This is a follow-up article to "How to plan and prepare for an Ag class you know nothing about".
Why apply the rule of 3?
Some of the questions I received about the previous article involved researching topics to teach in class. Specifically, too much information and not knowing where to stop or start. First off, stop overthinking the intelligence of your classroom. The students are in your classroom to learn the subject but most will know very little about the any of the topics you cover prior to the lesson. That's why you get to talk and they have to listen. Second, for middle or high school classrooms you aren't trying to get them into a grad school. Pump the breaks on your desire to teach them high level subject matter. Instead, they need to know the fundamentals of the subject. Please don't ask them to memorize the 20 most important macro and micronutrients when they truly lack the fundamental understanding of that parts of a flower. Fundamentals = Foundation. Without a proper foundation, your house will fall down and the same concept works for knowledge. Focus, focus, focus on the fundamentals. Finally, processes, whether they are business processes, manufacturing processes, or writing processes, provide a organized path to completion. Whenever you can simplify a task and increase your organization level at the same time you increase your odds of success. That being said, let's briefly cover the rule of 3 and how you can use it to research a topic you want to teach in class.
What is the rule of 3?
The rule of 3 (or power of 3) concept suggests that topics discussed or applied are much easier to understand and remember when they are broken into only 3 pieces. That's why jokes tend to involve 3 people and the same goes for parables and fables. Think the 3 Little Pigs. That does not mean you can not apply the rule of 3 to a complex concept. Instead, it means you break the concept down into 3 simple components whenever possible to allow deeper comprehension
How to incorporate the rule of 3?
Let's say you want to search the topic "parts of a flower". Pick your favorite search engine and see what results come up. Now, select 3 sites to visit. Not 17. You will understand quickly that about 80-90% of the information you need to cover in class can be pulled from just 3 sites. That's if you select 3 quality sources. Just because Yahoo or Google ranks their search results in a certain order does not mean they are the best sites. Obviously University sources are reliable for classroom content and Wikipedia is good, but do not base an entire lesson by simply using content from Wikipedia. Just don't do it. Natural history museum website provide great content on specific topic and occasionally you'll find other websites to fit your needs, but pick the 3 best choices and gather the common content from these sources as the framework for your lesson. If you choose more than 3 you'll become bogged down in the subtle nuances between sites and in some cases you may find contradictory information. Largely, this contradictory information comes from poorly sourced sites that are not properly maintained. Once you've filled your mind with the content from these 3 sites, then decide if you are missing some key pieces of information you know you wanted to cover. Still wanting more? Then search those missing pieces specifically and don't keep clicking on the search results from "parts of a flower." If you have enough information to complete your work, then move on to formatting your lesson. You've just saved about 2 extra hours of time you would have spent fretting over 17 different websites.
Apply the rule of 3 to your next project, but don't give up if it doesn't work perfectly. Keep applying the concept until you mold it into a process that works for you.