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 Grade and Rank Students

1. Identify Standards of Key Knowledge and Skills

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2. Design Assessments

3. Identify Performance Standards

4. Share Assessments with Students

5. Design Sequence of Learning Experiences

7. Evaluate and Revise Instruction

6. Assess Students

 

 

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Learning Expectations

The following statements are taken from state standards documents and are examples of what might be given to a teacher to identify the knowledge or skills fourth graders are expected to master by the end of the year:

pp Students will be able to identify the meaning of common idioms and figura- tive phrases (English Language Arts).

pp Students will be able to express an opinion of a literary work or film in an organized way, with supporting detail (English Language Arts).

pp Students will be able to use concrete objects and visual models to add and subtract common fractions and represent answers in lowest terms (Math).

These statements are typical of those found in standards documents across the 50 states. A more comprehensive list of such statements can serve as a simple map of what to teach. However, these statements do not specify the level of dif- ficulty or complexity of the reading or the comparison that the students are ex- pected to produce. These statements of learning expectations do tell us for what student performances we will need exemplars, but they don’t spell out precisely the level of performance expected or the criteria for determining proficiency. So it is one useful resource in need of others.

Uniform Performance Assessments

Good curriculum contains specifications for evidence of student learning, spe- cifically tasks, assignments, tests, and quizzes that would produce this evidence. This evidence may come from observations of student performance, interviews consisting of question and answer exchanges with students, and sample student products. Such assessments may also include performance tasks, products, and projects that are uniformly given to all students across a grade level in a given subject to evaluate student mastery of the material at the end of a unit. As cur- riculum gets more developed, uniform assessments come every quarter, not just at end of the course or year.

Criteria for Proficiency

The uniform performance task is not quite enough. We need explicit, public grading criteria as well. For example, consider this learning expectation: “Ex- press an opinion of a literary work or film in an organized way, with supporting detail.” Following are the criteria for success:

 

 

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pp An introduction that summarizes the work’s genre, plot, or main point

pp A statement of your opinion

pp Three details to support your opinion

pp One text-to-text connection

pp Summary

These criteria direct us to scrutinize a student product for specific features that, if present, allow it to be evidence of proficiency. Criteria are sometimes represented in analytic rubrics, devices designed to show relative and specific degrees of completeness of student product in relation to specific criteria. It is the criteria behind the rubrics that are most important, however. Rubrics are not always needed, but criteria are.

End-of-Course or End-of-Year Samples of Proficient Student Work

An end-of-course or end-of-year sample of proficient student work (often re- ferred to as an “exemplar”) is a template against which to compare evidence that an important proficiency has been met by a student. It embodies in a finished product and makes concrete exactly what we expect students to be able to do in a particular academic area at the end of a semester or school year. These are, for example, sample student responses to data-based questions that meet cri- teria for proficiency, writing products that show the level of skill students are expected to display, projects, problems solved, lab reports written, and videos of verbal presentations, among others.

A benchmark is a specific performance to shoot for that marks progress to- ward, not final attainment of, a higher goal. Runners set themselves targets or benchmarks that gauge their progress toward a winning time. They feel good when they pass the benchmark, but their training isn’t over yet. The benchmark signals that a significant increment of improvement has been passed. Thus there should be more benchmarks in a course or grade level than just one at the end of the course or semester. There can be as many or as few as are appropriate for the content or skills being learned. In guided reading in the primary grades, each alphabetical level of book is a benchmark of a sort. A child moving up from “M” to “N” books has passed a benchmark with specific observable performance as- sociated with it. In many schools, quarterly assessments are developed to spell out intermediate levels of performance on the road to final proficiency.

 

 

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Pedagogical Practices

A pedagogical practice is a commitment to a form of instruction that has a research base or perhaps a philosophical base. For example, a district or a curriculum department may have a commitment to writing across the curriculum, in which case all teachers may be asked to have students keep written learning logs of some kind in which they reflect on their learning each day. Or the school may have a commitment to cooperative learning, project- based learning, integration of technology, or a certain balance of formative and summative assessment that they expect, as well as student self-assessment and goal setting. Such commitments might show up in how curriculum is constructed and implemented. Above all, such practices, if expected, should be explicit to all and part of induction for new teachers.

Pacing Guides

A pacing guide is an approximate timetable that lays out how much time it usually takes to complete each set of lessons of each unit of study. This is particularly useful to teachers who haven’t taught a curriculum before. A scope and sequence chart often lays out a sequence of topics or skills for a content area but does not give a sense of how long components take to learn under normal circumstances. A curriculum map (Jacobs, 1997) is a diagram that shows the development from year to year of content and skill knowledge. This allows a school and district to avoid repetition (“But we learned about latitude and longitude in fifth grade and seventh grade . . .”) and make sequencing of content rational, reinforcing, and without gaps.

Lesson Plans

Lesson plans are detailed implementation scenarios that specify the learning objectives and experiences students will go through and tasks they will be asked to do. Many other components may be part of the scenario too, like motivators, activators, descriptions of equipment to use, pages in books, and assessment devices. We devote Chapter 19, “Planning,” to this important topic.

Lesson plan samples are often part of good curriculum guides, but detailed plans for individual lessons should be made up by teachers who use the unit plan as the framework and district lesson plans and materials banks as resources to draw from. Why? Because good planning requires teachers to think deeply about the content, analyze what prerequisite skills and knowledge will be fundamental to understanding the new material, and consider that in light of what they know about their students. They need to plan pre-assessment, determine how to best present a concept to match the needs and their students’ background

 

 

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knowledge, anticipate confusions students may have during a given lesson, and so on. Consequently, a detailed implementation scenario should stem from the teacher having dug into the content herself and determined how to support all students in achieving the lesson objective.

Time Allocations

Certain districts mandate how many minutes per day must be spent on certain subjects in elementary school. In some schools, this can go so far as how many minutes within the language arts block are spent on guided reading, interactive writing, free reading, and other topics. These time allocations may be recommended, mandatory, or nonexistent. It all depends on what is decided in the local context and what has been clearly agreed to.

Instructional Strategies

It is also possible that there are some schoolwide or grade-level commitments to particular instructional strategies, like the use of certain graphic organizers, selective manipulatives in math, and particular discussion formats or reading comprehension strategies. Sometimes they are integrated into curriculum designs. In contrast to pedagogical practices, which are big conceptually like constructivism and active learning, an instructional strategy is small such as modeling thinking aloud, “Carousel Brainstorming,” and so on.

Activities, Materials, and Examples

At a very detailed level, it may be expected or perhaps only recommended that teachers use particular instructional materials, like fraction bars for math or the TCI History Alive Curriculum (www.teachtci.com) or a particular apparatus to illustrate acceleration as a principle of Newtonian physics. Required use of certain textbooks adopted districtwide falls in this category.

Resources for Teachers

Depending on the size and budget of the district, any of the resources listed in Table 17.4 may be available for teachers to draw on. A distinction must be made between materials and resources. Materials are tangible items used to implement lessons, to teach the curriculum. Resources are what teachers use to prepare themselves to teach it well.

 

 

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Table 17.4 Resources for Teachers

1. Print Materials • Curriculum guides • Lists of recommended books and materials • Unit guides • Recommended websites • Sample lessons • Curriculum libraries of great units

2. Physical Materials • Math manipulatives • Science apparatus

3. Human Resources • Building-based curriculum specialists • Staff development on planning skills • District curriculum specialists • Staff development on analysis of data • Staff development of teachers • Culture of sharing units and materials • Professional norms of joint planning

4. Other Resources • Collections of instructional materials available for loan • Association memberships • Funds for attending content area conferences and professional development

workshops

A LESSON FROM A CURRICULUM POINT OF VIEW

Lesson plans are guided by the curriculum but not necessarily spelled out in the curriculum. Let us define a lesson as a time span when a teacher takes a bounded chunk of material from a unit or a topic and creates an experience or a series of experiences for students. The idea is that when the lesson is over, most of the students have learned whatever was the target, whether a skill (for example, locating places by latitude and longitude) or a concept (for example, the separate powers of the three branches of the U.S. government and their checks and balances on each other).

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