Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Reflect! Reflect! Reflect!

My school district subscribes to the RCD model for curriculum planning.  RCD means Rigorous Curriculum Design, I have to say it not only for my readers, but so that I remember the meaning also.  Basically the idea is that a group of high level administrators and experienced teachers backward map the Common Core Standards and develop an entire yearly plan for all the classes in the district.  The RCD team will use the standards to develop formative tests and projects for the teachers to best teach to the State Framework.  A good majority of teachers in my district do not  care for this plan, but I actually really like using it.

The reason that I like this planning model is that us teachers have the freedom to decide how to teach the Common Core Standards.   We get to use our teacher judgement to decide which books we will use.  We choose the writing system/program that works best with our philosophies.  We can decide how to teach grammar, spelling, and punctuation,  whether with worksheets (hopefully not too much) or within text and writing application.  We decide how to teach listening and speaking, whether through Socratic Seminars, Literature Circles, or whatever fun and engaging way that works best for our teaching style.  We have the freedom under the RCD model, as long as we teach the Common Core state standards within the time frame (Scope and Sequence) mandated by the district.

Well, today I gave a project task written by the RCD planners as a cumulative activity to tie all standards together in a meaningful application.   I put a lot of thought and planning into how I would present this task to my students to ensure optimal success.  Last year I had given this same project task and it was a huge flop.   The students just didn't understand what was being asked of them and they were not prepared to complete all components simultaneously.  That was my reflection after reviewing these week long projects last year.

So this year, I was determined not to make the same mistakes!  I decided I would make a list of all the activities that had to be done to complete the task.  I also added activities such as article annotation, gist writing and 3 column notes to better understand the articles they were reading.   The gist of the project is that students would read two articles and integrate the information to write an opinionated essay.

Well, today was indeed a disaster.  We were in the third day of working on this project and I realized half the class was completely lost and off task.   All I could think of was ,"Three lost days of instruction!!"  And it was completely my fault!  As I reflected, I knew that I had asked too much of them.  I had over explained the task and the requirements.  So when I turned the assignment over to them to complete individually they were overwhelmed with too many instructions.

Well, good news is that its the beginning of the year and I can be sure not to over plan next time...  Bad news, I wasted a really good task and will have to improvise to provide the students what they need to integrate and apply all the skills and knowledge gained during this RCD unit.  I do know that next year I will try to find the happy medium between too much and too little instruction!

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