The following two to three day lesson will establish the conceptual understanding required for student to tackle complicated exponential expressions.
Exponents are tricky because students must balance a procedural fluency with a conceptual foundation in order to be truly capable of simplifying embedded exponential expressions within a larger equation. This lesson has been developed over years of teaching to do just that.
When students are finished they should know how (and why) to simplify all integer exponential expressions.
To see a video that used much of the material in this lesson, click here: https://youtu.be/KIcufu6RWlk
For more information about this approach, visit my site: http://thebeardedmathman.com/courses/algebra-1/1-6-exponents-part-1/
If you ever have comments or concerns, my email is in the lesson, please contact me.
I hope your students experience as much success as mine have with this lesson.