Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Have You Unpacked Your Standards? What's Next?

My suitcase is sitting in a corner of my bedroom.  I got back from my trip to Baltimore 11 days ago, but my suitcase is only partially unpacked.  I took out the things I really needed, but haven't had the time or energy to unpack the rest.  This weekend I am going to finally work on unpacking everything.   I also brought back new things from my trip- souvenirs and books, and ideas!  I need to think about what I will do with them too.

Since the spring of 2010, we have been working on unpacking our New Learning Standards.  It has taken us 3 years to completely empty out that suitcase.  First, we unpacked the standards that fit into our existing spaces because they were very similar to what we already had.  We also found that there were some new things to consider as we continued to looked through the standards we unpacked next.  This year, as we fully implement the new standards, we are able to focus on what these new standards really look like, sound like, write like in our classrooms and what instructional shifts need to be happening in our teaching to help our students build the knowledge and skills they need to be have choices in their lives beyond high school.

There are 6 Instructional Shifts, 3 in ELA/Literacy and 3 in Math. These Instructional Shifts are NOT standards. There are a lot of videos, resources and sample activities available to help teachers understand these shifts. It isn't so much the need to understand them as it is the need to reflect on our own teaching practice to decide what these shifts will look in action in our classrooms that is key.  As a teacher, the challenge is to teach our new standards through the lens of the instructional shifts. If we do this, the learning environments that we create in our classrooms will be richer because of it.

I put together a set of Guiding Questions and Resources to help you with your reflection on Instructional Shifts and where they fit into your instructional practice as a teacher.

Guiding Questions
[Based on the Instructional Shifts At A Glance Document]

ELA/Literacy Shifts - Remember, we are ALL teachers of the language of our content. Students need to know how to read, write and speak like artists, historians, scientists, mathematicians.

Shift 1: Regular practice with complex text and its academic language.
  • What process and tools will I use to make sure that the text I choose to use in my class matches task and reader, and is in the range of complexity for my grade level?
  • How can I best help my students understand the structures and vocabulary of text, graphics, tables, charts or other media presentations that they will be using to build knowledge in my classroom? 
  • How can I best help my students to apply what they know about the structures and vocabulary of these content specific texts in their written and spoken communication in my classroom?
  • What strategies can I use to help my students build their vocabularies by learning academic and content specific words through the text in my class?
Shift 2: Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from the text both literary and informational.
  • How can I use text dependent questions to allow my students to show that they have read/listened to the text carefully and can support their ideas with evidence from the text? 
  • What writing tasks can I build into my lesson planning that would allow students to use evidence from text to support their ideas? Write narratives? Do research?
  • What text based tasks can I build into my lesson planning that will provide opportunities for collaborative discussions?
Shift 3: Building Knowledge through content- rich nonfiction.
NOTE: The standards themselves include a significant focus on literature in grades k-12, especially in grades k-5 and in ELA classes through middle and high school.
  • How can I select a wide variety of text, both written and multi-media, that will help my students build knowledge?
  • How can I involve my students in the selection of content rich text materials to help them build their knowledge?
  • What sources of content rich non-fiction do I have access to? Do my students have access to? 
  • How can I use a text or set of texts as a jumping off point for a research project, discussion, performance task, experimental design? 
Math Shifts:

Shift 1: Focus strongly where the standards focus.

  • What is the major work of my grade?
  • What opportunities will my students have to apply their math skills to authentic, real world tasks?
  • How do I develop an instructional plan around the major and supporting work of my grade?
Shift 2: Coherence: think across grades and link to major topics within grades

  • Where does my grade level content fit in the continuum of math learning k-12?
  • How can I use performance tasks and real world scenarios to help students connect major topics within my grade level math standards? 
  • What process/tools do I use to make sure that math materials I use in my class do not contain content that is outside the major/supporting content of my grade?
Shift 3: Rigor: in major topics pursue conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application with equal intensity.
  • How do I design lessons that will allow students to understand key concepts in math not just learn tricks or shortcuts?
  • What opportunities can I give my students to do activities that help them  practice important functions like single digit multiplication so that they increase the speed, accuracy and efficiency of their calculations? 
  • How can I create authentic tasks that will allow my students to apply their math in problem solving situations. 
  • How can I help students learn that math can be used in a variety of content areas to make meaning and build knowledge of content?

Instructional Shifts:


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