Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘curriculum’

Tip of the Week: Questions, tasks, and resources. Oh, my! Covering content using the C3 IDM

Our current state standards have been around since 2013. Centered on five Big Ideas and a balance between content and process, the document is unlike previous standards documents. And after five years, most Kansas teachers are at least aware that we’re asking them and students to approach teaching and learning differently.

That we want students to have both foundational knowledge and historical / critical thinking skills. That social studies classrooms need to be more than drill and kill, lecture, worksheet, quiz on Friday. And that creating engaged, informed, and knowledgable citizens requires more than rote memorization and low level thinking.

While our standards look and feel differently than most other state level documents, teachers across the country – like their colleagues here in Kansas – are also being asked to concentrate on training kids to do social studies. Sam Wineburg is a household name. The teaching of historical thinking skills such as Sourcing, Contextualizing, and Corroborating is becoming commonplace. Bruce Lesh and his History Labs are being duplicated by teachers in all sorts of classrooms. The National Council for the Social Studies has also been a huge part of this pendulum shift with its College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) standards.

Good things are happening.

But . . .

Yup. There’s always a but.

During every standards training I do, every historical thinking conversation I have with teachers, there’s always a but.  Read more

BetterLesson, social networking and sharing lesson plans

The beta login to BetterLesson showed up in my inbox last week and I’m a bit torn. The concept is a good great one but am concerned that it’ll end up not much different that other lesson plan dumping grounds like this, this or this. was founded by a group of teachers from Atlanta and Boston public schools to help educators organize and share their curricula.

We are committed to saving educators from “reinventing the wheel,” giving them more time to focus on creating innovative content, delivering innovative content, grading, tutoring, analyzing data, communicating with parents, finishing paperwork, and sleeping.

We are also committed to connecting educators within and across diverse instructional and geographic communities. Our first core principle is that meaningful collaboration among educators is the key to creating and delivering the highest quality instruction.

How can you disagree with that? Started by teachers with the intent of saving us the trouble of “reinventing the wheel” by building collaborative communities?

I like the idea of a site that facilitates my interaction with other teachers and encourages a sense of a “one for all, all for one” mentality. I really like the interface – BetterLesson has a clear Facebook look and feel to it that is very inviting with BetterLesson colleagues and networks replacing Facebook friends and groups. Clicking the tab to find other “colleagues” in my content area is nice. The search function works well enough, providing a a way for users to track down lessons by keyword, grade level, content area and file format. And the ability to preview lessons is pretty slick.


There doesn’t seem any way for content to be evaluated by users, no rating system or clear attempt to feature outstanding units. No easy way to find a “good” lesson from the results without a lot of work. Hopefully the BetterLesson people are working on correcting this for the final version.

So I like the idea but . . .

. . . deep down, it’s not the idea or the interface or even the shared content that is the problem. What I’m concerned about is that not enough teachers will use it in the way that I think it was intended – as a place where teachers can actually invent, grow and share ideas, not just busy work. The idea of BetterLesson is such a good one that I don’t want it to become simply a place for harried, overworked teachers to quickly find low-level worksheets and activities.

Head over and sign up for your own beta login. It really is worth your time and I’m convinced that the site will become very useful! And here’s hoping that together, both users and creators, we’ll eventually develop a truly collaborative and growing community!

(Just found an interview with BetterLesson’s CEO by Dan Meyer that gives a bit more insight into BetterLesson’s development.)

Backpack part two

backpackLast week I spent a few minutes expressing my amazement about the size of my son’s school backpack. Several have commented on the post and, when I went back to review what I wrote, realized that perhaps I didn’t do a good job of making my point.

Today’s Zits cartoon, that of 15 year-old Jeremy and his parents, reinforces what I was thinking when I complained about the backpack from hell.


Twenty pounds of textbooks in a backpack hauled home every night tells me a few things. It tells me that perhaps homework policies need some review. It tells me that perhaps teachers need to do a better job of communicating with one another concerning assignments. It tells me that perhaps we spend too much on books.

But I think one thing it tells me is that the curriculum and instruction in our schools is still too focused on what is contained within textbooks rather than on 21st century problem solving, collaborative learning and authentic learning.

I think 20 pounds of textbooks is too much – not because I don’t want my kid to work hard but because I’m afraid he’s being asked to work hard on things that won’t do him a whole lot of good five, ten and 20 years from now.

So, yes, replacing my son’s backpack three times because the weight of the textbooks ripped them apart bothers me. But what bothers me more is the way in which the books are being used.

The backpack from H-E-double hockey sticks

I was minding my own business this morning, drinking the first cup of coffee and cursing the Wichita Eagle newspaper delivery guy under my breath when – BAM!backpack

Huge thud behind me.

It was my son’s backpack. Adidas brand, high quality, stop-rip nylon, multiple pockets, adjustable straps. And the third one he’s gone through this year. Adidas has been nice about it . . . replacing the earlier ones without question. (Ya gotta love the Adidas guarantee.)

But I’d never really looked at the bag before. It was huge! Went to weigh it and it came just short of 20 pounds. Are ya kidding me?

Algebra book, biology book, accounting book, English books, calculator, gadgets, jakepencils, pens and other miscellaneous objects. Take out the books and it’s about three pounds including the backpack. I’m beginning to understand why earlier versions have ripped and straps have broken.

Curriculum not driven by textbooks? Try telling that to the Adidas people.

And my son.