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Curriculum Design

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2006. I think this was the first time that I found myself facilitating a curriculum mapping initiative. Even then, it was all about culture ahead of curriculum. I was fortunate to have mentors who helped me seek representation from those who would be most effected by the work, ahead of doing it. They helped me establish better feedback loops. They challenged me to think hard about how I would sustain our learning and our work.…

Two weeks ago, Laurie Schultz invited me to coach in her kindergarten writing workshop at John T. Waugh Elementary School in Lake Shore. I’m always grateful to work with Laurie. Her energy is incredible, and she sustains her compassion for even the most challenging kids in her care. She also maintains a high bar for her students, regardless of any label that’s been imposed on them. My Rationale:  When we met to discuss the mini-unit…

Last week, I had the great fortune to coach research and information writing in Melanie Jones’s kindergarten class at John T. Waugh Elementary School in Lake Shore, New York. We were most interested in taking the Next Generation English Language Arts Standards for a drive by diving into play-based learning and exploring the effect that it had on rigor. First things came first, though: we needed an audience for students’ work! Thanks to my vibrant…

Each new year in the writing workshop begins with relationship building. We establish routines and rituals that establish predictability and trust. We sink into conversations and writing experiences that help us come to know one another better. We invite writers to share their interests and needs. We let them see us, too. These are essential conversations. But I have to ask: What are the unintended consequences of inviting our students to reveal themselves at the…

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: Emergent curriculum design isn’t a free-for-all. It’s not about evading standards–our own, or those that our state mandates. Emergent curriculum may be co-designed with students, but it’s still very carefully planned. In fact, it’s been my experience that emergent curriculum is far more data informed than many other kinds of curriculum we often purchase or create. A quick aside: I make no apologies for using the word data. Data are…

In recent years, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to have vision. In order to make it a reality, we must define the learning targets that will help us achieve it with our students. This can be daunting work, as vision is often sourced from diverse places and the volume of aligned targets can be great. Sticky notes offer a solution, though. I can explain. This was a piece of today’s work with teachers in…

If you read my earlier post on establishing a shared vision ahead of emergent curriculum design work, then you’ll be better prepared to consider today’s post. Shared targets help learners (including teachers) understand what they learn during a lesson, how deeply they might learn it, and what they might do to demonstrate their learning. Drop by Ed Leadership to read more about learning targets, if you aren’t yet familiar with them. Connie Moss, Susan Brookhart,…

“We imagine a school in which students and teachers joyfully stretch themselves to their limits in search of projects built on their own visions, not one that merely succeeds in making apathetic students satisfy minimal standards. We imagine a school from which every student will come with vision.” -Seymour Papert and Gaston Caperton It was Piaget who first suggested that children think differently than adults, and while skeptics continue to treat his observations and the…

Last week, I shared some thoughts about emergent curriculum design and specifically, the important role that constraints might play in getting it right. In my experience, how we pursue vision is critical. In fact, it seems that one thing that distinguishes emergent curriculum design from administrator or teacher or vendor designed curricula is that it’s fueled by a truly shared vision.  This changes our intentions considerably, challenging us to consider context and nuance as we…

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to work through the design process and contemplate the relationship between making and writing with a brilliant group of teachers in Atlanta, Georgia. As we were discussing empathy, one of them made a stunning point: He said, “Empathy inspires us to really figure out what really matters to US as teachers and why we’re teaching to begin with.” My friend Ellen often reminds me that empathy isn’t all…