teachers questioned what that meant. I see “overteaching” as teachers doing too much for their students. I know there are conversations we don’t want to stop in our classrooms but sticking closely to the time suggestions given by IM will guide those conversations into ones that are powerful and productive. This is also a great place to think about whose voices are being heard during those conversations. The ones that are doing the talking are usually the ones that are learning the math.
- Plan, plan, plan!
The IM curriculum is not one you can do ‘on the fly’. Take the time to go through each part of the lesson. Do the math, anticipate what your students are going to do, look at the learning goals throughout the lesson and how one piece flows into the next. Once again….trust the process!
My favorite piece of advice from one of the teachers I worked with this past year is: “There is sunshine after the rain”. Yes! You will have good days and bad days but as we look back on all that we and our students have accomplished in year 1, we see the bright sun shining through and know that all of our hard work will benefit our students in the end. I can’t wait to see what happens this school year!
What are you looking forward to seeing your students accomplish this school year?