What are the thought processes that go on in a teacher’s mind when creating her own standards-based math curriculum? This might be a scary trip, but I invite you into my planning process. I hope to reveal how I learned to plan my guided math curriculum this past year. This isn’t meant to tell you exactly everything I taught and in what order, but to give you a guide on what the process looks like.
To begin, I knew a few things that affected how I plan. I knew the standards that needed to be covered, mastered (sometimes those two are different) and the basic layout of the ways I could cover them in my classroom.
I kept a checklist of the standards close by that we’d be covering in a quarter (nine weeks). Keeping the standards that came before and right after were also close at hand to look at how it plays out in the long run.
I could have used some of our calendar math time (mainly in the spring) to give extra repetition, but I didn’t want to rely on that time. I realized that I had a whole group mini lesson, guided group lesson, math journal, practice zone and technology zone to make the best use of.
I couldn’t plan all of these on one day, nor in one planning “session”. Often, I plan the mini lessons and general ideas behind the group lessons in one day. The math journals and materials to go with the small group lessons or the practice zone on another day. The technology zone was created as I went along and as I could have time to scour the internet for better interactive online resources.
I say all of this just to be transparent and share that it definitely took time. Each quarter.
Armed with my standards, I began to handwrite a “master” list of the standards, in shortened form. This way I could see at a glance what needed to be covered and then began writing arrows off of each one where I thought I could teach it most effectively. Mind you, I’m not the secret. Not every standard had to be taught by me in a mini-lesson or in a small group lesson.
My question I’d ask myself is, “Where can they practice this in order to get
a) the right amount of practice
b) the right kind of practice
c) the right scaffolding?”
This is such a messy part of my process and my notes look ridiculous! I circle, highlight, draw arrows, cross out and write down things I’m afraid I’ll forget when a great idea pops into my mind. I mark down items that solely need repetition for success as a warm up or wrap up activity in the teacher zone.
After each standard has multiple places it can be practiced, I can then begin to plan my teacher zone (small group lessons). Using the list I create, I begin plugging in the items based on need for repetition and difficulty.
If I am planning the frame around my small group lessons for nine weeks, then I am plugging in items where they fit best. I ask myself, “Does it need to be the main focus of our time together (the core of our lesson)? Could it be successful as our warm up? Does it lend itself to be a wrap up activity?”
Plugging in the standards first allows me to see how many times it’ll be addressed.
Seeing how often we practice a standard helps me come up with a few or many ideas…
Frequency helps me determine if multiple activities are needed to practice in a variety of ways, or to simply practice again as we’re refining what we’ve learned.
I plan for my kinders who are on-track. The middle ground plan then helps me to differentiate planning for my kinders who are accelerated or advanced. It also helps me plan pacing for my kinders who need more repetition and explicit teaching. Once I plan straight down for each of the nine weeks, I can plan adaptations based on the needs of my groups. I generally keep the type of activity the same and the standard, but increase the difficulty or plan for additional scaffolding. I can add in my mini-lessons and assessments during this point of my planning too.
From here, I have the basic template for my quarter and can begin to plan the sequence of math prompts and materials that will work great in the practice zone, based on what we’ve covered with the teacher. This helps me to plan things they can be successful with independently. Then, we’re off and running! Change is inevitable (as it should be with guided groups), but the plan helps me to know where we’re going and ensure the quality of practice is there to master each standard.
That’s the thought process that has gone on behind my curriculum planning days and this year, I’m hoping to better organize the materials that were the result of all of this planning! I’m sure there are better ways to create your own curriculum, but in getting to know new standards and a new way to teach math, this is what worked for me.