More Lessons, More Questions

After a three-day vacation with my family, it was back to writing lessons once I got home. Looking again at the ISBE Scope and Sequence, the two standards I’m currently planning for (8.EE.1 and 8.EE.2) should take a total of three weeks. But, if you total up the number of weeks the entire year should take, according to the ISBE Scope and Sequence, you get 36 weeks. I know this won’t be possible due to MAP testing, ISAT testing, and other things that will come up during the year at my school. So, I’m trying to teach these two standards in approximately two weeks.

While writing lessons this week, I started to foresee something that may or may not be an issue. Each of my class periods is 47 minutes and I feel like I have absolutely no idea how long each lesson will take. What if I finish twenty minutes early? What if it take me two days to get through a lesson I planned on taking one? It’s as if I’m a first-year teacher all over again. The good news for all teachers is that none of us really know how this is going to go. It will probably take me three years to feel comfortable with each lesson and how to steer class discussion to where I would like it to go. With all teachers feeling this way in my district and probably around the country, it will be so important for all of us to share our successes and failures to make this transition as successful as we can.

The other problem I’m having as I write lessons and assessments is the fact that I don’t know how to write my assessments to make students comfortable with the types of questions they’re going to see when they take their Common Core assessment. Since Illinois is a PARCC state, I checked their website and the only information they have is their Assessment Blueprints and Test Specifications. If you are looking for example assessment questions, this will be of no value to you. However, the SBAC has a practice test that you can take over ELA and Math. The test requires higher-level thinking and is more difficult than any assessment I give my students. If you have time, I suggest working through some of the test questions to see what will be required of students.

Due to the family vacation, I was only able to complete two lessons and one interim assessment this week. I’m changing the way I’m doing assessments, which is what I’m going to talk about in my next post. Here’s what I have this week:

Again, when you have a chance, take the practice SBAC test when you can. Also, SimpleK12 is having four free webinars on July 11. I’ve attended some of their webinars in the past and haven’t been disappointed.

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Where do I Begin?

Last week, June 10-14, I sat through a Common Core Institute, put on by Pearson Education. I learned how to unpack tasks, how to unpack standards, how to write a task, what the eight math practices are, how to plan a unit, etc. There was a lot of good discussion and a multitude of information.

Now it is time for me to take all of this information and apply to my class. Once I began doing this, I realized how little I actually knew. Fortunately, the web gave me some guidance. One of the first websites I found was Illustrative Mathematics Illustrations. This site has many activities and tasks organized by standard. Another very good site (but only if you are an 8th grade math teacher) is the Nebo School District 8th Grade Math page. The educators who put together this page often reference the book Teaching the Common Core Math Standards with Hands-On Activities published by Jossey-Bass Teacher. After looking for a while, I realized that, since Common Core was so new, there wouldn’t be a lot of resources and lessons out there yet. So, I decided I am going to post all of mine here along with commentary on how each lesson went and what I am going to change about it next year.

But, before I began making and sharing lessons, I still needed a plan of how I was going to put all of these things together into an organized unit. Fortunately, if you live in Illinois, the state already has units mapped out, which can be found here (if you don’t live in Illinois, check your state’s Board of Education website). However, I still needed to build the lessons and determine how I was going to assess and how many days to spend on each standard.

So here we are a week later and I have my unit planned, my first four lessons, and my first interim assessment. Each of the lessons are done with Smart Notebook software saved in Dropbox. I’m accustomed to naming my lessons by chapter and section number, but can’t do that anymore. So, I went with Unit # – Lesson #.

That’s all for Week 1. My goal for next week is to create 5 more lessons and 1 more assessment.