My team is mostly new team members. Last year we had three new members with two original members, and this year we replaced one of those three with yet another new team member. We have a great team. However, as we work to figure out each other and new curriculum (two new, tumultuous years under our belts for both English and Washington History), we need to take the time to define (or redefine) why we do what we do.
I don’t mean why we teach. Although, as one of the team members brought up, it wouldn’t be bad to understand each other’s philosophies about teaching itself. I mean why we teach particular things. Why do we emphasize some skills over others? Why do we want to hang on to certain activities? Why do we assess what and how we do? These are the things that are important to define whenever a team has changed. We all know we are supposed to teach the state standards. That’s our job. However, we also know that there is no way we can teach everything with equal weight and importance.
Goals for This Year
We want to be more intentional about laying out our curriculum using backward design and some ideas from Understanding by Design. Unfortunately our district has not set aside the time or money for the teams to build up their curriculum, so two years down the road we are still hammering this out amidst making it through the year. Our goal is to have this clearly established so we don’t feel like we are just making through the year anymore. We want to have curriculum that has been built collectively as a PLC and that everyone on the team believes is meaningful content.
Establishing the Why
One of the ways we are working on establishing the why is with enduring understandings and essential questions. We decided that this will help set a clear framework for us, as well as the students, for why the things we learn about are important. It is always going to tie back to what we need students to learn according to the standards, but it needs to also be about why those things matter. This feels of particular importance to me for the history class, but English cannot be forgotten.
Why the Students Should Care
I am sure as we more clearly articulate our why that it will also help the students with their why. I am a fan of Kelly Gallagher’s writing and I do have Reading Reasons on my shelf. It might be time to tap into some of those lessons in addition to essential questions and enduring understandings.
What do you do to establish your why and make the connection for students? How many of you use essential questions and/or enduring understandings?
Thanks for reading,
In my non-teacher consumed hours I love to spend time with my husband and son, play board games, sew/craft/quilt, and read (I DO teach ELA).I aspire to be more into fitness and outdoors more often, though I find a comfy chair and a good book/movie mightily appealing.