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Friday, July 11, 2014

Hit the Road Running: Step 6

We're finally ready to plan student activities. That's the fun part! It took a lot of prep to get us to this point. Let's review what we've done so far: (1) unwrap the standards, (2) explore hows and whens of annual assessments, (3) consider how you will be evaluated, (4) make a year-long curriculum calendar, and (5) create the summative assessment.

When selecting and creating student activities, I take the tried-and-true formal approach. For each new skill, I like to provide direct instruction, guided practice, and plenty of independent practice before the final assessment. It's like learning to ride a bike. First I show them how (direct instruction), then they ride while I hold the bicycle and run along beside them (guided practice), and the next thing you know, they're sailing down the road on their own (independent practice).

The length of the unit depends on the skill. A mini-unit for a simple concept could take only a few days while a mega-unit for something complex might take a month or more.

Let's move back to the example I used in my previous posts. I was creating a unit to teach students to compare and contrast two pieces of folklore. First, I unwrapped the standard to determine what the students had to know and be able to do (identify elements then write a constructed response to explain their similarities and differences). Next, I wrote the assessment (to compare and contrast "The Tortoise and the Hare" and "The Race Between the Hummingbird and the Crane"). Now I need lessons.

To me, this is the most important part of the process. I had to think long and hard about the strategies and structures I'd use to guide my students to write that constructed response. Remember, I wanted them to identify elements then compare and contrast. I decided to start with a table for listing story elements then move to a Venn diagram for comparing and contrasting.

For consistency, I would use these same organizers in my direct instruction, guided practice, and independent practice. As my students gained confidence in this skill, they could create their own organizers; some may be able to do it in their heads. 

I chose ten more stories: two to compare for direct instruction, two for guided practice, and six more for three rounds of independent practice. Everything's beginning to fit in place. My lessons match the assessment, and my assessment addresses the standard.

Now it's your turn. Happy planning!