Academic Focus: Essential Questions

Asking the Four Essential Questions guides us to have an authentic focus on our students’ learning. At Hedges School this year, we are deliberately sharing our academic focus with our students. It seems so simple; however, many times we leave our students out of our planning. We follow manuals, pacing guides, or stick with what we have always taught. Focusing on the Four Essential Questions guides us to reflect and to plan more effectively.

For Teachers:

  1. What do students need to know, understand, and be able to do? (Learning Goals)
  2. How will we determine if the outcome has been accomplished? (Assessments – Formative and Summative)
  3. What strategies will we use to best influence learning?(Strategies, Activities)
  4. What will we do to support students who don’t learn or reach proficiency before expectation? (Intervention and Enrichment)

For Students:

  1. What do I need to know, understand, and be able to do? What is the Learning Goal?
  2. How am I going to show my learning? What is the assessment?
  3. What do I need to do as a learner to achieve the learning goal?
  4. Thinking about my learning…..
    • How am I doing?
    • Have I reached my learning goal?
    • What do I already know?
    • What do I need to work on?

As a team, we have worked diligently to truly understand the common core standards and what the student expectations are for learning. Each grade level has developed essential standards for students. These standards answer question number one and describe what our students need to know and be able to do.  These are not the only learning goals for our students; however, as our students meet proficiency with these standards, they are guaranteed to be well-prepared to succeed in the next trimester and/or the next school year.

Our essential standards are a living document that is revised and updated at the end of each trimester. This has been challenging and worthwhile work for our team! I am grateful for their efforts and dedication to student learning. I am also thankful to one of my favorite mentors, Mike Mattos, for his guidance as we began this endeavor. His passion for students consistently learning at high levels is contagious!

During the next few weeks, our team will increase our focus on question number two. Below is a video of a teacher guiding her students to clearly understand how to show their learning. Learning Goals & Scales. I look forward to sharing our progress toward creating success criteria.

Random Thoughts: Common Core Standards…What do I think?

Consistency and explicit expectations provide students a clear path to meet and exceed educational standards.

My teaching career has been an exciting journey as I have had the opportunity to lead as an educator in three different states and five different grade levels.  Needless to say, when I learned about the implementation of the Common Core Standards, I was grateful for the consistency and clarity. Although it has taken a little time to thoroughly unwrap each standard and align our own teaching tools and curriculum to guide students on their journey toward mastery, there is a collective understanding among educators, students, and parents about what students need to know and be able to do. When considering ELA Reading Standards,

Hollenbeck & Saternus (2013) suggest the standards outline a vision of what it means to be a literate person in the 21st century.  “Students who meet the Standards readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature” (p. 558).

As I was revising my Chapter One this weekend, I found the video below.  It provides a simple explanation of the why behind our Common Core Standards.

Three-Minute Video Explaining the Common Core State Standards from CGCS Video Maker on Vimeo.