Has it ever happened that your students come to you with a deep knowledge of dolphins? As you begin your lesson on mammals, your students raise their hands and say, “A dolphin is a mammal.” Another student raises her hand and says, “Dolphins live in pods. Usually between five and twenty.” Yet another student yells out, “They can kill some sharks.” You look amazed that the students know so much about the topic you will introduce them to this week. You had your dolphin video clips ready, books in the reading area focused on dolphins, the art project focused on making a dolphin necklace for the moms, and the assessment created for the end of the unit. Now what to do?
We often find in education people who like to teach to their interests. The teacher’s specific interest in a topic is terrific but needs to be tempered by specific outcomes, skills, and concepts. Here’s where articulation and planning come into play. Let’s ask a few questions. How are you deciding to plan concerning the topics taught? What conversations have you had with teachers of the previous grades concerning their units and lesson plans? Is the textbook boring, prompting you to teach the concept or skill through your interests? Do you have access to a unit planning program or lesson plans that show you what is taught in all grades?
Often, teachers have access to what other teachers in the same grade level might be teaching, but they may not have vertical access to help them understand what was taught or will be taught to their students in the past or future. Guess-and-check might be a strategy for some math problems, but it may not work when planning a coherent, articulated curriculum. Too often, we either follow the textbook or teach what is comfortable. How much more profound learning could be if the curriculum were created with coordination across subjects and grade levels! Hidden in our day-to-day teaching is the potential for exciting change that supports sequential concepts and skills that develop our students’ minds. Let’s ensure we’re not hiding the potential that a good curriculum brings to the classroom.