Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Cleaning...Making Room for the Shift in Education

Feeling overwhelmed by it all?  I found myself sitting at my dining room table the other afternoon just staring at the laundry basket full of dirty clothes, the pile of papers to be sorted, the snowmen still on display on my mantle, the dust bunnies on the floor...I sat there a full 20 minutes doing absolutely nothing.  I didn't even know where to start.  I really just wanted to go up to my room, crawl into my bed and pull the blanket over my head.  But, I didn't. I had some chocolate. I prioritized. I started with the laundry. I still haven't gotten to the snowmen, but that's ok.  I am working my way through the tasks in my house, chipping away at them a little at a time.   I think that is the message that may be getting lost in the avalanche of information about Common Core Shifts, Formative Instruction, teacher evaluations, student growth measures, new grading systems, College and Career Readiness, technology integration, inquiry science, real world learning, authentic assessment....  Where to start?  How do we make room for all of this in our day, in our classroom, in our planning time?

As a curriculum director - I am looking at prioritizing my time and resources too.  I suggest starting with the Common Core and Formative Instruction. So many of the other "hot topics" in education are related to these two main initiatives.

Where to start...The Common Core
  • If you haven't already, look at the model curriculum for your course, or if you are a teacher in a none core area (foreign language, art, music, phys ed, business, consumer science), revisit your current standards and think about how you might be able to embed more content area reading and writing into your class.
  • Focus on content that will be similar in the new model curriculum to what is currently being taught in your classroom.  Spend time thinking about how to teach it more deeply, give students more time to practice a skill, ways to help students apply the content to prior knowledge and real world problems.
  • Identify content material that will be "moving out" of your grade level or class and begin to cut away all but the basic lesson material around that content to make room for incoming content or more time to spend on content that will be similar but taught at greater depth.
  • Look through your classroom materials, texts and lessons - find materials that you can share with colleagues at other grade levels who may now be teaching content you will no longer be teaching.
  • Resources:

Where to start....Formative Instruction
  • Write clear learning targets for your class based on the new Model Curriculum or your state standards.  Spend time thinking about what the underpinning learning targets will need to be - what will your students need to be able to do before they can master the ultimate learning target? How will you communicate these to your students? What will your plan be to do an initial assessment to see where they are in their learning? How might you differentiate lessons based on the underpinning targets?
  • Choose one unit that you really like and already have learning targets for...and take an honest look at the assignments and assessments you include in that unit.  Do the assignments allow you to formatively assess student learning progress?  Are they differentiated? Is there opportunity for student self assessment or peer to peer feedback? Does the summative assessment for the unit accurately measure their mastery of the learning targets?
  • Get out the "New Bloom's Verbs" chart and use it as you create a new unit that might align to the new content coming into your class...or revise a unit that you aren't so happy with. Develop learning and assessment activities that meet higher levels on Bloom's Taxonomy. 
  • Resources:
I have a small picture I keep on a shelf in my office - it is a Chinese Proverb. " The person who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones"  I have a small pile of beach rocks by the picture to remind me that no matter how daunting or overwhelming a task, you must start one small piece at a time.   Stop staring at the mountain and find a stone to carry away.  Together we will accomplish what needs to be done, one stone at a time.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This is a moderated blog. All comments are subject to review before they are posted to the site.