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.

Reference

Moss, C., Brookhart, S., Long, B. (2011). Knowing your learning target. Educational Leadership, 68 (6), 66-69. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar11/vol68/num06/Knowing-Your-Learning-Target.aspx

Wiggins, G., Wilbur, D. (2015). How to make your questions essential. Educational Leadership, 73 (1), 10-15. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept15/vol73/num01/How-to-Make-Your-Questions-Essential.aspx

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