“Chunking It!” and How I learned to Think Big Picture

Post by Amanda Freeman

ch01

One thing you have to know about me. I am an ISTJ in the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, and that is a bad profile for a teacher. I won’t even go into the “T” (thinking vs. feeling), but the “S” means I’m more of a small picture, detail person. But I teach history, so I need to think about causes and effects, change over time – big picture stuff.

I read Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning for my summer reading, and in it the author Mark McDaniel said you should always have a learning objective to help students remember material. I thought “yeah, right.” I mean, I always know what I want to do in class, but “learning objective” sounded out of my league. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true. But I’ve devised a system for myself (that’s where the “J” in the ISTJ comes in handy) that helps me “chunk” the material and time use in my class and come up with a clear learning objective.

Basically, I work from the bottom, up. I think about the material we are working on; what the homework was the night before and what the homework will be tonight. I also ponder what activities will help get the essential course content into each student’s brain (for the long term) and how to make each student work harder in the same amount of class time that we always have. Then I think about an activity for the first 10 minutes of class, a “do now,” that I put on the board and that engages students as soon as they walk into class. After I have looked at my activities and my “do now,” I orally articulate my learning objective – then I go back and make the appropriate changes to the lesson. So now, my lesson plan template looks like this:

Learning objective

Do now

H.W.

In class

Last 10 minutes (“Exit”)

I often have to work from the bottom to the top and then back down again, but my lessons are sounder and I am working in 10-minute “chunks,” a method that reflects research on attention and how many students learn best. Are my students remembering more? That is what I am working on this year, so I hope I will have an answer by June! Check back then.

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