My last couple of posts, I've focused on the process of writing an eight-day curriculum for an SAT course this summer. In my course I stress the importance that students be able to face an unfamiliar problem. Even if they can't see all the way to an answer, students can still learn to take meaningful steps. As part of this approach, I have students answer three questions when confronted with a challenging problem:
- Who are the characters in the problem?
- What do we know about those characters?
- What does the problem ask us about the characters?
As I sat stymied and frustrated, I realized that if what I was teaching my students was worth anything, then it should be able to help me. I grabbed a sheet of paper and answered my own questions, only this time I had to provide a statement of the problem, too. It turns out as I had been thinking about how to teach my students, I was also teaching myself to problem-solve.
Problem: After each lecture, I will provide students with ~8 assorted practice problems. How exactly should I structure that practice time?
- Who are the characters in the problem? Practice problem sessions.
- What do we know about those characters? A handful of assorted problems.
Some time individually. Some time in groups.
Think in terms of the tools (see previous post) I'm providing them.
- What does the problem ask us about the characters? A structure that I can fit each day's practice problems into.
This is the structure I plan to use once the course starts up in July.
This was a victory for me. Lesson planning has been a huge struggle (and time sink) for me. This experience made me feel that previously inaccessible realms of pedagogical ability are opening up. If I have trouble understanding something, it does not need to remain so.