Since starting this blog in April, I have had 634 hits on my “I can” statements post alone, which I find overwhelming and amazing. Overwhelming because I know I have Googled many times in the past for “I can” statements only to come up empty-handed; most people who take the time to create them do not share their work for free. So, when I see that 634 people have at least found something they were searching for, I feel a lot of pressure to keep producing, but as you can tell from my slow posting in the last couple of weeks, my job as a teacher takes priority to my role as a blogger.
What I find amazing about that many hits on one post is that so many people even know to search for that combination of words. When I started working with the CCSS earlier this summer, I had heard of I can statements and using them, but I had not put that practice into place in my classroom. I found myself wondering today, while checking out my site stats, how many people who are viewing those statements are actually using them in the classroom and, more importantly, how people are using them in the classroom. I thought I’d give a rundown of my own practices in using the CCSS in my room. Because this was my first time trying to use all of these new resources I created and/or found, my method is somewhat convoluted, but having struggled my way through this year, next year should be an easier process.
1. Organizing the standards into units. When I began my planning and re-planning of lessons this summer, I started by titling my units (memoir, mythology, Big Fish, Antigone, the human condition/Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption). Without even thinking about my actual lesson plans, I divided the standards among the units, which ended up looking like this: CCSS by Unit.
- Note: These are the standards of focus for the unit, the standards I will be assessing at the end and throughout. This does not mean these will be the only standards addressed, just the focus.
2. Organizing texts by units. I then looked at the nonfiction, fiction, poetry, writing assignments, and assessment types by the appropriate unit, which looked like this: Selections by Unit
3. Creating the sequence plans for reading and writing. My weeks are organized like this–
- Monday: Vocab, Reading
- Tuesday: Reading
- Wednesday: Vocab, Writing
- Thursday: Reading
- Friday: Writing/Vocab quiz (biweekly)
I created a plan to organize the sequence of writing and reading lessons separately, but they still match the goals of the unit. Here is the reading sequence for my memoir unit: Memoir Reading Plan Sequence
4. Creating lesson plans. My lesson plans are very detailed, primarily because I am such a Type-A person. Each of my lesson plans correspond to the goals from the reading and writing sequence. It’s formulaic, but it does allow me to move my narrative writing to another unit, or my reading plan separate from my writing plan. Sample lesson plans: Reading 4-5 (Compare this with the reading sequence above, and you’ll see the “4-5” corresponds with sequence lessons 4-5); Writing 4
5. Telling the kids the learning goals. At the beginning of my memoir unit, I walked each of my classes through a self-assessment. We talked about how the learning goals come from what the state requires sophomores in high school to know, and the kids rated their skills on a scale of 1 to 3. They were very honest, and these self-assessments gave me a good starting point for the unit. Student Self-Assessment You’ll also see on these that I tell the students how they will be assessed on each standard.
6. Giving the kids a focus daily. Each day, I enlarge the standards section of my daily lesson plan on the overhead projector and have the kids copy it into their notebooks. They may not see the importance, but I think it is extremely valuable to know what we’re focusing on for the day. If I had had the time before the year started, I would have printed and laminated my I can posters and posted them instead of having to bother with enlarging the lesson plan, but for now, this works well.
7. Discuss the standards. Since we’re at the beginning of the year, when the kids copy down the standard, we also discuss what it means. I ask them what they need to know to fulfill the standard as well as what they should be able to do to show me the standard.
Does all of this work make teaching formulaic and take away the fun? I’m not sure. Sometimes I think this is a lot of work and a lot of investment for a variable amount of return, but other times, I feel like this is all making me a better, more aware teacher. My lessons are more transparent; we aren’t just flying through piece after piece with little focus because I am more clearly, and more explicitly, telling them exactly what I want from them each day. We are able to focus on and practice one skill at a time rather than randomly picking our way through the endless vat of skills question by question. My obsessive compulsive personality loves standards and focus, but my “authentic assessment” side wavers on the line between too much prescription and too little attention to love of learning. I’ll be interested in following the improvements, or lack thereof, in my students’ learning as we work through this school year.