Attending any mandatory professional development workshop makes me think about the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph is tired of being typecast as a video game bad guy. To transform himself into a good guy, he abandons the game “Fix-It Felix Jr.” to win a medal to prove his heroism. By doing so, however, he puts “Fix-It Felix Jr.” at risk of being put out of order forever. Ralph is constantly warned he must “stick with the program” to maintain the order of the arcade. Ralph must ultimately decide should he follow his heart, or conform to his programmed role for everyone’s benefit.
When I attend a professional development training two questions run through my mind: Is attending this training worth my time? Will implementing this instruction model benefit my students? Like Ralph, I am wary of conforming to a proscribed model. I like to tweak my instruction to tailor towards my students. In addition, I resent being pulled out of my classroom to learn the new district-initiative-of-the-moment. However, I do acknowledge there is benefit in conformity. If for example, my PLC decides to all teach the same novel with same common assessments, it is imperative we “stick to the program” to share our student data.
This is the mindset I came with approaching the LDC module training in late June. I was required as a Social Media Teacher Leader to attend the training. I read my-fellow bloggers’ posts discussing the benefits of the module. As Lindsey recently wrote, LDC works in conjunction with the TPEP evaluation system and encourages you to collaborate with your colleagues. In some ways I was behind the eight ball – I deferred attending the first training because it conflicted with my school’s final exams. I also felt by attending the training in June, I would have all summer to develop my first module. But, I also wondered, did I have to follow the module step-by-step or did I have some wiggle room to maintain my teaching creativity?
Throughout the training, our happy-go-lucky trainer preached that LDC encourages teachers to guide their students “to go fishing, by NOT just giving them the fish.” I inferred she meant that LDC gives students the tools to do the hard work of learning – questioning, investigating, reporting, debating, and reflecting – without just mindlessly spoon-feeding them rote information. LDC follows a four-step protocol: What’s the task? What skills will be taught? What instructional strategies will be used? What assessments will be given? Conveniently, they set-up an online template called Core Tools, complete with a complete list of Common Core Standards that can easily be dropped and dragged into your own personalized module.
I decided my first LDC module would focus on a collection of short stories in my district’s 10th grade literature textbook. I had taught a unit on short stories for years to my 10th graders focusing on literary devices. However, while the glue of the unit were the lit devices, I always felt the stories were arbitrary selected with no common theme. Our trainer said one of the main reason she advocated for LDC was because of the emphasis on “authentic content for authentic audiences.” What she meant was the content was connected to real world problems that needed complex problem solving skills to resolve. It is because of the “authenticity” of LDC her students wanted to attend her class: “LDC engenders good attendance because students understand the big picture and know they have to show up for each class to see how the unit ties together.”
Perusing through the 10th grade textbook, the table of contents grouped stories in thematic chapters (well done McGraw-Hill!). I gravitated to a unit on Heroism which included both fiction and non-fiction texts. Still, I wanted the skill focus of the unit to be on instructing annotation. I pondered: How would I assess annotation? An essay? A multiple-choice exam? How would my students unpack the nuances of the different types of heroism? My head hurt thinking about it.
My trainer advised me to “follow the template” and “let the template be your guide.” I imagined seeing a warning sign on the “Sugar Rush Speedway” that screamed at Ralph, “Warning! Stick with the Program.”
I spent the majority of the next two days generating a list of texts, succinctly identifying the task I wanted my students to accomplish, and articulating questions for my students to consider to make their learning into enduring understandings. It took much more time and effort than I could have imagined. I was familiar with the lesson planning Understanding by Design (UbD) model. But, LDC seemed more complex. It was also clear this would be difficult to do on my own. I don’t teach alone in a one-room schoolhouse. I would need to consult and collaborate this idea with my 10th grade PLC in the fall. What more, I am scheduled to complete the model and share my student work at a follow-up training in October. Was the time commitment worth it in the long run?
For now, I am willing to quiet the Wreck-It Ralph, independent side of my head and trust the module. (I am willing to try anything once). I will forgo being the loner-hero and “stick with the program” for the sake of the Heroism Unit.
Throughout the next few months, I will periodically blog about my development, implementation, and reflection of using the LDC model in my classroom. I do not envision this to be a smooth process, but rather a learning curve. My hope is to share my trials and successes to exemplify the growing pains educators feel implementing the Common Core. In addition, I hope to answer two questions: Was it worth the time to develop an LDC module? Did the LDC module benefit my students in connecting my class’s content to the Common Core?