Synthesis and the Sticky Note: Reflections on Emergent Curriculum Design

In recent years, I’ve learned that it’s not enough to have vision. In order to make it a reality, we must define the learning targets that will help us achieve it with our students. This can be daunting work, as vision is often sourced from diverse places and the volume of aligned targets can be great.

Sticky notes offer a solution, though.

I can explain.

This was a piece of today’s work with teachers in Akron, New York:

Isn’t that a gorgeous vision for second grade writing teachers?

I think so. I also think it might be easy to sacrifice this vision to mandates instead of meeting mandates in ways that might help us achieve this vision. Mandates are brick and mortar buildings protected by heavily armed guards. Vision is gossamer and shadow. It’s ethereal. A dream. And until the mandates are met, we have no time for dreaming.

Right?

What if we were able to get clear about what students should know and be able to do in order to meet our vision, though? What if we began teaching toward our vision with great intention? What if we could do this without evading standards, the elements of writers’ craft, or the writing process? What if teaching with vision and meeting mandates were not mutually exclusive?

What if this wasn’t an either/or proposition but instead, a yes………and also?

I took these photos today, as I began this work with second grade teachers. If you zoom in, you will get a sense for how we began creating the learning targets that emerged from several critical sources.

 

This is how sticky notes made for better work: They helped us break things down, move them around, and generate all kinds of new ideas.

Sticky notes made it easier to tease out all of the targets that must be met in order to achieve our vision, as well as the expectations of the Common Core, the promise of the writing process, and the full power of writers’ craft.

Sticky notes made it easier to mix and remix these targets too, in order to notice and even create relationships between them.

Today, we used all of the targets from the work reflected above…….

……..to begin designing a coherent pathway through our first instructional unit:

Next week, I’ll share some of the approaches that teachers are using to consistently access student voice and make them collaborators in the curriculum design process. Teachers erected the load bearing walls inside of this particular framework, but we’re learning how to let the kids rough it all in. If you’re doing similar work and willing to chat, I’d love to talk this through with you! Come find me on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment here.

 

 

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