This post is part of this year’s Walk This Way series, designed to share The Walking Classroom experiences of teachers and students across the United States. It provides a glimpse into Jane Keen’s classroom.
In creating new lessons, I always begin with the end in mind. By this, I mean that I start with my standards or objectives and then work backwards from the goals to build a learning pathway to help students get to where I want them to be.
Too often, I see lessons developed with a project or an activity in mind, noting that the standards are forced into “favorite lessons” that aren’t always rigorous or directed towards the learning goals. It is easy to get lost in a river of ideas when trying to develop lessons. The key is to stay focused on the destination and see which approach develops the most meaningful path for learning.
There are a lot of steps in creating “good” curriculum, which I would define as engaging lessons that help students grow. Not only do the lessons need to be standards based, but they also need to capture the interest of students and push them into their zone of proximal development, which is a learning area that falls just outside of their comfort zone but within their capability.
Students need to learn new things in new ways. They need to grow. Teaching students things that they already know creates bad habits in their brain. Think about learning like it is a workout. Muscles grow when they are used and pushed to do better. Your brain is like a muscle. No matter how much ability students start with, they are not going to grow unless they exercise their brains. We want students to learn how to learn, not how to shut down.
Often, I read information about considering the learning styles of students when developing lessons. What this means to me is that we need to make sure that we are teaching students to learn in a variety of ways, just like “arm day” consists of different types of arm exercises to hit a variety of muscles.
There are some students who respond well to lectures (though this number drops every year). Others like to write notes or draw pictures to help them remember and learn, some learn by doing or talking, and still others learn being outside surrounded by nature.
There are so many ways to learn, yet we teachers often seem to settle into one or two teaching approaches that we are most comfortable with. It is important to remember that if we approach a problem from a variety of angles, something is eventually going to stick!
Curriculum Maps and Pacing Guides
In my district, we have developed curriculum maps and pacing guides, often vertically aligned, to guide teachers in regard to what students are expected to learn. Those standards are where the “designing” of curriculum begins. Once the goal is determined, you have to decide what path you will take to get students to where they need to go.
I consider myself an artist when it comes to teaching, and I enjoy piecing together the puzzle of a lesson until everything just clicks. I vet numerous resources every year, trying to find something that is engaging yet still informative. It is a fine balance to walk.
Aligning Podcasts to Standards
The Walking Classroom podcasts are a great resource I have grown to trust and have become an integral part of my puzzle. The lessons are consistently high quality, teaching students in a way that they are excited about.
It is easy to look at the list of podcasts and compare them to my standards and pacing guide. Where there is a podcast addressing a standard, there is a fun way for students to learn what they need to be taught.
The lessons are a tool that can be added to any elementary or middle school toolbelt to help build foundational knowledge about topics. The episodes move at the same pace for everyone, and they are guaranteed to get students flexing their brains!
Gifted and Talented Facilitator
We hope you’ve enjoyed following Mrs. Keen and her students as they walked, listened, and learned this school year!