Repeat or Revise?

Last week I wrote about my idea for an activity for investigating SSS. Helpful ideas were provided in the comments: using straws and string, Geogebra, and Polystrips to name a few. The year before we used the string and straws for this concept. It worked well.

Despite having something that was okay last year, I changed it. I shouldn’t have. Despite asking for your advice, I didn’t take it. I should have.

This year? Bleah. The strips were too hard to cut out and keep track of. They didn’t fit together well. The set that shouldn’t have formed a triangle? Some of them forced it by cutting off more of one side. The next day I tried to “fix” it. We talked about what should have happened.  I don’t feel good about the way this lesson went. It was muddled. There was no a-ha moment.

So I’ve been wondering why I felt the need to do something differently this year. I don’t have a good answer. I think part of it is my fear of becoming the teacher who doesn’t change her lesson plans from year to year. I never want to say last year was good enough, I’ll just do that again. I want every lesson to be great. I know I’m not there yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I’m trying.

How often do you repeat lessons from year to year? How often do you just tweak? How often do you scrap it all and start over?

I guess I’m just wondering when I’ll be satisfied with my lessons and my teaching. And if I ever should be.

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11 Responses to Repeat or Revise?

  1. jd2718 says:

    You may have seen, I recently used compass and straight edge construction. It worked nicely.

    But your big question, repeat or revise?

    I choose depending on the class, depending on what they seem to be doing well with. I don’t have a hard and fast rule.

    It is not my goal to get everything “perfect” and then repeat for the rest of my career. Nor is it my goal to throw everything out and start from scratch each September.

    I’d say I repeat 95% of my units, 75% of my lesson outlines, and about 10% of the lesson details (examples, etc), year-to-year.


  2. Jackie says:

    Thanks Jonathan. I guess I’m just trying to get a feel for how this works for other people. I didn’t mean to imply that I’m looking to be “done” with lesson planning. I’m just wondering how long it will take me to get to the point where I … I don’t know. Where I have enough prior options to draw upon? Where I feel like I’m being an effective teacher? Where I feel like I’m doing the best I can for my current students?

    I’m actually not sure what I’m trying to say here. Which I guess is evident. I’m still trying to think this through.

  3. jd2718 says:

    Strangely enough, I am really just agreeing with you. Look at the topic, the class, what you’ve done before, and make an executive decision. I never stop doing that.

    In a way, just knowing that you have choices, that means you’ve more or less arrived.

  4. Mr. K says:

    AFter 4 years of 7th grade math, I was at about 50% revise, 50% new. I don’t think I ever repeated something exactly. Even though I’ll use the straws thing (which I think I got from you, btw) The way I set it up, and how I structure it to try to elicit those aha moments will be different.

    I think going completely new every time can be a step back. Sure, things can be improved, but that doesn’t mean starting over – it means holding on to what worked, and finding ways to build up the parts that didn’t.

    I’m facing this in spades this year, with two brand new preps that I’ve never taught before. I was desperate for something I’d had experience teaching before, even if I’d failed at it, because I’d have something I could build on rather than developing it from scratch, or worse, just falling back on the book.

    I’m not going to worry about a rut until I just start copying the same worksheets every year.

  5. Kate Nowak says:

    Can you enlist the help of some other teachers to help you improve lessons? We have started trying to do this this year, and it’s been some of the most helpful PD I’ve ever seen. Take a lesson you like but you think could be better, but don’t just make changes and try them yourself – work with another teacher or a small group to make it great. Then, when you teach it, have the other teachers observe, and then discuss it after.

    It takes more cooperation, but really no more time. We always had “collaboration time” scheduled, now we just use it for this.

  6. Jenny says:

    I can’t even manage to remember how I taught something last year! Maybe that’s a sign that I need to keep more detailed lesson plans that I could return to.

    As a result I do a lot of revising or creating new. However, I do try to remember when things were really successful so that I can reuse them (books to read aloud, great examples, etc.).

    I guess my thought would be that you probably do a lot of revising and creating new and that reusing something that went really well shouldn’t stress you out.

  7. colleenk says:

    I think the occasional bad lesson plan or activity is inevitable. And it can be surprisingly unpredictable. A lesson plan that delivers the aha moment for one group may go nowhere for another. The exceptional lesson generally works well for everyone. That’s part of what makes it so special. But not every topic lends itself to that coveted moment of discovery.

    I almost never change a geat activity, no matter how many years I’ve done it (within reason). I will refine the intro, the timing, the questions, and the discussions, though.

    Less than great activities? I tweak them each year till I get them as close to greatness as possible.

  8. ken says:

    Repeat or revise?

    I’m 80% new. 10% revision. 10% guilt about the other 10%.

    My father used to say, ‘Good enough never is’. That mantra has followed me to the classroom and beyond.

  9. I’m about 75% repeated, 50% revised, and 25% error correction.

  10. David Cox says:

    I would have to say that the very fact that you are even asking the questions means that you are doing your best for your students. Even if you don’t make any noticeble changes to your lesson, the lesson will be delivered differently each time you do it because you will change things on the fly in order to reach the kids in front of you.

  11. I scrapped a lot of my lessons from last year (my first year of teaching) in favor of something completely different and new. That’s mostly because I look back and think that a lot of those first year lessons kind of suck compared to what I’m doing now. Hopefully I won’t feel the same way next year!

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