Okay. okay. I feel like we’re getting somewhere w/r/t lesson and resource sharing online.

Swing by Ben Wildeboer’s hurricane investigation. I’ll cop to a lot of personal preference in this arena but no matter who you are or what you prefer, you’ve gotta notice what an advance this is on the traditional model.

  1. He presents his lesson plan as a narrative, stripping it of the usual prescriptive vibe (ie. “do [x] for twenty minutes; assess [x] now.”) which vibe is something like wearing a milkweed boutonnière on your first date. (Or, I guess, wearing a boutonnière on your first date period. Don’t do that.)

    [The usual explanations] didn’t cut it for my students. 15-year olds don’t have great appreciation for the subtleties and complexities of meteorological research. They wanted answers.

    I’m feeling it, y’know? The tension. Will they find answers? Will they?! HOW!?!

  2. He embeds photos, attachments, and links.

    Y’know: multimedia. The stuff that makes good teaching great, even when your students are teachers.

Obviously it doesn’t hurt Wildeboer at all that:

  1. he has enthusiasm for his content,
  2. he knows how to write,
  3. he leaves a few questions tantalizingly unanswered,
  4. his lesson has broad appeal, easily appropriated for math (via graph interpretation) and history (via Katrina & the environmental movement),

but, otherwise, a great, shared lesson plan really is this simple:

Present it as a multimedia story.

Which isn’t at all to say it’s easy, just that the ROI is spectacular when done right.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. I find that this sort of activity — where all information and research is provided up front — is best as an introduction to the topic or as a refresher on other skills.

    Maybe I misunderstand the purpose and context, but I just couldn’t imagine such a project as a major summative assessment.

    It requires too much teacher input on the behalf of students and it doesn’t include enough self-directed research to make this sort of project more than a refresher or reinforcer.

  2. Meh. You read the thing? No one’s saying this is a major summative assessment. But the students gather the data. The students enter the data. The students analyze the data.

    Nice move collaborating on a GoogleDoc spreadsheet, too, and then exporting the result to Excel. Never thought of that.

  3. Hey, thanks for noticing! I must admit I owe you some credit for modeling how to blog a lesson. I agree the narrative format is much more engaging that the “standard” lesson plan format.
    One of the things I enjoy about reading your posts on lessons is that I get a good sense of what it’d be like to actually be a teacher or student in that room. My favorite so far: Linear Fun #2.

    @Benjamin Baxter: This definitely isn’t a major summative assessment type of lesson. It doesn’t teach them about hurricane structure, how they’re classified, or why Jim Cantore must stand in the middle of every hurricane that makes landfall. What it does do: (1) relates the topic to their lives, (2) puts them in the center of discovery (as opposed to passively reading about potential relationship b/t hurricanes & global warming), and (3) it teaches them how to analyze and interpret information. For me #3 is the most important in this whole exercise. #3 is the important live skill. Memorizing what the Saffir-Simpson scale is all about might get them through the State assessments, but knowing how to interpret data is truly valuable.

  4. I’m not a math teacher, so data input and analysis as represented here doesn’t really do it for me. I’m a history teacher, so I tried to adapt it as such.

    In history, this sort of project couldn’t exist in quite the same incarnation. The perhaps-history-relevant skill being taught — the most important, as far as the other Ben is concerned — is the analysis and interpretation of information. I’m not sure how a narrative-based approach would succeed at in my subject.

    My kids hate primary sources, and never know what to look for in early American art or political cartoons, and they pretend to be frustrated with olde-style writing to get out of the assignment.

    For what it is, this form of narrative lesson is great. For what I’d be able to use it as, not so much.

    I suppose I’m the victim of my own wishful thinking.

  5. For the record: I was always frustrated by olde-style writing. :-) Of course, that was probably aggravated by a major lack of interest at that point in my life.

    As for adapting the lesson for history, you’re right. I’m not sure I can think of a good way to utilize it for that cause. Take what you can, leave what you can’t.

  6. Dan,

    I stumbled across this week. The site tracks web sites or software apps you tell it to (and only those you tell it to) and creates a dashboard of your activity (amount of time on Twitter, IM, facebook, your blog reader, etc.)

    You can tag the sites/apps as well so that I may tag IM and email as communication and Twitter/facebook as networking etc.

    For your students that have a laptop, this is one way to add to track information for their annual reports in the future if you think it works well.

  7. I posted a comment earlier, but I don’t know where it went. Anyway, another interesting dataset for linear regression is the Nenana Ice Classic, plotting the year vs. the Day number of “success” (where Jan 1 = 1, Jan 2 = 2, Feb 1 = 32, etc)

    Also, I have to admit, you guys finally convinced me to start a blog. I’m not sure if I like it yet or not and I’m certainly not much of a writer, but it’s out there. If any of you teach statistics, then comments are certainly welcome :)