Begin with the End in Mind

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I was re-reading sections of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion recently… particularly the part where he reminds teachers of the need to begin with the end; in other words, to ensure you have a firm understanding of where your lessons are going and to what purpose the teaching is being done before you plan your daily content.
While I wholeheartedly agree, I also started thinking about the need for this to happen with and for my students. They need to be able to see the reason for every lesson; for every activity. At no time should they be wondering why we are doing something. At no time should they feel any disconnect from the clearly identified themes are purposes of their learning.
For me, this will happen through constant conversation. We will start a unit of work by exploring metanarratives and global themes (I will however vehemently avoid putting any content in the context of ‘it’s in the curriculum’). I want my students to own the purpose of their learning. Maybe this is through real-life or life-like learning. Often it will be through topics that I know will be of interest to them, or ones we have negotiated. Once the big picture is established, I will work toward providing links to these purposes at the start of each lesson. I find this helps students to connect the daily learning with the whole unit; it helps to avoid students compartmentalising a lesson in isolation from the unit. Ultimately, it helps students keep their eye on the big picture and the purpose for all their learning.
We are coming toward the end of a whole-semester unit of work on asylum seekers and aid agencies. It would be easy for the students to become focused on the intricacies of tasks like writing orals and creating videos and building presentations spaces. I find, however, that as I remind them of the deep, over-aching reasons for their work, they maintain a more focused attitude toward their work.

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