FOCUS’ing on Curriculum
This summer I had the opportunity to attend the National Principal’s Conference in Philadelphia and hear Mike Schmoker (one of my favorite educator/authors) speak. Since then I have delved into his texts Leading with Focus and Focus: Elevating the Essentials. Needless to say, Schmoker has (one again!) given me so much to think about! Throughout each text, Schmoker cautions us not to fall victims to the latest fads. Instead, he hones in on three practices that have the highest impact on student achievement:
- A consistent, content-driven curriculum
- Authentic reading & writing activities
- The “gradual release of responsibility” model & “checks for understanding” (TPT’s, for fans of Himmele‘s work).
Teaching with FOCUS starts with a sound curriculum. Does this mean having a scripted program that dictates every “what” and “how?” Absolutely not! According to Schmoker, the term curriculum is defined as skills and content that are taught in common from room to room and across each grade level. He goes on to say that a “common curriculum should constitute 60-80% of the material taught.” In other words it is a guiding tool that is designed to assist teachers as they plan, and must include “books/articles that will be read; the topics, concepts, and skills students will learn; and the amount and types of writing they will complete.” Most importantly though, a sound curriculum must be “designed and modified over time by educators at the school/district level.” It is a living and breathing document!
To say that a sound curriculum is an essential part of improving student learning is something all of us know; however, the true power of curriculum is when it is moved from a large 3-ring binder on a shelf to the forefront of our planning and practices! Take a moment to consider our current curriculum through lens of Danielson’s FFT.
- 1a: T identifies important concepts of the discipline & their relationships to one another
- 1c: Sequencing & alignment of instructional outcomes
- 1e: Lesson & unit structure
In order to keep curricular content & skills at the forefront, bring these documents to meetings & pre-conferences as a tool to support our dialog! You can even keep a copy at home to assist with planning! Consider how will this habit help improve your FOCUS on short-term & long-team learning goals/planning? How will our conversations change during co-planning when we are more in-tuned to the standards and pacing rather than the day-to-day script of a specific program?