Last year, prior to the start of the school year, a principal asked if I would provide her with support by being an additional set of eyes as teachers prepared their initial lessons. It was their first time teaching with the Common Core and her first time leading with the standards. As I moved from group to group throughout the morning, I noticed a consistent phenomenon. Teachers were inserting an entire standard after the words, “Students will.” That was a problem.
That was a problem because within a standard are multiple thinking skills and knowledges that are needed to move from novice to expert in order to have success with the standard. All learners require multiple opportunities to build up to becoming skilled at their target–in this case the standard. The principal needed the teachers to understand this idea, and so, I provided support by designing an impromptu professional learning session to challenge their thinking.
The image below represents one of the slides presented during the session. Upon presenting it, I asked, “What are the differences you notice between the two objectives and how would you approach teaching both?”
While they understood both objectives, they experienced more challenges with clearly articulating the process they would execute to teach Objective B. After a few minutes of open discussion, the teachers agreed with each other that Objective A would help to accomplish Objective B. And that’s when I jumped in!
Objective B was taken directly from the Common Core, specifically CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.9. The major difference they later discovered was that Objective B was simply “Students will” followed by the standard, while Objective A was a tiered objective that resulted from deconstructing the standard. (The deconstruction process results in tiered objectives that create multiple entry points into a standard, based on students’ individual needs. The process allows for success with each standard by moving from novice to practitioner/expert levels. Objective A represents one of the higher tiers.)
The remainder of the session included a deconstruction demonstration with teachers deconstructing and designing clearer and more comprehensive lessons.
As teachers reflected on their collaborative learning session, a first year educator stated, “Oh! Now I see why I was having a difficult time trying to plan.” She recognized she needed to break down the standards by thinking about the multiple levels of thinking and the multiple knowledges embedded within them. A more experienced teacher that I partnered with earlier this year said this:
In the past, I thought of objectives as more for the teacher than for the student, but this process has made me see the importance of each student understanding each objective within a unit. When students understood and tracked their progress towards mastering each objective, they wanted to improve! More so, they were able to see how all of their work from the unit was connected and scaffolded which made lessons much more engaging as they saw a purpose to each day.
Objectives matter…especially for the Common Core!
So as always, I have a question for you: how are you preparing your faculty to think through the multiple layers within each standard while extracting their conceptual understanding and disciplinary literacy ideas?
The Core Deconstructed can help you answer that question. If you want to know how, just let me know.