Monday, April 21, 2014

Principles to Action: Curriculum (pages 72-80)

Curriculum is our backbone to quality teaching.  Without a strong curriculum we are teaching without a clear direction or focus.  

What is our version of curriculum?  Where are we at on the line between "book curriculum" and "created curriculum?"  Where should we be?  Is there a distinction between our textbook and our curriculum?  We have new books in Algebra 2 and are planning on it in grades 6-8.  Are we doing it correctly?  Are we using the books as a resource - or are they the curriculum?

Vertical and horizontal alignment...do we know what the our grades/courses are teaching?

Please vote on the poll at the right after reading and considering this chapter.



9 comments:

  1. The curriculum for sixth grade has been evolving over the past 3 years. We have revised lessons based upon student performance. Our arrangement for units has also changed as we felt there might be a more productive means for accomplishing our goals. Currently we are evaluating our decision to move rational number concepts to follow the equations study.
    Discussion regarding evaluation results to come in later blog:)

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  2. In eighth grade, we have done extensive revisions to the curriculum. We use the textbook as a guideline, but we also enrich the textbook and modify topics based on what we feel best meets the learning needs of the students. Our current textbook is also not fully aligned to the common core so we make sure incorporate the necessary material so our curriculum is aligned to the common core.

    As for the vertical alignment, it is very difficult to really know what is being taught below or even sometimes above unless you have taught the curriculum. Again there is only so much time in a day, and we pick and choose our battles. I know that for my level we will sometimes e-mail the 7th grade teachers to find out the extent of exposure the students had to certain topics.

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    1. I agree with you Sandy about the vertical portion. I have learned a ton about what students should be coming to higher levels with by being in the middle school this year. I do think that more communication should happen between grade levels to help make the vertical piece better. The question is how do we find the time to do that? Especially with the way things have been changing the past couple of years.

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    2. Sandy is right we have been really working at the 8th grade curriculum!!! We are fortunate because our existing textbook has been basically 'aligned' to common core and we have not had to change/add a ton to complete our alignment. We have been able to use this time to get more than a "inch deep" into several of our topics and even to create interesting projects to supplement textbook lessons. #CAN'TWAITFORM&Ms

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  3. I agree, vertical alignment is difficult. I heave ideas for next year to help with that but it is at the expense of individual planning. Is is time for that? Are we comfortable enough with where we are to have the vertical alignment take center stage. It just might be...

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  4. Maybe a curricular timeline of topics (so to speak), each grade places a post-it if they cover it. Google doc...? I know, we have too many already. But perhaps it would allow for anytime input on this versus one specific meeting time that we may or may not have "time" for... Perhaps a label of introductory or mastery in regards to the depth of knowledge at that level of instruction... Some how, it would be great to see what baseline skills are needed for each level and then also, what is covered when (meaning at what grade level.) Perhaps we have multiply overlaps or worse, gaps in our instructional piece. Agreed with all above...time, time, and more time to do this. With the amount of new testing, RTI practices, etc. we may be "time" ahead by looking at this piece. If there are concepts that are being overlapped or covered that do not fall into the CC of that grade level, maybe time can be saved through this identification. In 8th grade, we have changed or eliminated some instructional pieces because of this...

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    1. I like the google doc type method of keeping track of this...I know another google doc BUT if nothing else isn't out there than this is possibly the most 'flexible' method of sharing vertical info that we may have! We can input and read at our leisure and this flexibility is important...maybe a template could be set up? (not it...)

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  5. I think that the thoughts of vertical alignment have been spot on, thus far. As it would appear to be in agreement among us, vertical alignment is an integral part of both sequencing and prioritizing material to be covered. This is not possible without time spent by the teachers, as well as the administration, to investigate what and, almost more importantly, how material is being covered in courses prior to and after the courses that they teach/supervise. This document does a nice job of illustrating the progression of this process, once it occurs; going from determining the end goals of previous, current, and future courses before determining assessments and instructional pieces of the current course. With regards to courses in which students are coming from, the current teacher has three responsibilities. The first being, to conduct an analysis of topics that have been covered in the past and determine how much time should be delegated for that topic, if any. Next, the teacher must be very deliberate in the way they effectively use the knowledge gained from past years as an introduction or integration into new material. Finally, it is the responsibility of the educator to continue to spiral the content of previous years to encourage retention of those topics.
    Speaking from experience, this importance of this idea could not be more evident in the progression from Algebra I through Geometry to Algebra II. Much of the first semester of Algebra II is spent recovering lost material from Algebra I, despite it being considered a STRENGTH of the student in the past. How can this be? Is it misleading representations of student understanding of past years? Or, is it the lack of exposures during Geometry that causes the loss? Perhaps, could it be that Algebra II does not need to include this in their curriculum? Algebra I and Geometry PLC’s plead innocence and, yet, history and data has dictated that time be spent on this material in Algebra II despite in determining SLO goals, most of the objectives of the first quarter of the year are not even considered an “Algebra II goal”. Some have proposed that the order of the classes be switched. However, the prominence of “success” measurements being predominantly based on standardized test scores have demanded that Geometry be taken sophomore year, in order to be able to do well on these geometry-heavy assessments. If we are “in charge” of determining the proper sequence of material for our students, why, then, must we bend our whims to the demands of third party assessments willingly? If we are not supposed to cover topics just to check them off a list, then why do we have CCSS? Again the over-bearing “thumb” of the dictated policy presses down on us. Meanwhile, those in power are able to pass their judgmental stares past their mandates toward those of us trying to survive the leaps through their flaming hoops.

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  6. My final thoughts weigh in on the quote at line 15 of page 73, “One need look no further than a traditional Algebra One class in which weeks are spend on factoring trinomials when handheld technology already exists that makes this skill all but obsolete.” First of all, this is obviously an extremist point of view, however one that does hold some merit. As I type these comments, it comes to mind that inventions like the computer, which have created such progress, were only made possible because somebody delegated the task of “simple” computations and calculations to a machine in order to achieve something greater. Of course, I put “simple” in quotes because it is an ever-changing definition that requires constant revisiting. Things that seemed complex at one time can later be seen as simple once enough understanding and experience has been gained. Clearly, it is important that a foundation be built of mathematical processes prior to deeming them “obsolete” and delegating such processes to a calculator. However, if we are trying to have a student who is successful in the 21st century, is it not most important for students to analyze, plan, solve (by any means), interpret, and communicate rather than solve problems by hand because “that’s the way that I learned it”? I understand that we want students to demonstrate they understand the math behind it, but what is the end goal? I have never used a slide-rule, but I still consider myself a successful mathematician.

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