All posts by Sarah Benis Scheier-Dolberg

Curriculum Mapping, Part 2

This post is designed as a three-part training series for middle and high school teachers working in school teams to write and revise their curriculum maps.

How do I choose a curriculum map template and add essential questions?

Step 1

Begin by watching this 5-minute focusing on one school in Chattanooga, TN and their work with essential questions and curriculum design. (Link to YouTube)

As you watch, consider the following questions:

  1. Why exert the energy to shift from planning learning activities to planning learning outcomes and key understandings?
  2. What is the relationship between rich, higher-order questions and rich, higher-order answers?
  3. What is your theory about how to support all students increase their depth of knowledge in your classroom and in your curriculum?

Step 2

All curriculum maps will have at least four components:

  1. Essential Questions
  2. Concepts/Content
  3. Skills
  4. Assessments

Most will also include a section aligning to Standards and noting Resources. We will begin with Essential Questions, the over-arching interrogatives that provide focus and engage students (A. Johnson). Essential questions als0 encourage higher-level thinking, help students make connections beyond content being studied, and focus on the “So Why Am I Teaching This?”

Sample Essential Questions include:

  • What is my story?
  • Where do we find cells?
  • Is everything quantifiable?
  • Who are everyday heroes?
  • What is the difference between a scientific fact, theory, and a strong opinion?
  • Is the Civil War still going on today?

Choose one unit of study from your existing curriculum map, and write or revise an essential question for that one unit. You may need to draft several possible options and check with colleagues for their ideas as well. Use the list of key concepts you created as a pre-assignment for this work as a starting place for your essential question generation.

Step 3

Choose a template for your map that fits your context — either a school-wide template or one that makes sense to you. It should have the elements mentioned above. Sample curriculum map templates are below:

  1. Curriculum Map A
  2. Curriculum Map B
  3. Curriculum Map C
  4. Curriculum Map C (ELA 9/10 Standards Included for NYS & CCSS)

Step 4

a) Add your draft Essential Questions to your Curriculum Map for each unit of study. If you are not able to draft questions for each unit, focus on the unit you have chosen to focus on for this workshop.

b) Add Concepts/Content to your Curriculum Map as well. You can fill in this part of your curriculum map for all units of study or just the unit you have chosen to focus on for this workshop, depending on the time allotted.

Curriculum Mapping, Part 1

This post is designed as a three-part training series for middle and high school teachers working in school teams to write and revise their curriculum maps.

What is curriculum mapping?

Step 1

Begin by watching this 11-minute animated video by Sir Ken Robinson. (Link to YouTube)

As you watch, consider the following questions:

  1. What claims does this video make? What is Sir Ken Robinson urging educators to do differently?
  2. What connections, if any, do you see between this video and the curriculum mapping process your school is undertaking?

Step 2

Before turning to your existing curriculum map, select 2-3 of the sample maps below and skim them for information. Ask:

  1. What information can be gleaned from a map?
  2. What are the common elements on the maps that you reviewed?

Sample Maps (High School)

Step 3

Discussion & Journal Questions

  1. What is a curriculum Map?
  2. What are the components of a curriculum map?
  3. Why are we mapping at our school?

Consider some curriculum mapping terms and definitions: CM Terms PDF

Step 4

a) Choose one class or prep for your curriculum mapping work. The Curriculum Mapping, Part 2 session will start with your existing map.

b) Consider your entire curriculum, and list the 5-8 most important concepts that you want students to understand.

iPad Apps for Special Education

First off, get online and look at what other folks are discovering. Make it a daily or weekly priority to spend 10 minutes surfing the web for what others are using that might apply to your school context. For a very comprehensive list of where to start your search, begin with NYC DOE’s Apple consultant’s site.

One of her many great recs includes a wiki from a NYS district. Vicki Windman (Clarktown Central School District, NY) has a terrific wiki site for Special Education. She clusters App recommendations by topic (Organization, ELA, ASD, Basic Operations in Math, etc.). She also has attachments at the bottom of the page such as iPad Apps to meet IEP goals that are detailed and well-researched.

The trick is that schools interested in learning how to integrate iPads into their school communitites need to encourage teachers, tech folks, and administrators to spend the time investigating Apps that will meet their students’ and teachers’ needs.

Some schools create Technology Spotlights in their weekly team meetings where 3-5 minutes of each meeting agenda are given over to one or more team members presenting on new educational technologies they are trying in their classrooms. This practice is a perfect way to build a school’s repertoire with iPad Apps given that it always feels like there is never enough time in the day. Make it part of how business is done, and iPad Apps for Special Education will be part of the fabric of the work rather than an add-on.

Ning and Jing for Education

Due to recent interest and the fact that their names rhymed, I am writing this post to provide updates on two free Web 2.0 Tools used to support professional learning communities in schools.

I have joined and created several Ning networks for education and found it to be a great place to build professional online learning communities. In the last 6 months, I have not been active in those networks but recently visited the site again to check in, and this is what I found.

Ning is becoming a subscription pay service as of July 2011, but Pearson has offered to sponsor small “Mini Ning” communities for education, thereby ensuring that Education Nings can remain free of advertisements. The details can be seen in this blog post: http://education.ning.com/profiles/blogs/pearson-to-provide-ning-mini. The long and the short of it is that for Nings of 150 members or less, it will be free as long as you complete the application form for Pearson: http://go.ning.com/pearsonsponsorship/

Jing is an amazing and free tool for creating screenshots and screencasts. The free version of the software allows you to record short videos (up to five minutes) and narrate using your computer’s built in microphone (or an external if you prefer). After you’re finished recording, Jing will share the screencasts via Facebook, Twitter, Screencast.com, or Flickr AND provide a hyperlink for you to share via email, chat, websites, etc.

CNET has a great review of the software which you can check out here: http://download.cnet.com/Jing/3000-13633_4-10744274.html.

Educational organizations tend to use Jing to provide quick How-To videos for disseminating technical knowledge (e.g., how to fill out a new purchase request or budgeting form) as well as instructional knowledge (e.g., how to create an essential question while curriculum mapping).

What’s on my iPad?

My iPad 2 arrived about 6 weeks ago. Despite the fact that the injection of apps and constant connectivity have left my brain awash and adrift in seemingly limitless technological possibility, and despite the fact that I at times feel like a car engine flooded by the overzealous driver’s repeated pedal pumpings, I do really love my iPad.

Below is a list of 5 Apps currently residing on my iPad. I chose 5 that I use daily.

For Taking Notes

I love Penultimate and even was inspired this week to research and order a stylus for my iPad. Even before the stylus arrived yesterday, I was using this App daily to take notes at meetings, make to-do lists, draw with my niece, and send my friends silly notes via email just because. As of June 2011, the App costs $1.99 and is worth the splurge.

For Ruling the World (or at least my computer)

Logmein is a REAL pricey App at $30 bucks, but what it allows me to do is worth the initial investment. On many days, I have been able to leave computer at home and rely entirely on my iPad. I leave my computer on and open at home, connected to the internet, and then as long as my iPad has cell/wireless access, I can see an image of my computer directly on my iPad. This means I can access all files and all software on my iPad without having to upload to the cloud or purchase mobile versions of Beta software in order to reproduce computer functionality on my iPad. Way too cool!

Kindle for Your iPad

While the world decides on the best hardware for eReaders (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.), I’m taking full advantage of the FREE Kindle software for my MacBook Pro, iPhone, and iPad. I have both iBooks and Kindle at the moment (software), and I find that I’m more apt to open a book on Kindle than iBooks. Not sure why yet, but the result is that I really love my free Kindle software. I have a few free books and a couple I’ve paid for through my Amazon account.

Top-“Selling” Free Apps for Education

One of the most fun Apps I downloaded is PaintSparkles. It is very, very simple and very, very fun. My niece and I spent all last weekend drawing, practicing letters and numbers, and generally just admiring the very simple and memorizing sounds and graphics that follow the movement of the finger as it draws on the iPad touch screen.

PBS Kids is a slam dunk. Free and wonderful. Just download it.

 

 

A recent NYTimes Article publishes a list of the best children’s books on iPads. Definitely worth a read! (Link to article)

Book Talk: One Year to an Organized Life

I found this book under the Christmas tree this year, already unwrapped with it’s shiny blue cover beckoning.

My mother had asked for this book for Christmas, but seeing as she had to go right back to work after Christmas I seeing as I had been snowed into Vermont for 4 days longer than I had expected to be, her new-found Christmas treasure and I became very well acquainted in the week after Christmas.

So the idea is super gimmicky. I love it! Every month you focus on a new organizational skill and a different room in your house or area of your life. January’s skill is time management and January’s focus area is the kitchen. Before I say more about how this book has become the Brita system for my life’s proverbial water, I’ll tell you one more thing about the set-up of the book. Each week, Leeds assigns you a task that is part reflective and part action-oriented; on average the week’s task takes 1-2 hours.

I am proud to say that yesterday, one day before the month’s end, I finished the tasks of Chapter One (January), and the kitchen in my house is now in much better shape. I can’t say it’s exactly how I want it, but then again, imposing order on an entire kitchen’s worth of stuff is more than a month’s worth of organizing and thinking. I can say that my bags of chips now have a happy home in a Muji storage unit fit for the task, and my cupboards are no longer bursting at the seams with oil, vinegars, and chipped coffee mugs.

One interesting byproduct of the month’s “work” is my relationship to time management. I’m generally an organized and goal-oriented person, but the exercises in the book were helpful in identifying where I was spending time that had nothing to do with my life’s goals. Interestingly, I hadn’t been thinking lately about what my goals were, and I found that having a chance to write them down pushed me think about them really productive ways.

Here’s one last plug for the author and book: I’m getting my financial act together at the same time as I’m getting my house in order. The day after Christmas while I was reading my mom’s copy of the book, I said I’ve got to have this for myself! I went to book store with my cousins and sister in tow, and alas, the store didn’t have a copy of the book. To my good fortune though, they did have One Year to an Organized Financial Life. Not usually my thing, but I thumbed through it and decided maybe it was time to invest. Bought the book, and guess what? I like it even more than the Organized Life book! I even redid my entire filing system in my house and organized all my tax information from 2010 and have started the paperwork to start my own small business. Pretty cool! Definitely worth poaching from a friend or loved one who may have left their copy momentarily under the tree 🙂

Airing “real differences”

I was about to find refuge from the New York City humidity (not yet even 9 am and it’s feeling like a collective eight-million-person-plus armpit in my apartment!) when I encountered a short piece in the New Yorker about the recent firing of General Stanley McChrystal that had me really thinking–thinking so much that I had to come back to my computer and write this quick post.

Here’s the quote of interest for educational leadership from Richard Holbrooke:

People sit in a room, they don’t air their real differences, a false and sloppy consensus papers over those underlying differences, and they go back to their offices and continue to work at cross-purposes, even actively undermining each other.

I was thinking about some of my experiences in schools and about how important it is for school and district leaders to encourage the norms of professional discourse to center on honesty and presenting difficult ideas, questions, and beliefs. Without norms that encourage underlying beliefs to emerge and without the structures in place to unpack and explore those beliefs and differences of opinions surrounding those beliefs, the group’s work to further the organizational tasks–on the long run–is really lost.

A big part of leadership is about challenging underlying beliefs and finding ways to articulate among those in the organization a coherent vision and logic, so that when individuals return to their tasks in solitude, they approach the work with the common goal in mind.

There is nothing new about this idea, perhaps the article just re-affirmed something I already believed about leaders and group dynamics. I just think that we work too hard for us to “paper over” the real divisions among a team, and it takes courage for a leader to both provide a space for different beliefs and a functional set of structures for all those at the table to work toward a common understanding.

We work too  hard to be working at cross-purposes.