Thinking about design

Our faculty is reading Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe this summer. I’ve already read it and try to utilize their work in my lesson planning. But reading the book again has given me extra incentive to really DESIGN my plans thoughtfully.1225274637_85fac883b1

Three other books have re-focused me this summer: Building Literacy Through Classroom Discussion by Mary Adler and Eija Rougle, Tools for Thought by Jim Burke and The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Jeff Anderson. In some ways, taking all four of these books and trying the mesh and reshape the ideas for my classroom has been a challenge.

To do so, I need to start with my own goals for eighth-grade. This, which I borrow from research from the Partnership for Literacy of the Center on English Learning and Achievement, seems to capture what I am thinking:

  • Engage students in higher-order talk and writing about the disciplines of English

This encompasses much of what I need to help students do in eighth-grade. They need to learn to analyze patterns of information in writing and speaking, organize their own ideas in logical structures, make connections between literature and their own world, and articulate arguments about what they understand. Phew, that’s a lot!

Some of my mini-goals in designing lessons are to:

  • teach note-taking skills both in annotating a text and in listening to discussions
  • use blogs to encourage sharing and reflecting
  • offer independent reading to encourage more reading

John Dewey once said, “There is all the difference in the world between having something to say and having to say something.”

As Wiggins and Tighe say, it’s the difference between knowing and understanding. “Understanding is about transfer,” and making connections to what they know and will discover in the world. I hope the design of these plans will help students find their voice, whether writing or speaking.

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