|Doris makes teaching look so easy, doesn't she?|
- Teaching Julius Caesar: A Differentiated Approach (NCTE) (30 free pages available to check out)
- Teaching Romeo and Juliet: A Differentiated Approach, with Delia DeCourcy and Robin Follet (NCTE) (more free pages!)
- Macbeth and AP History units in Differentiation in Practice: A Resource Guide for Differentiating Curriculum, Grades 9-12, edited by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Cindy Strickland (ASCD)
- The Compassionate Classroom: Lessons That Nurture Wisdom and Empathy, with Jane Dalton (Zephyr Imprint, Chicago Review Press)
Yet there are people who talk about teaching as if they could step in and take a teacher's job tomorrow. These are the same people who would never dare presume to talk about their lawyer, doctor, or plumber's skill with any type of knowledge or dare say, "Excuse me, I could do that!"
But let me reel myself in here: this post is not a rant against those who have done seat time in a classroom, apparently suffered, and then look down their noses the rest of their lives at the teaching profession.
Though I do believe it would be a lot of fun to see those folks take on a full day of teaching and see where they are by 3:00 PM. I'd like to be there to tell them to, "Peel yourself off the floor; keep going. Your day has just begun. You have parent phone calls to make; practice/club/rehearsal to run; papers to grade; meetings to attend. Nope, you're not going home yet, or if you are, please take this bag of stuff, or these gigs of digital work, and please get cracking. And just when you're most exhausted, you need to be designing cutting-edge, differentiated, 21st-century, Common Core State Standards-aligned, engaging, student-centered, blended, and flipped lessons."
If you are not a teacher, I imagine at least a few of the adjectives I used sailed over your head. Ed jargon, some call it. And that's how it should be. A profession worth respecting has a vocabulary--not unlike nanotechnology and neuroscience--cultivated from years of research, experience, and experimentation.
As I work with teachers headed into a new school year, I consider the vast array of knowledge, processes, and new mandates our educators have to juggle when designing lessons, and something in me craves a formula, a distillation of all the complexity in order for our teacher-soldiers to march onward.
So for those of you surrounded by notes, texts, computer, and other resources to plan those units of instruction, I've created a formula for lesson planning. It is not perfectly comprehensive or suited to every teacher's learning style. For example, some of the sequence may not follow the way your brain thinks, but try to take each step as a crucial task and determine how you can approach each one thoroughly.
- Select a complex text with colleagues.
- Identify concepts, or Big Ideas.
- Create Essential Questions, global and local, to be used in every assignment.
- Select 10 scenes or chapters of the complex text.
- Identify CCSS goals and subskills, finding at least three readiness levels (ELL or novice, on-target/grade level, and advanced/gifted).
- Identify "how to read" skills, strategies for independent reading.
- Develop assessments, formative and summative, with rubrics.
- Develop lesson activities.
This may seem like a quick and simple formula to outsiders, but there's lots of knowledge and expectations and standards buried in these. I could do a full-day workshop on each step--and we could spend a whole year perfecting the art of each step in our classrooms.
For those of you who don't teach, please take a moment to take in these steps and appreciate the hard work teachers do to prep one three-week unit of study. For those of you who do teach, you do so much with so little time and resources, and I applaud you. Enjoy this adventure of launching great ideas, thinking, and explorations with our students this year.
Stay tuned for future blogs with writing prompts for you and your students at the end of each post. And check out the last 4 years of posts; there's probably a concept, a whole set of journal prompts, that might suit a unit you're teaching now.