Do you teach English?
Do you teach US History?
Do you teach Math?
Do you teach Biology?
Teach. The more you look at the word, the weirder it looks. Teach. If you teach English, US History, Math, Biology, Spanish, how are you preparing your students for their future?
Teach……………. Teach………………… Teach………………..
Let’s look at English. Freshmen across the country are reading a variety of literature, some great pieces of work. But what are these 14-15 year olds taking away from their readings? Ask English teachers about student goals. What answers would you hear?
“I want my students to appreciate literature.”
“I want to prepare my students so that they are able to read very challenging text in college.”
“I want my students to become life-long readers.”
These are admirable goals, but none of these goals are skills that can be taught and assessed.
Its the focus of skills that must be explicitly taught and assessed in any classroom.
Let’s look at a skill from the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org) for 9th/10th grade Reading Standards for Literature:
Analyze how complex characters develop over the course of the text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
This goal is teachable and assessable.
To break down this standard, we would first assess the students’ ability to analyze. If they have not achieved proficiency in analyzing character development, then we would teach students to analyze character development.
We would also pre-assess student knowledge on the terms of this standard:
complex, character, text, interact, plot, and theme.
And again explicitly teach these terms with the goal that all students attain mastery of these terms.
Standards drive curriculum
It should not be the literature that drives the curriculum, but the agreed upon standards that we want our students to master. Teachers can use Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, Lord of the Flies, or whatever great work as the content, but the focus must be on the standard we want our students to master.
It is the standards that are the anchors to the lessons of a specific unit of study.
The focus on standards has been discussed for many years. The quick fix has been to take standards and shove them into already established curricula and move ahead as we have always done. If we truly want to make an impact on student achievement and prepare our students for the 21st century workplace, it is time to start from scratch and focus on the Common Core State Standards as the backbone of our curriculum.
Yes, it will be hard work, but our future leaders deserve a quality, skills-based curriculum to prepare them to be productive citizens.