Great educators are active in looking at their curriculum and being mindful of what we teach our students. Planning is a constant back and forth of trying to analyze and plan the best lessons while making sure we do not miss any key skills that are critical for future success. You probably have found yourself stuck in the weeds and missing the big picture you’re working towards, we all get there, but you don’t have to stay, you can push on and power through towards the goal. Building momentum in the right direction requires you first, to step back, and place yourself at the finish line so that you can see how the day to day work impacts the end product, the long term learning outcomes. Questions like, “Can my students recognize things like number patterns?” or “Can they solve multi-digit multiplication problems?” are important, but when you look at things from a different viewpoint, you can ask more impactful questions, like: “What are these skills and concepts going to allow my students to do at the end of this year? At the end of next year? In secondary school? And beyond? Our goal as teachers is to prepare our students for their next steps, whatever they may be. So let’s consider the opportunities our students will have in their future. If you only consider technology then it’s clear those opportunities are going to look much different and require an entirely different skill set than previous generations and there is so much more to consider than technology alone isn’t there? When you stop and look at your plan from this perspective, it shows you where growth is needed and helps you map it out, by expanding what you offer your students.
We’ve had success with think!Mathematics which has already been down these roads and combines a well thought out plan with a tremendous track record. I highly recommend a good look at their program as a means to get this process started in your school.
When you begin your “finish-line” analysis, be sure to start by comparing your current program with a few alternatives. Before you can decide which options to explore, you need to determine the effectiveness of your current program and how closely aligned you want to remain to that approach. Again, asking yourself those big picture questions will assist you with making this determination. Having a team of educators with diverse backgrounds work through this process will provide a really comprehensive analysis. At least one member of your team should have extensive knowledge of learning differences and differentiated instruction to determine if the materials you are considering will fully support your students’ needs. As you work through this process, take note of thoughts and questions that pop up for you. Those will be excellent stepping off points that will guide through your next steps in the process.
Lower School and Primary School Head
St. Anne’s Episcopal School