Tag Archives: Curriculum

Curriculum Mapping, Part 3

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 add skills and assessments to my curriculum map?

Step 1

Begin by watching this 3-minute focusing on one school in Princeton, NJ and their work with designing 21st Century Learning and Teachin. (Link to SchoolTube)

As you watch, consider the following questions:

  1. What are the most relevant skills for students to develop in 21st Century high school classrooms?
  2. How do teachers and students feel about the design performance assessments and projects in the video?
  3. Who is the 21st Century student? How will you open up new learning opportunities for these students?

Step 2

Consider what you want students to know or be able to do in order to demonstrate mastery or understanding of the content in your class. As we work to revise the Skills column in your curriculum map, consider these aspects of writing Skills into your curriculum map:

  1. Are specific, observable, and measurable
  2. Include benchmarks and critical skills from district consensus map (NYC)
  3. Begin with action verbs and are precise (examples from Ann Johnson):
    • Find the main idea and supporting details.
    • Estimate sums and differences using rounding techniques to the nearest 1000.
    • Alphabetize to the second letter.
    • Interpret data represented in a bar graph.
    • Identify root words, suffixes, and prefixes.
    • Label the parts of an informative speech.
    • Explain the difference between fact and opinion.
    • Locate and identify parts of a book: title page, table of contents, index, and gloassary.
    • Compare and contrast the benefits and limitations of a hybrid car an SUV.
    • Define the hypothesis and conclusion of an “if-then” statement.
    • Analyze four primary documents written by John F. Kennedy.
    • Tell time to the minute.

Now, begin to revise or add to the Skills column of your curriculum map, either for your targeted unit or for the entire map, depending on time.

Step 3

Next, consider assessments. Assessments are:

  1. Demonstrations of learning
  2. Tangible products, projects, or observable performances; for example:
    • Grant proposals
    • Screenplays
    • Surveys
    • Diagrams
    • Essays (creative, persuasive, descriptive, expository)
    • CAD blueprints
    • Documentaries
    • Lab reports
    • Broadcasts
    • Digital portfolios
    • Tests (essay, objective, short answer)
    • Media criticism
    • Webcasts
    • Spreadsheets
    • Teleplays
    • Graphic organizers
    • Web page
    • Story Maps
  3. Written in non form
  4. Able to give a more complete picture of learning when multiple types are used
  • Portfolios
  • Projects
  • Performance and Authentic Tasks
  • Academic Prompts
  • Quizzes/Tests
  • Observations/Dialogues
  • Informal Checks for Understanding

Step 4

a) Add to or revise the Assessments column on 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) Continue adding Skills to your curriculum map. 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 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.

I love Rafe Esquith

teachThis book, Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56, should be on every teacher induction and teacher preparation booklist. I love this book. I love Rafe Esquith as a teacher and as a writer. So many of us thrive in life because of our sense of humor and because of our gut instincts to trust and nurture other human beings–and I don’t just mean teachers. I love the candor and the schtick and the passion:

It is 2:00 P.M. on a Tuesday, which means I am about to endure from one to two hours of torture. NO, not thumbscrews and the rack–worse. It is time for the weekly staff meeting. I have struggled for years to convey to outsiders just how horrible these sessions are… Like many other teachers, I have adopted various measures to ease the pain. My fellow teachers and I have mastered the art of seeming to pay attention while some administrator out of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth announces the current misinformation. One day, I almost broke down and had a seizure… You see, the children at our school do not read well. They do not like to read. As of this writing, 78 percent of the Latino children on our campus are not proficient at reading, according to our state’s standardized tests. This means one of tho things: Either we have the stupidest kids on the planet, or we are failing these children. Please believe me when I tell you that the vast majority of our students are perfectly capable of learning to read. No one wants to admit it, but a systemic conspiracy of mediocrity keeps these children on the treadmill of illiteracy (29-30).

Page after page, I’m there with him, slapping my knee at the corny, self-depricating jokes and knowingly nodding with the jabs aimed at hapless malice practiced by educators throughout our educational system. It as if with each page, I learn more about my own passion and practice as an educator. I am learning and remembering at the same time Rafe tells  his own story and passes along his own messages about how to teach truly, ruthlessly bucking at convention and futility.

I’m about a fifth of the way through the book, so I expect to write several more times about this topic before I finish and move onto his second book, but I did want to share a collection of powerful tips I learned in the first few chapters.

First, Rafe raves about the success of working toward teaching your kids to notice and practice a personal code of behavior (or ethics) to follow. He discusses just how difficult it is to explicitly teach. Modeling is one thing, but to get kids to really notice it in others, he had to start actively looking. Here is the list he shares:

  1. In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, he names Phineas as a role model for living by a code.separatepeace
  2. In Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, he names Bernard as a role model.
  3. In High Noon by Gary Cooper, he names Sheriff Will Kane.high_noon
  4. In the film, Shawshank Redemption, he names Red played by Morgan Freeman as role model for living by a code.

I would, of course, add Omar from the television show The Wire.

omarlittleRafe also talks about the power of the right voices reading the right stories to kids, citing CDs of actor Joe Morton reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X and actress Winona Ryder reading Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

And the last tip I’ll share is a website he discusses for great (and affordable!) supplemental resources for literature.

Both parents and teachers can go to a Web site called www.learninglinks.com. this company offers a series of study guides called Novel-ties, which I find to be excellent supplements to reading… As a parent and teacher, my time is incredibly limited. Given my schedule, I cannot possibly prepared dozens of comprehension questions for each chapter I read with students. Novel-ties solve the problem. They are well organized and, most important of all, reach for the highest levels of understanding. They never ‘dumb down’ the material. By using the workbooks, my students become better readers, writers, and thinkers (41).

As if you did need motivating on this point, but I love this quote about how and why adults are such powerful rolemodels when it come to literacy and young people. I love Rafe Esquith!

Children–even very bright ones–need guidance. Whether they are selecting food or literature, kids need our leadership to help them find the right path. I’m not smarter than my students. But I know more than they do because I am older than they are. I know about fabulous books that they might not yet have come across. It is my job as their mentor to put these books in their hands. Because the  kids trust me, they re more likely to try a book I suggest. If one of my students is a Harry Potter fan, it’s easy to introduce him to other wonderful fantasy books. The joy of hearing one of the children laugh out loud while reading The Phantom Tollbooth or ask if she can boor the next installment of The Chronicles of Narnia remains a thrill for me. I get chills watching their minds try to comprehend the layers upon layers of Alice in Wonderland. Sharing the joy of great literature can be a cornerstone of a relationship between an adult and a child. It is through literature that young people first begin to look at the world differently, to open their minds to new ideas, to journey down an avenue of excellence (34-35).

Differentiating the high school classroom teacher: My own individualized learning plan of sorts

Photo 19This is me giving myself that look: “Really?”

Blogging again when you have two other concrete “actual” things to accomplish in the next 30 minutes?

And like the patient students who had to endure the same slightly perturbed gaze, I heartily reply: “Yeah.” I’ve got some interesting things on my mind. I was on the subway (in Boston) two hours ago realizing how deeply grateful I am for the experiences I have had thus far in my professional career. All of the difficulties I have had as a teacher working in urban schools, experiences that for so long felt like the shackles that held my students, my colleagues, and my own work suspended in the mediocrity endemic to segregated, low-income communities in America, abruptly shifted from chains to cherished blessings. No joke.

Photo 21I was reading a book a friend and colleague, José, introduced to me while we were teaching together last year: Differentiating the high school classroom: Solution strategies for 18 common obstacles. Kathie Nunley, the author, reveals  in the introduction (after listing some of the most common problems teachers face on a daily basis; she starts with 25 but acknowledges there are plenty more) just how creative and intelligent teachers are by virtue of the obstacles we face:

“Teachers are creative people. The tougher the problem, the more creative we must be. When teachers share with me the various difficult situations they are in, I respond, ‘Rejoice–you’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to show your ingenuity and creative genius.’ Struggles build character and intelligence.”

I realized in those moments of processing the sentiment of those words and what I have found to be true this summer and early fall thinking deeply about my practice and about the possible pathways forward just how truly blessed I have been to have encountered so much ridiculosity (I know, not really a word) in my teaching career. All of the blights of the American educational enterprise as we know them and as I in particular have experienced them have made me stronger, smarter, and more direct, agile, creative, and open as both a person and a practitioner. It is in those most confounding of restraints that we create our best work and true, deep learning for ourselves and for those around us. Nunley’s introduction was meant to set the stage for a wonderful, explosively powerful frame for understanding the awesome task of reforming schools, teaching, and learning by understanding the simple yet daunting reality that each learner is unique and that as teachers we must be ready for the spectacular challenge of differentiating instruction for all learners. The work is challenging and it may not call to us all, but damn, for those of us moths drawn to its flame, does it make us intelligent, resourceful, and potent human beings.

Back in the saddle

Okay, so I’m back in the saddle. It just so happens that I’m back in the saddle down in Providence, RI at a four-day institute on modern Iran and how to teach about Iran in my classroom. I joined by 25 educators from around the country and a few teachers from overseas. We are working with scholars and CHOICES program folks at the Watson Institute at Brown University. It’s pretty exciting stuff though the most palpable experience so far has been the ammonia residing in the carpeted dorms we’re staying in for the duration of the institute.

I have some reading to do tonight because I didn’t quite finish the required reading ahead of time, and we’ve received more to read and think about before tomorrow, so I’m excited to dive into it and learn more about Iran. I have to admit that I know shamefully little about Iran’s history beyond the general narrative that World History tells us about the Ottoman Empire, WWI, and the chaos that has ensued since the discover of oil in the Middle East. I feel fortunate to spend time with brilliant scholars and dedicated educators. It promises to be a gratifying and edifying week.