Designing Effective Curriculum

  1. Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

Throughout the quarter in EDU6524 Curriculum Design, we have discussed the various components that are necessary in designing effective curricula.  This fully relates to Program Standard 4, which states that student learning is positively impacted when teachers use learning standards, pedagogy, content knowledge, and resources to create curricula.  Since this is my final quarter at SPU, I have had quite a bit of experience with writing lesson plans and creating units that are structured around the Common Core State Standards.  Furthermore, my student teaching experience prepared me for anticipating common misconceptions and providing better differentiation for ELL students as well as Talented and Gifted students.  However, despite all of this experience and practice, I feel that this course helped me hone my skills and I became better at adapting the district adopted curricula to better meet the needs of my students.

In order to appropriately scaffold this course for our learning, we started off by analyzing an existing curriculum and evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of it.  I chose to evaluate the Engage NY math curriculum for kindergarten, since I will be teaching kindergarten this fall and my district uses Engage NY.  Through evaluating this curriculum, I was able to learn about the various strengths of the program, such as it being easy to teach, that it is highly scaffolded, and it aligns with the gradual release model.  Equally important to understand are the weaknesses of the program since it allows teachers to make appropriate modifications that will impact student learning.

Following this evaluation, we began to select a topic of interest that would be used to base our unit plans.  My unit plan followed the Engage NY geometry module.  In making this decision, we looked at the Common Core State Standards, found which standards aligned with our unit, and considered the essential questions and enduring understandings.  According to Wiggins and Wilbur (2015) “essential questions foster the kinds of inquiries, discussions, and reflections that help learners find meaning in their learning and achieve deeper thought and better quality in their work.”  Not only do the essential questions and enduring understandings help learners, but they also guide teachers toward the most important parts of a unit and the big take-aways.

The next task was to create 20 daily learning targets for the unit.  This has been something that has been challenging for me, though I feel that I have gotten better at this as I have had more opportunities to practice creating learning targets.  The most difficult part for me is that it still doesn’t feel natural, and I have a tough time finding grade-appropriate ways of wording the learning targets.  Forming strong learning targets is important because it gives students an idea of the intent of the lesson rather than “flying blind” (Moss, Brookhart, & Long, 2011).  Learning targets give both teachers and students a direction for the lesson, which is helpful for students since they can access their prior knowledge and use that to build on the lesson.  Following this step was the creation of engaging activities.  This is one of the most important pieces in creating strong lessons because it keeps students actively involved in the lesson rather than sitting passively.  During this portion of the unit planning I used my knowledge of the gradual release model to inform instruction.  The gradual release model scaffolds instruction for students where the teacher slowly releases the responsibility of the work – first the teacher models for the students, then the students and teacher work collaboratively before allowing students to work independently.  The following link is my pre-assessment, engaging activities, learning targets, essential questions, and enduring understandings: Unit – Kindergarten 2-D and 3-D Shape Identification

The final 2 steps of this project were to actually create 5 lesson plans and through collaborating with my groupmates, we provided constructive feedback in order to improve our lessons.  The lesson plans can be retrieved at: 5 Lesson Plans.  This collaborative effort was one of the most valuable parts of this entire project since it helped me see things from a different perspective and in looking at my teammates’ lessons, I was able to use some of their ideas to make my lessons more engaging and exciting.  As a new teacher, I need to be open to seeking out and accepting feedback in order to continue making my lessons the best they can possibly be for my students.  This is a challenge that I look forward to as I begin my teaching journey.


Moss, C., Brookhart, S., Long, B. (2011). Knowing your learning target. Educational Leadership, 68 (6), 66-69. Retrieved from:

Wiggins, G., Wilbur, D. (2015). How to make your questions essential. Educational Leadership, 73 (1), 10-15. Retrieved from:

Posted in 4. Content Knowledge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating a Safe Environment

  1. Learning Environment: The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.

In education, it isn’t enough to simply teach students the content matter.  For students to learn, the learning environment needs to feel safe for all learners, which enables them to take risks in their learning and thus deepen their understanding.  Teachers can use a variety of strategies to create a safe environment that is conducive to learning.  In my internship, I have seen teachers use different tools to help them set up their classroom in a safe and inclusive manner.  Many of the teachers at my school attended a Capturing Kids’ Hearts training over the summer and learned different ways to help students feel included and safe at school.  According to the Capturing Kids’ Hearts website, “Capturing Kids’ Hearts shows teachers how to create high-achieving centers of learning by strengthening students’ connectedness to others through enhancing healthy bonds with their teachers and establishing collaborative agreements of acceptable behavior” (2016).  Through using many of the Capturing Kids’ Hearts strategies, teachers at my school have formed positive relationships with students and have created an inclusive learning environment.

One of the ways that teachers can foster a safe learning environment is through the social contract, or class expectations.  To begin this, my mentor teacher used some guiding questions in order to facilitate a class discussion around expected behaviors and considering each others feelings.  She mounted chart paper and each sheet had one of the different questions.  The guiding questions are: How do you want me (the teacher) to treat you?  How do you want to treat each other?  How do you think I want to be treated?  How will we handle violations of the contract?  Once the class has come up with ideas for each one, we create the social contract.  The social contract needs to be specific enough where students understand what each item on the contract means.  For example, stating “be respectful” isn’t clear because each person in the classroom may have a different definition of what respectful looks like.  By making the social contract specific and explicit, students can hold each other accountable for their behavior.  Once we finished creating our contract, each student signed it, which signifies that they will uphold the social contract (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Our original social contract.

Over halfway through the year, once I started my independent teaching, I realized that our social contract needed to be modified to better fit our classroom needs.  As a group, we discussed the items that were working and the ones that weren’t, and we modified them to be more effective.  My students also realized that there were things that were not on our social contract, and we had another classroom discussion to add new expectations to the contract.



This experience has been incredibly valuable for me.  It has shown the importance of forming relationships with students, as well as the importance of having students help create the classroom expectations.  When students are able to create the classroom expectations, there is more buy-in from the students.  Furthermore, it promotes self-management on the students’ part because they are all fully aware of the expectations.  Students have demonstrated accountability for their behavior, and they hold each other accountable by referring back to the social contract.  As I begin my first year of teaching in the fall, I plan to adopt the social contract in my classroom in order to make school a safe haven for students and a place where deep, meaningful learning can take place.


Flippen Group. (2016). Capturing Kids’ Hearts. Retrieved from:

Posted in 5. Learning Environment, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fostering Mathematical Discourse

4.0 Content Knowledge – The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

EDMA6432 Elementary Math Methods, and applying the knowledge I gained through this course in my internship, reinforced the importance of program standard 4.  This standard describes how teachers can draw from a variety of resources in order to design effective instruction that will positively impact student learning.  One of the most valuable pieces of information I learned was the importance of fostering mathematical discourse.  According to Ernst and Ryan (2014), “when students share their mathematical ideas and representations with peers and make sense of the ideas and representations of others, they make more mathematical connections and deepen their understanding.”  This can be done by asking open-ended questions, recording students’ strategies, and responding to each other’s thinking (Ernst & Ryan, 2014).

In an effort to increase the productive math discourse in my classroom, I posted some sentence frames around the classroom to help guide students toward effective math conversations.  The sentence frames include, “I agree/disagree with _______ because…” and “How did you solve the problem?”  This has translated from their conversations into their daily math work in the form of clearly showing their thinking.  I have explained to my students the importance of showing what they know in all of their


Student sample from a performance task.

math work because it allows me to understand their thought process.  During a performance task, one student did an excellent job of modeling his thinking by using the arrow way.  Despite answering the question incorrectly, his ability to clearly show his method for solving the problem allowed me to better understand where there was a disconnect.  Once the performance task was completed, I asked him how he figured out the problem and he realized his mistake.  Effective mathematical discourse can often allow for students to recognize their own mistakes and gives them an opportunity to deepen their learning.

The importance of fostering positive math talk in the classroom has enormous effects on student learning and understanding.  Through effective math talk, students become more confident mathematicians, make more mathematical connections, and deepen their understanding of math.  By taking the time to teach students appropriate ways to communicate with each other, and by asking high quality questions, the classroom will be a safer place for students to learn, take risks, and become proficient mathematicians.


Ernst, K., & Ryan, S. (2014).  Success from the start: Your first years teaching elementary mathematics. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Posted in 4. Content Knowledge | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Professional Learning Communities

8. Professional Practice Criteria – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

The importance of program standard 8 became more apparent and applicable once I started student teaching, as well as in my course work for EDU6134 Professional Issues/Abuse. This standard addresses the need for teachers to work together in order to positively impact the learning that occurs in the classroom. While there are many different ways in which teachers can collaborate, the model I am most familiar with is the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model, since my school places an emphasis on PLCs. Collaboration is not only useful in helping to combat the feelings of isolation that many first year teachers face, but it allows teachers to work together to “define essential curriculum, develop common assessments, and analyze student data.” (Graham & Ferriter, 2008). Furthermore, research has shown that there is a correlation between higher levels of student achievement and teacher collaboration (DuFour, 2011).

As discussed above, my current school requires that teacher participate in PLCs. Recently we have been working on creating common assessments, which required us to first decide which reading, writing, and math standards were the most critical; essentially, the three standards in each discipline that we want all second grade students to be able to


Figure 1. Unpacking the reading standards.

master by the end of the academic year. We each selected our priority standards and discussed them during one of our PLC meetings, and then started unpacking the standards. Figure 1 shows the chart we are using to help us organize our ideas. In addition to indicating the standard, we have determined the depth of knowledge that students must have, the prerequisite skills that need to be taught, the time of year we plan to teach the standard, details about the common assessment we will form, and note further extension standards. The second grade team recently finished forming the common assessment for reading standard RI.1 and we will be administering it this upcoming week. During our next PLC meeting, we will bring our assessments and begin to go over them as a group.

Prior to this, I did not have any experience in teacher collaboration, so I didn’t understand how crucial it is. Professional Learning Communities are incredibly useful because they allow teachers to work together in planning curriculum, developing assessments, and analyzing data, which ultimately improves student learning in the classroom. As I begin looking for a teaching position, I will make an effort to find schools that understand the importance of PLCs and create opportunities for teachers to engage in meaningful collaboration. Through collaboration, I can become a better, more reflective teacher and help my students make greater strides in their achievements.


DuFour, R. (2011). Work together but only if you want to. Kappan Magazine, 92(5), 57-61. Retrieved from: 2011(1).pdf

Graham, P., & Ferriter, B. (2008). One step at a time. National Staff Development Council, 29(3), 35-39. Retrieved from:

Posted in 8. Professional Practice Criteria | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drawing on Content Knowledge, Standards, and Resources to Design Lessons – EDU6150 Course Reflection

4.  Content Knowledge: The teacher uses content area knowledge, learning standards, appropriate pedagogy and resources to design and deliver curricula and instruction to impact student learning.

Program standard 4 discusses how proficient and effective teachers rely on a combination of content knowledge, the state mandated standards, pedagogy, and other resources in order to create lesson plans that benefit student learning. In EDU6150 General Inquiry, Teaching, and Assessment Methods, I learned about a variety of teaching methods and instructional design. One of the approaches to design that I learned about is outlined in Understanding by Design (Wiggins et al, 2005). Wiggins et al (2005) propose a backward design approach to creating lesson plans, which means that teachers should start with the desired end goal, typically the standard, and design instruction that supports students meeting that goal. Another article suggested that teachers should present new material slowly and allow students to practice after each new step (Rosenshine, 2012). By using the principles proposed by Wiggins et al (2005) and Rosenshine (2012), teachers can design lessons that effectively address the desired outcome, as well as allowing for increased student learning.

During this course, I created a lesson plan based on the kFigure 1nowledge gained from Wiggins et al (2005) and Rosenshine (2012). I utilized the principles of backward design in order to create a more structured lesson. Figure 1 shows the beginning of the lesson plan, including the content standard addressed, the central focus, and the learning targets, which were derived from the standards. By determining the standard I wanted to address and creating learning targets, I was able to design a lesson to meet these specific learning targets and standards. In Figure 2, there is instruction, followed by a practice activity for students. This aligns with the principle stated by Rosenshine (2012), in which material is presented and allows for students to practice. This lesson incorporates direct instruction throughout the lesson, and a variety of activities that supports students

Figure 2

Figure 2

practicing the new material. By using a variety of resources, such as the articles presented by Rosenshine and Wiggins et al, lesson design will be purposeful, standards-based, and will positively impact student learning.

Designing this lesson was an invaluable experience. It was helpful to draw on the various techniques presented by Rosenshine and Wiggins et al, as well as submitting the lesson plan and receiving feedback from the instructors. This allowed me to recognize my strengths and areas for improvement in designing lessons. One area for improvement is integrating student voice throughout the lesson. Additionally, I feel that I can work on differentiated instruction for students who are talented and gifted, as well as students who require additional support. Through using appropriate pedagogy, drawing on knowledge, and considering the standards, I will be able to design effective lessons to positively impact student learning.


Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of instruction: research-based strategies that all teachers should know. Retrieved from: 2012.pdf

Wiggins et al. (2005). Understanding by design. Retrieved from: by Design Chapter 1.pdf

Posted in 4. Content Knowledge | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

EDTC6431 Final Project

During the final four weeks of Learning with Technology, each student created a lesson that integrates technology with course content.  As I will be student teaching in second grade, I chose to use a second grade Social Studies Standard as the focus of my project.  We utilized the ASSURE model to design our lessons.  Below is a link to my final project.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ISTE Standard 6 – Helping Students Without Access to Technology Develop Competency

Question: What resources exist and how can we help students, who may not have access to technology at home, become competent users of technology systems?

ISTE Standard 6’s objective is to have “students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations” (ISTE Standard 6). It is assumed nowadays that students intuitively know how to navigate a variety of technology systems, and are able to access technology to complete school work. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. According to Gowen (2009), only two-thirds of American households have internet accessibility in the home. This leaves one-third of our households without access to internet, which is detrimental to our students’ academic performance. McLoughlin (2011) posits that it is not sufficient that students learn how to navigate a variety of technology tools, rather they need to learn how to apply it to real world scenarios.

As more jobs require increased proficiency in technology systems, and schools require students to be using technology, a large group of students are at a disadvantage if they are unable to access and learn how to use these technologies. The article 6 Ways to Support Students Without Internet Access at Home outlines ways teachers can support students who may lack technological skills due to the fact that they do not have internet or technology at home.  DiMarco (n.d.) first states that students without technology are at a disadvantage because 1) they lack research skills, 2) they lack networking skills, 3) they face greater challenges in obtaining a higher education degree, 4) they face difficulty finding and applying for jobs, and 5) they are unqualified for many jobs.  To help our students, DiMarco (n.d.) suggests that we can use heterogeneous partnering, where a tech savvy student is paired with a student who is less familiar with technology.  Teachers can also create a list of places that offer free wi-fi and computer access, and distribute it to students.  Students can then go use the free resources that exist.  Another suggestion is to open the computer lab for an hour after school so students can familiarize themselves with technology.  DiMarco also suggested that students can communicate with extended family in the same area and use the technology they may have.  I think this would also work with close friends.  Additionally, DiMarco says that teachers should “spin intermittent access as a normal thing”.  Finally, DiMarco encourages teachers to turn this into an opportunity for project-based learning by having students write proposals or collect donations to help them gain access.

It is important that teachers recognize that not every student is able to access technology, and in order to better serve our students, we need to consider ways in which we can help students become proficient users of technology. By adopting some of these strategies, we can prepare our students for success in both the academic world and real world settings.


DiMarco, M. (n.d.). 6 ways to support students without internet access at home. Retrieved from:

Gowen, A. (2009). Without ready access to computers, students struggle. Retrieved from:

McLoughlin, C. (2011). What ICT-related skills and capabilities should be considered central to the definition of digital literacy? World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications, 2011(1), 471-475.

Posted in ISTE Standard 6 | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment