Saturday, October 6, 2012

Students, Standards, Curriculum

Our philosophy in a nutshell... Which has been on our minds a great deal lately, as we explain the approach to learning within our classroom at the beginning of this new school year.

Ann and I are very dedicated to STUDENTS first in our general planning and sequencing of lessons. As we are now moving from an individualized teaching approach to a personalized one this year, we are diligent about providing students with individual goals that also match their interests and learning styles. Daily formative assessment guides our decision making and flexibility in our differentiated approach to planning; adjustments are made moment to moment as necessary.

STANDARDS fall second in our planning approach. After discovering the individual needs of our students we align their needs to the standards, this year having to go between our current state standards along with CCSS. We teach our students that the standards are like building blocks, and sometimes their skill level is beyond or behind their "grade level" expectation. Ann and I help them recognize and develop an understanding of this continuum, so strengths and challenges can be taken on with a positive growth mindset. We promise to meet their personal needs as a learner, wherever that may be on the continuum, and provide them with a plan that best fits them.

Falling third in our approach is the CURRICULUM/RESOURCES available to us within our classroom, physically and digitally. We search for and provide our students with materials that will guide them on their journey, supporting the particular standard of learning they are ready to conquer.

For years we taught from the curriculum first standpoint. We diligently used our curriculum guide to design our weekly/monthly/yearly plans. Fidelity of the curriculum was important to us, and the next year we would dig our our lesson plans and follow a similar routine. As we taught we labeled the standards we were "hitting", checking them off as they were covered. And at the end of a chapter or unit we would assess how our students did with the material, recording a grade, and then we would move everyone along following the curriculum plan.

A few years back we become more conscious of checking the curriculum ahead of time and giving ourselves permission to skip lessons and activities that did not cover our standards, and then found supplemental resources to cover standards that were not addressed in our adopted curriculum. Along the way we become more aware of differentiation strategies that would assist students in attacking the standard by providing different entry points or providing them with a variety of ways to show mastery of their particular grade level standard. We were still recognizing, though, that we continued to struggle with meeting the individual needs of many of our students, especially those behind or beyond the grade level standard at hand.

As we approached our second year in multiage, we were thankful for having the opportunity to "let-go" of the single grade focus last year. We approached this year with an even bigger openmind and an even clearer perspective on how we would approach our daily plans to ensure meeting the needs of our students. Our planning continues to be student driven, providing many opportunities to allow students to access learning through a variety of modules that match their interests and learning styles. We plan according to the standards that need to be addressed, continuously using assessments to point us in an accurate direction. And we have intentionally pulled in a variety of curriculum materials, to have at our fingertips, that will assist us in meeting K-8 standards. Teaching within our Multiage Program has allowed us to stray away from the one-size-fits all approach to learning and intentionally meet students where they are on their learning journey.

Students first, then standards, then curriculum- a mantra worth considering.


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