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- Introduction: What to teach?
- Importance of Standards
- Scope and Sequence
- Goals and Objectives
- Getting Started
- 2. Nuts and Bolts
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Deciding What To Teach
What to Teach? This is the crux of education. Add the When and How to teach What and you have the basics of a curriculum.
Deciding what to teach forces you to consider your personal philosophy of education. You will decide to teach what you think the learner should know.
For me, as a public school science teacher, I considered modern science to be basis of my teaching for science, as envisioned and censored by the scientific community. For others, the choice might be guided by religious criteria and the science shaped by creationism and censored by church teachings. Still others might want to include the alternative world views of New Age, Fringe Science, or naturalistic cultures.
Your outlook on knowledge will guide you in choosing the textbook, supplemental readings, field trips, discussion topics, and concrete experiences that you will share with your students--even if subconsciously. Definitely, your worldview/philosophy/outlook of/on knowledge will influence how you present information, emphasize text, and discuss questions.
You probably made the decision to homeschool, tutor, or teach in a school because of your personal educational philosophy. Touching base with these beliefs will help you decide what to teach, when and how as you plan specific topics.
The Importance of Standards
Standards are written and agreed upon by groups interested in passing the group culture on to the student. Standards are the lists of esential concepts the learner must learn as part of the process of enculturation that makes one a functional member of a society, profession, and/or group. For instance, the AAAS wrote a series of booklets on Science Standards in the 1990's called Project 2061. Every professional educational organization has published standards for its curricular field of interest. Teacher editions of textbooks allude to standards in the teacher's guide section of the book. Some will list a set. State departments of education publish frameworks that state, describe and give examples of the standards, goals, objectives and benchmarks that all public school teachers are expected to teach.
Standards are the lists of what to teach. Well-developed lists of standards like the state frameworks list what to teach, when, and often with a few examples of how. Other standards might be just general guidelines. Either way, choosing a published set of standards can guide you in deciding what to teach, often with hints on when and how. Some departments of education have sections of frameworks available by download.
Scope and Sequence:
How Much and When
The scope and sequence is a perspective on the standards that deal with decisions about how much depth to cover for a concept and in what order will concepts be taught. Terms important to these decisions are grade level, age-appropriate, reading level, skill level, prerequisites, and prior knowledge.
State frameworks are often organized as booklets for each discipline, such as science, mathematics, language arts, etc. Booklet frameworks are then organized by grade level and secondary school subject (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.). Using a skills series set of workbooks will present knowledge from a standards underpinning with scope and sequence built into the order of the lessons. Using a textbook series will, too. Choosing lessons from various internet sources, trade books, museum lesson packets, field trips, projects, etc., however, will require you to make the decisions on standards, scope and sequence.
A major value of textbooks is the guidance they provide on what to teach when--not so much because you must follow the order of the pages, but because the material is laid out in sections with a logical structure: prerequisite knowledge presented first and discussions of relationships between concepts. Students will benefit from reading the chapter, but teaching the material often involves presenting the material in a different order, a different activity, even a different medium.
Goals and Objectives
Consider this. What does a learner need to know to be able to read, interpret, and balance a chemical equation? What does a learner need to know to use fractions in solving simple problems such as dividing a sliced pie of 6 slices equallly among 3 friends? Goals and objectives assist a teacher in getting the student to that point in his learning.
Read the next few paragraphs knowing that after you read the examples at the end of the section, your confusion will be reduced. At the end of the essay (including page 2), return to the confusing parts and scan or reread. Hopefully, the meaning will have become clear. Warning, do not get bogged down in the esoteric nature of the unfamiliar concept on the first reading!
Using the standards means deciding on goals and objectives, which are often part of a detailed list of standards. Goals are broad statements of what a learner should know about a topic. Objectives are specific statements about concepts of a topic.
Objectives can be written from the teacher perspective about what will be taught, but are considered more effective if written according to what the student will learn in terms of what behaviors exhibit that learning. (Yeah, sounds complicated, but once you get the hang of it...)
Goals and objectives deal with the unit and lesson levels of planning and teaching. Planning units and lessons means deciding on what, how and when in a more concrete manner-- the nuts and bolts of what actually happens in the classroom.
It really does help to write out a unit plan and the lesson plans that are part of the unit. Together, they serve as a guide to keep you focused, lets you know when you have accomplished that bit of teaching, when the student is ready to test, what comes next, what supplies must be available, how long a topic should take, and so on. It is ok to be flexible, even to deviate from the plan; but knowing what should have been taught helps you remember to cover what got left out when you changed the plan on the fly.
Writing the unit plan lets you decide which topics or subtopics within the framework to group together for the short term. Writing lesson plans helps you decide on how to teach the specific concepts of the topic.
To teach with objectives means learning to write--or at least to think and mentally plan--unit plans with standard-based goals and lesson plans with standard-based objectives designed to accomplish the goals. It takes a bit of practice to make the decisions and techniques second-nature; and the initial efforts might seem difficult and confusing; but writting plans and objectives are worth learning how to do well.
Let's start with the unit. Decide on the goals by choosing the topics that will be part of the unit and how you plan to approach the topic in a broad sense. Then decide how much time....Now we are into the Nuts and Bolts of the process, continued on the next page.
This page first posted 7/25/10.
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