Sunday, September 18, 2011

Essential Skills, Concepts and Knowledge

As an elementary school teacher, I have a responsibility to develop learners and teach essential skills, concepts and knowledge in a dynamic, child-centered, 21st century classroom that promotes life-long learning.

I also have the responsibility to stay abreast of current research, and to readily embed that research into the learning program.  Further, it's our aim to work collaboratively to serve all students well, targeting instruction so that every child reaches mastery with essential standards.

What are essential standards--the skills, concepts and knowledge that every child needs to learn?  That will differ from grade to grade, year to year and student to student.  It's important to keep the essential skills, concepts and knowledge at the forefront of your teaching efforts so that children have a strong academic foundation.  Hence, I've created an initial short-listed of essential standards for fourth graders, my focus group.

Essential Standards: Skills, Concepts and Knowledge
Note: The curriculum is founded on the Common Core and Massachusetts State Standards.  This list represents the essential standards culled from that list.
Essential Skills
  • Reading fluency and comprehension
    • Across many genres, text styles
    • Regular independent, small group, interactive reading opportunities.
  • Computation Skill
  • Typing (keyboarding)
  • Writing: fluency, craft, voice, organization, tools, genre and response to reading.
  • Speaking, Presentation
  • Research
  • Social Skills i.e. class meetings, patterns of thoughts/action, "cloud" classroom, student voice and roles.
Essential Concepts/Knowledge
  • Math Standards as outlined in Common Core/State Standards
    • Taught through a variety of methods: paper/pencil, online games and activities, project based learning, Math Talk, and problem solving.
  • Science/Social Studies Standards/Units as defined through our System/State/Common Core Standards.
    • Includes many methods of instruction: field studies, hands-on activities, project based learning, integration of reading, writing and math instruction.
  • Reading Comprehension Strategies/Cognitive Markers, Story Elements, Genre.
  • Writing Craft, Genre, Tools, Response to Reading and Presentation.
Developing essential skills, knowledge and concepts takes time and practice.  Creating a weekly pattern  helps to meet that teaching focus in a meaningful, varied way.  Hence, I've created a weekly plan sketch for students' learning experiences.

Weekly Learning "Diet"
  • Reading
    • Interactive read aloud 4-5 times a week.
    • Reading Workshop 4-5 times a week.
    • Reading Response Writing 2 times a week in class, once a week at home (reading letter)
    • Reading instruction/practice integrated into all other subject areas.
    • Reading at home 4 or more times a week (20 minutes a night standard)
  • Writing
    • Craft, genre focus, lessons, writing 5 or more times a week in class.
    • Blogs, social network, ePortfolio letters 3-5 times a week at home.
    • ePals about once or twice a month.
    • Typing 4 times a week at home until mastery, in-class choice during tech workshop.
    • Integrated in throughout all subject areas.
  • Math
    • Computation 2-3 times a week in class, 4 or more times a week at home.
    • Concept/Knowledge 5 times a week in class, 1-2 at home related to project/practice.
    • Problem Solving, in-class once or twice a week. (possibly at home?)
    • Integrated into all other subjects often.
  • Social Studies/Science
    • Unit Rotations approximately twice a week (students rotate among classrooms for project-focused learning)
    • Big Projects 2-3 per year, students work in school and at home.
    • Social skills-daily, reenforced through "cloud" classroom activities (online).
    • Field studies and special presentations about once a month.
I will revisit this list as the year goes on and make necessary updates and changes.  This list will help me to create a manageable, inviting weekly learning pattern that fosters the essential skills, knowledge and concepts fourth graders need to succeed.  

What am I missing?  What would you add or take away?  How would you prioritize?  Your feedback is always welcome.