Friday, September 9, 2011

Curriculum Audit, Part 3: Unpacking Essential Curriculum

Having identified High Priority Standards that have leverage, endurance, and readiness and using these standards to identify Essential Curriculum, there is an important, albeit potentially time consuming, third step: Unpacking Essential Curriculum.  Working through this step now has several advantages because unpacking essential curriculum:
  1. Anticipates other areas of knowledge or skills students may need to demonstrate understanding (this may help fill in gaps and will be useful when writing unit plans later),
  2. Anticipates performance criteria (this will help when writing assessments for the essential curriculum you have identified), and
  3. Anticipates interventions and extensions (this will help when planning for learning activities).
My suggestion is that you begin by working through the attached template, Unpacking Essential Curriculum, for the two units your department has chosen as a focus for this year's departmental curriculum work.  You will do this by answering the following questions:
  1. Essential Curriculum: What in the curriculum is essential for students to learn as a part of this unit?
  2. Rigor: What does proficient student work look like?
  3. Prerequisite Skills: What prerequisite knowledge, skills, and understandings will students need in order to demonstrate proficiency with this standard?
  4. Interventions: What will we do when students have not or are not learning what is prerequisite to demonstrating understanding?
  5. Extensions: What will we do when students demonstrate that they already understand the essential curriculum?
It is important to unpack curriculum so departments can anticipate exactly what students need to learn in order to master what is essential. Answering the above questions and embedding those answers into unit plans can save time and energy as you re-think units and as you implement them in your classrooms.  Unpacking essential curriculum also creates a context for discussion and collaboration as you support one another with teaching, intervening, and extending on behalf of the essential curriculum you expect all students to learn and understand.
Thinking deeply about high priority standards, endurance, leverage, and readiness, and essential curriculum is to your benefit as a teacher and collaborator.  The process may seem daunting, but please trust the process, yourself, and your colleagues.
Let me know how I can be helpful to you.

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