Breaking Down the Standards

Gone are the days that teachers decided what to teach in their classrooms. Now, we are left with the “How?”  Generally, your state provides your standards which are a list of items that must be taught for a particular year. Some states may provide timelines as well as resources. We all have now been introduced to a little thing referred to as “Common Core.”  As a first year teacher, it is easy to become overwhelmed with a stack of papers set before you that dictates everything you must cover in the school year. Breathe. Standards may be ambiguous in some ways. There is not always a clear-cut directive on what the student must learn. An example may be that a student must be able to recognize and formulate figurative language. In this case, you may want to teach similes, metaphors, and onomatopoeia. It is not stated in the standards, but using inference skills, you determine the details. Here are some tricks to help you understand exactly what you are expected to teach:


  • Use the resources provided on the state Department of Education site. Many times, the resources will provide you with clues on what needs to be taught. They may also offer sample lesson plans, activities, and projects. Pacing guides can help you determine what needs to be taught and when.
  • Attempt to group similar items yourself. Poetry and figurative language go hand-in-hand. Use these groupings to build your own units. .
  • Google the actual standard. Some teacher somewhere has mastered this and may have information available on the worldwide web. Google key terms. This may provide you a direction in which to turn.
  • Reach out to co-workers. Your co-workers will help lead you in the right direction for resources as well as help you understand state and local expectations for your classroom
  • Search out retired members. Many times, retirees return as substitute teachers or connect to the education community in other ways. They are a valuable resource. The way we teach may change, but the content rarely does. It just takes different forms. A veteran teacher can provide you with insight and relevance.  At this point in their career, they understand that a great lesson or unit must be built on a solid foundation of understanding the content.
  • Many of us get caught up in making sure we have lesson plans for the next day. Put forth the effort and plan for year. Decide your endgoal. Determine either by weeks or months what you are going to teach to reach that endgoal. A long-term plan is critical in making sure you achieve your curriculum.

How do you plan for your curriculum? What suggestions would you give to new teachers in understanding their content?


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