Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Core Reading Curriculum Alignment with Pacing Guide

Last year our county spent millions of dollars adopting a new Core Reading Curriculum. In trying to honor our earlier intensive professional development with the America's Choice School design, the county asked that the publisher rewrite the Teacher Edition so that it would reflect our training with Readers' and Writers' Workshop. Understand that the anthology was not rewritten. The stories and resources were the same, although the county had discretion about which pieces they purchased for teachers. The rewriting simply meant that the resources and lessons were rearranged and rewritten in the Workshop format to meet the county's requirement.

We now have a huge amount of new "stuff" - so much in fact, that it has often been difficult to figure out just what we have in this multi-year adoption and how to best use each piece. The county has spent significantly on these resources, so we certainly have a fiscal responsibility to try to use them and use them well! We also want to make sure that we understand the scope and sequence expectations for each grade level so that as children transfer within our county, there is some standard of consistency.

One of the problems with the Core and its desire to be all things to all people, and especially with the Duval County Teacher Edition, is that the strategies are presented in what Lucy Calkins calls "popcorn" lessons that spiral throughout the curriculum. This means that strategies in reading are presented throughout the year and revisited often. This presentation differs from our earlier professional development where we adopted Ellin Keene, Susan Zimmermann and Debbie Miller's ideas of teaching the strategies with depth over an extended length of time. So... in order to best use the Core as a resource to teach the strategies, it made sense to align the lessons in the Teacher Edition with the seven "Mosaic" comprehension strategies (Monitoring for Meaning, Sensory Images, Making Connections, Questioning, Drawing Inferences, Determining Importance, Synthesizing). In coming to terms with how to do that, it was important to understand that the Core presented both strategies (the same that we were familiar with above), but also skills. The skills, e.g., cause and effect, noting details, compare and contrast, could be taught under different strategies depending on the intent of the instruction. That meant that each Core skill had to be aligned with the strategy that encompassed that skill. We have now completed this alignment for first grade.

This, of course, is not a perfect document and will need to be personalized by each teacher that chooses to use it. This is the way it is designed to be used. As a teacher works through the lessons that she is going to teach for a specific strategy - for instance, Making Connections - she would use ideas from resources such as Mosaic of Thought, Reading with Meaning, 7 Keys to Comprehension, but she would also look through the Houghton Mifflin alignment to review the scope of skills expected to be taught for the grade level and also the sequence in which those skills are intended to be taught. She would review the recommended resources to see how they might be used in mini-lessons, guided reading and centers. She might choose the Houghton Mifflin read aloud story or big book for her mini-lesson demonstration because the Core identified it as having strong connections for first graders. She might choose a set of little books to use with a guided reading group because the Core identified that set of books as below, on or above grade level or because it identified the books with strong connections and she wanted to reinforce the mini-lesson or she might choose resources from the Core that could be used for a center activity. She might also use the cold assessments in the Houghton Mifflin Core to make sure that students have mastered the grade level expectations for that strategy. These are powerful resources to have in her toolbox for teaching.

The idea is to start with the students and their needs and then to design lessons that teach to those needs. This alignment is one way to take what we have and to find a way to use it to make a difference in student achievement - after all, isn't that our goal?