Once again I find myself struggling with what to teach this coming year. I’ve worked through my curriculum angst many times in the past. To be able to plan my units for the year, I need a strong foundation in the standards students should meet. Unfortunately I’m finding my state standards limiting (sorry Virginia!). To balance them, I’m focusing a lot on the Standards for the 21st Century Learner from AASL. If you’ve read those you know that they are not at all limiting, but reach-the-sky standards. Which is fabulous and daunting.
I’m familiar with daunting, so I have proceeded this summer working with state and national standards in small doses step by step. AASL has resources for doing just this in a toolkit. I have read all of the articles mentioned in this toolkit for this particular step, but I can’t say that one was more helpful than another. Mainly because at this point I’m in this by myself and not working collaboratively with a group of stakeholders.
- I went through the state standards and made a list for each grade level. Our “Research” standards don’t exist at every elementary grade and are…limiting. I combed through English and Technology as well.
- I printed the AASL benchmarks for 2nd and 5th grade. I like these because for each indicator a few skills are listed so that you have ideas of how to know if students have mastered the objective. There are a lot of skills on this list.
- I discovered that most of the state objectives are similar to these skills. This was good for me because I can layer them and on lessons identify which indicators students are working towards mastering by learning certain skills which meet the state objectives.
- I gave myself permission to delete. The list of skills filled over 8 pages!! I looked at each AASL indicator and identified 2-3 skills that I could focus on with students. I kept all of the state objectives in this list.
This is the step I’m at now. I want to communicate with teachers what their students should be working towards as far as information skills. Even though 4 pages is better than 8, that’s still too many to pass on to teachers. And really, it’s too many for me to teach this year. I have to identify the priorities and then use these for unit planning.
- Look at the indicators with a more global eye….which ones are super important to my teachers/students for this year? Are there themes I can identify that can be pulled together? What will my instructional focus be at each grade level? I’ll write more global “Student will be able to….” objectives with a brief description of what this looks like in classroom instruction.
- I teach 4 units in a fixed schedule to each grade level. That’s not a lot for an entire year. How can I balance everything and put it together into a spiral that makes instructional sense so that students can be successful? Which units will I teach beyond my fixed schedule that can be collaborative with teachers? I want to build on what teachers are used to doing already and have a few suggestions for each grade to have ready.