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Stage 1

15 Jun Taking District Curriculum to the Next Level with Stage 1 of UbD

By Elizabeth Worlein, Rubicon International

No matter your district size or years of experience, there is simply never enough time with our students. Power Standards, common assessments, and other initiatives may help teachers maximize coverage of standards and assessments, but how do we ensure these benchmarks are vertically aligned and really help students reach “the end in mind?” There is one key framework to ensure the “end in mind” is reached.

Marzano said it best: “The first school-level factor is a ‘guaranteed and viable curriculum.’” How can districts vertically align curriculum that is both guaranteed and viable, within the time frame of an academic year? Simply stated, using the Understanding by Design pedagogy and selecting a team to identify key outcomes provides an anchor framework that can be shared and expanded throughout departments.

The Five Steps

Step 1: Gather Your Team

Let’s get started: The secret to any great project is a great team. As you gather your team, consider open-minded, forward-thinking and productive individuals. Ensure a representation from multiple grade levels and schools (as needed). Members of the team should also have a natural enthusiasm for and expertise in their subject area

Step 2: Step Back and Reflect

Before allowing team members to dive into the resources, invite them to step back and reflect. The mindset of members should be, “We are scientists and teacher of scientists,” rather than, “I am a third-grade science teacher.” With this mentality in place, an openness to the “big ideas” of science can transpire. Read through the standards, surely, but also take time to read articles about the nature of science, key practices, careers in the field, etc. In fact, the table of contents and opening pages of standards may be your richest resource: often there are important insights into the major throughlines. Highlight the themes and practices mentioned and think of these as key exit outcomes.

Step 3: Brainstorm the Key Outcomes

With content area expertise and knowledge readily available, invite the team members to brainstorm the key outcomes. Essentially, what are the integral practices, truths, and skills students should be able to demonstrate in this content area? Consider integrating 21st century skills to these statements to ensure cross-disciplinary connections.

Step 4: Align the EUs and EQs to Standards

From this, Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions about a content area naturally arise. Take this practice full circle and align the EUs and EQs to standards at various grade levels (e.g. grades K, 4, 8, and 12). Is there strong alignment among your standards, EUs, EQs, and key outcomes?

Step 5: Share the Vertically-Aligned Curriculum Maps

After just a couple work sessions, your district now has vertically-aligned curriculum maps with key aspects of Stage 1 in place. This can easily be shared with teachers via Atlas, as teachers build upon Stage 1 in Stages 2 and 3 of the unit planner.

*Note: We recommend using the Adopted Curriculum feature within Atlas to easily share the Stage 1 framework and publish future revisions. Find out more information about Adopted Curriculum in this article, or contact your consultant team.

Beyond the Five Steps

After developing the Stage 1 curriculum framework, the core team members’ job continues at a deeper level. Leadership and team members must thoughtfully provide context of the framework and provide ongoing, necessary PD to teachers. Common assessments and performance tasks may blossom from this work, as well. No matter your next phases, empower to core team to lead by having a clearly outlined plan for the next steps of curriculum development.

Setting realistic goals for the adoption of the framework is important, too.  Perhaps start by mentoring teachers as they build out one unit at a time. Teachers can make instructional decisions based on the needs of their student as they add depth to unit assessments and lesson plans. Think of this as teacher freedom within a guaranteed and viable structure.

Perhaps the most important benefit of this process is held in the knowledge that students benefit from a viable, vertically-aligned curriculum. Everyone has an active and important role to play – from the core team thoughtfully reflecting to design Stage 1, to the teachers are empowered to choose instructional paths to fit their students’ learning styles. Take your curriculum to the next level with this five-step process, where authorship is ownership.

Want to learn how Atlas can support vertical articulation of curriculum? Email us!

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