Step 5 of creating a great curriculum is finding all of the amazing resources that you will use throughout the school year! It is the most time consuming part of the process and often happens on a continuous cycle which is why this step gets its own post! (See the other steps to creating a great curriculum here!)
Once you have figured out your standards, the hard part is making sure that your activities match up with your standards and that you are creating learning intentions (targets) that reflect the standards. To me this is an ongoing process. One thing that unites all good teachers, is the drive to make things better and improve on we have done in the past. My department likes to joke that I rewrite my curriculum every summer. This is somewhat true in that every summer around mid-July, I start reviewing my previous year’s activities, lessons and standards and see what could be better. Am I really teaching to the standard? Is there a way to make this more interactive? How can I create a better assessment? How can I give the students more choice?
So in this post, I want to share with you my process of reviewing my curriculum and how I look at my activities to see if they are what I want to do and match my class goals and standards.
Step 1: Review Standards and Learning Intentions
In Missouri we are going to through a process of approving new standards, so this was definitely something I needed to do this summer to see what had changed. The unfortunate thing for me is that there are no specific geography standards. They are embedded into the other social studies contents. This makes them very specific to the content. To combat this I am using those standards, but I am also using National Geography Standards that are more specific to teaching geography on its own.
Above is what we have designed for our building curriculum. It is housed in Google Drive and it is this same format for all of our units. The first thing I did was read through all of my standards to make sure I understood them and the language used in the standards. Then like in our previous post on designing curriculum, I went through and made sure the standards listed were my essential standards that I will be assessing.
Once I have my standards decided on, I evaluate my learning intentions and success criteria. If your district doesn't use these, they are basically the statements of what the students should be able to do by the assessment for that unit. The key is that the learning intentions and success criteria should lead the students to the standards which is what the students will be assessed on. For me this means breaking down the different pieces and wording of the standards, then creating success criteria that matches each standard in a student friendly way. This leads me to the learning intention which I always phrase as a question, because I want to students to think about broad questions that relate to the concept.
Step 2: Review Activities to Match Standards, Learning Intention, and Success Criteria
The next step for me is going through my activities and looking through my resources to make sure everything matches up and to see what needs to be improved. For me this means going back and making notes in my plan book from last year, writing notes on my copies of student checklists, and writing ideas and notes in a notebook. I process through writing and talking, so I always write things out to help me think through things and I look for a partner (usually Becca) to talk about my ideas and bounce things off a person.
This process is really about deciding to make changes and what areas need to be worked on. I look for lessons that are weak or really just didn't perform the way I wanted them to and mark them for change and what ideas I have for changing them. I go through a series of questions like the ones below to get me thinking about what kinds of changes to make.
Step 3: The Hunt for Resources and Ideas
Next is the hunt for new ideas and resources, to make those changes you want to your lessons. Honestly this is something that is personal to every teacher, but the best place to find these ideas is:
Step 4: Create!
To be honest, this tends to happen simulataniously with step 3, but basically as you gather your resources and ideas, you can start creating and doing the improvement you had in mind for your lessons. This is the best part, since you get to see finished products and see your work amount to something.
This process may seem endless and intensive and it can be which is why some teachers don't go through it every year or they spread it out throughout the school year. If your standards don't change, then you are really only working from step 2-4 or even just 3 and 4 depending on how solid you feel about the earlier pieces. The important thing is to have a mindset of growth and always looking for ways to improve your craft and make learning meaningful for our students.
What process works for you? Feel free to leave some comments about how you approach creating activities to match your standards. How do you review your lessons?