Masterful Content and Masterful Teachers

This topic has been sitting in my file for a week. What was I thinking???

Masterful content is determined by a group of teachers who ponder what the core of their curriculum will be – what do we want our students to know and be able to do by the end of the [lesson][day][unit][marking period][year]? This content includes concepts and skills from the core curriculum, which includes language arts (speaking, listening, reading, writing), mathematics, science, social studies/history, music, visual art, physical education/movement, and drama. Yes, these are ALL core curriculum. The content also includes overarching sets of skills, such as social-emotional, 21st century (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity/innovation).

Masterful teachers manage to blend and deliver these content components through

  • planning of meaningful instruction and tasks that build understanding by taking students from the known to the new by connecting the new content to students interests and lives;
  • creating circumstances for frequent, positive, engaging, and challenging interactions with students and between students so the child’s voice is heard; and
  • using authentic, performance assessments that indicate whether students understand and what they don’t understand.

Is the content you are teaching masterfully designed to provide your students with the understandings and skills they will need as a foundation for future school and life? Is your teaching of that content masterfully crafted to develop independent learners who not only learn, but can demonstrate and apply that learning? As you read the Total Learning lessons (lesson, videos, studio and additional resources), notice and explore the way they are constructed, and how many disciplines, concepts, and skills are interwoven in each lesson. Let the lessons and their structure be models for you as you become a masterful teacher. Then think about what happens when this ideal concept is applied in real classrooms. Share your story by commenting here.

Total Learning Summer Camp – It Makes a Difference!

TL Summer Camp Overview and Research Findings

It was always a plan for Bridgeport’s Total Learning Initiative to have an extended year – an additional month of school.  Research told us that if the children were behind their more advantaged peers, they would need time to catch up!  ABCD received funding for a pilot this year.

It was only 18 days in July for 22 rising 3rd graders.  The air conditioning was broken, and it was summer!  And . . . it was Total Learning  Summer Camp from 12 noon to 3:30.

Why rising 3rd graders?  To reduce the dreaded summer slump – the loss of reading skill over the summer break.  With mastery tests in 3rd grade, this was the obvious choice for a pilot program.

Did it make a difference?  The report is attached so you can read for yourself!  It’s pretty exciting what can happen in 18 days!  And if you think about your school year in 18-or-so day chunks, how much could get done?

Most exciting for me was the attitude changes of almost every child.  By the end of July, they were asking if they could come for another month!  Kudos to Allison Logan for creating an exceptional plan, and Rosmarie Marquez and Diane Bolarinho for their support.

Unanswered questions:  Will the gains remain through August?  Will they make a difference in Grade 3?  Will the district notice the findings and plan a larger sample for next summer?  Let’s hope the answers are yes, yes and yes!  Stay tuned to find out!

Let’s Embrace the Evidence!

Students who read music learn to read.

Students who read music learn to read.

Julie Schmidt just sent a link to Using Music to Close the Achievement Gap, in The Atlantic magazine. (http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/using-music-to-close-the-academic-gap/280362/)

The evidence for the power of multimodal teaching and learning from the early years on continues to grow, and yet educators continue to embrace the politically simple solution of insisting that teachers teach to the test, then being amazed that students do not climb to reach higher and higher, developmentally inappropriate benchmarks.
Living and learning for our complex world requires skills and understandings that cannot be tested with a pencil mark in a bubble, or with a snapshot of a moment. Children who are prepared should see multiple right answers, and be asking questions constantly. They should be learning through their ears, eyes, bodies and words – and therefore be measured in ways that celebrate this complexity.
As articles and new books appear supporting multimodal and arts-integrated learning, I will share these with you. However, when you find a great article or book, please join me in sharing, but commenting either here or on the discussion board.

Speak and Let Speak

Total Learning provides learning strategies that foster positive verbal interaction.

Total Learning provides learning strategies that foster positive verbal interaction.

Young children and classrooms are often judged by how quiet they are. And yet, study after study shows that adult-child and child-child spoken interaction is a key ingredient for successful learners. Total Learning lessons and studios are designed to foster this verbal interaction through speaking, listening, reading, writing and thinking. Whether in whole group of small group experiences, Total Learning classrooms are places where all voices are welcome and respected.
This topic is part of a larger conversation on literacy and linguistic development that will be explored in upcoming blog entries. To get started, read the information in the attached article, and then send your thoughts! Are you comfortable with this idea, in general? What do you do in your classroom to foster dialogue (speaking and careful listening)?
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/language-gap-study-bolsters-a-push-for-pre-k.html?ref=us&_r=1&.
Language-Gap Study